The Weekly Shtikle Blog

An online forum for sharing thoughts and ideas relating to the Parshas HaShavua

View Profile

Thursday, May 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shavuos

On Shavuos, we celebrate the giving of the Torah to B'nei Yisroel after they came out of Mitzrayim. On this day we experienced a level of spirituality higher than ever before. This high level of spirituality is meant to be experienced, to a certain degree, every year when Shavuos comes around. There are (at least) to instances where we find Shavuos as an exception, perhaps to convey this very idea.

The first is found in Parshas Vayikra. We are told (Vayikra 2:11) that leaven and honey may not be brought with any (communal) Korban. The very next pasuk, as Rashi there explains, comes to tell us that there is one exception to this rule. The avodah of Shavuos involves the bringing of the "shtei halechem," the two loaves which did consist of chameitz, and the "bikurim," which had in them the honey of dates. Why is Shavuos different? Klei Yakar explains that honey represents the desires that every human has in this world. Just like honey is very sweet but an overdose of it can be harmful, so to there are desires in this world that are very necessary, but an overdose of them is harmful as well. One must be careful to indulge in only those that are necessary, and make do without the rest. Se'or, leaven, represents the Yeitzer Hara, as demonstrated in Berachos 17a "Our desire is to fulfill Your desire, but the 'se'or sheba'isa' is interfering." Both desire and the Yeitzer Hara are necessary components of our being. One must eat and drink to stay healthy. One must want to marry in order to start a family, or the world would not last. Being that these aspects of our being are not necessary within themselves, but only to reach an ultimate goal, it is not fitting that they be brought for any korban during the duration of the year. However, on Shavuos, we are celebrating the giving of the Torah, the only antidote to keep the Yeitzer Hara and this-worldly desires at bay. With this in mind we may bring leaven and honey for on this day, Torah is the principal focus. On all other days, it is forbidden.

 The second example is from Parshas Pinechas, where the korbanos for all the holidays are discussed.  On every Yom Tov, a se'ir izim, a kid goat is brought as a korban. On all days it is referred to as a se'ir... chatas, a goat for a sin offering. However, when the Torah discusses Shavuos, we find a different wording, (Bemidbar 28:30) "se'ir izim echad," with no mention of the word chatas. The Yerushalmi (Rosh HaShanah 4:5) teaches us why the word chatas was left out here. R' Mesharshia said in the name of R' Ida, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Yisroel, "since you accepted upon yourself the yoke of My Torah, I consider it as if you have never sinned in your days." R' Chaim Paltiel points out that in Emor (Vayikra 23:19) the korban is referred to as "se'ir izim echad l'chatas." However, there too there is a missing phrase. The words "lechapeir aleichem," to atone for you, are left out, as if we do not require atonement. We see clearly from examples in the Torah that the spiritual high of Matan Toraseinu is meant to be experienced every year. May we all experience it at the greatest possible level.

Have a good Yom Tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, May 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar

I am proud to announce another blog in the Shtikle series (I think this might be my last.) Please check out Al Pi Cheshbon, a blog dedicated to mathematical computations in the parsha and elsewhere. The beginning of the book of Numbers was a perfect time to release this. There are already numerous posts pertaining to this week's parsha.

This week's Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my mother, o"h, Tzirel Nechama bas Tuvia Yehuda, whose Yahrtzeit was this past Tuesday.

    R' Elie Wolf connects this week's haftarah with the upcoming chag of Shavuos:

    This week we do not read the regular haftarah but rather the special haftarah of Machar Chodesh which is read when the first day of Rosh Chodesh falls out on Sunday. The haftarah is from Shmuel I perek 20. Towards the end, Sha'ul gets rather annoyed at his son Yonasan for siding with his friend, Dovid. In the midst of his outburst, he exclaims, (pasuk 30) "Son of a rebellious woman! Do I not know that you choose ben Yishay to your own shame and the shame of your mother's nakedness!?" What is the reason for such an outburst and what does Yonasan's mother have to do with anything?

    Rashi on this pasuk tells the story of how Sha'ul met his wife. After most of the tribe of Binyomin were wiped out following the gruesome episode of "Pilegesh b'Giv'ah" at the end of Shoftim, the tribe was in danger of extinction. They were told to go out to the vineyards and watch as the daughters of Shiloh come out and dance and they were to pick wives from them. Sha'ul was embarrassed and did not partake in this exercise until finally, his potential wife uncharacteristically ran after him and, well, the rest is history.

    In Yevamos 76b, the story is told of how the validity of Dovid's lineage was questioned due to the fact that he descended from Rus the Moabite, a gemara with obvious implications to Shavuos when we read Megillas Rus. Avner maintains that the prohibition of a Moabite (or Amonite) to marry into B'nei Yisroel (Devarim 23:4) applies only to males (Amoni v'lo Amonis, etc.) and therefore Rus was allowed to marry Bo'az and Dovid's lineage is clean. The reasoning he suggests is that the reason given for the prohibition is that they did not come out and greet B'nei Yisroel with food and bread. This can only be a claim on the men for it is not the way of the woman to go out and greet. Do'eg retorts that they should have brought out the men to greet the men and the women to greet the women, to which Avner is silent. The gemara later concludes that the rebuttal to Do'eg's claim is that even still, the pasuk says, (Tehillim 45:14) "Kol kevudah bas melech penimah," the honour of the princess is to dwell within. Even to greet the women, it would not have been right to make the women come out. Aruch LaNer suggests that the reason why Avner neglected to offer this rebuttal is because he did not want to insult Sha'ul haMelech for the manner in which his wife seized him was clearly a breach of this maxim. Therefore, he chose to remain silent.

    Chid"a and Chasam Sofer suggest that this is the explanation of Sha'ul's rebuke of Yonasan. If Yonasan is choosing to side with Dovid, he is affirming the legitimacy of Dovid's kingship which is based on the adage "Kol kevudah bas melech penimah." By doing so, he is effectively shaming his own mother for the way she seized Sha'ul.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, May 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Behar / Bechukosai

Tomorrow, we will be making a kiddush at our home, 3410 Olympia Ave in Baltimore, in honour of the birth of our daughter, Yehudis. The following is what I plan to say so don't read further if you plan on coming.

I am sure many of us still have the memories of the Birkas HaChamah experience fresh in our minds. One of the emerging themes of Brikas HaChamah was that of cycles - recognizing that HaShem created the world with various recurring cycles. The 28-year cycle, which is one we don't necessarily pay much attention to, was brought to the forefront on that special day. But the truth is there are many cycles we observe on a regular basis. The 7-day cycle of the week which renews itself every Motzaei Shabbos. The new moon and the new year also constitute times to refresh ourselves and start anew. (See an old shtikle for a discussion involving next week's haftarah.) The Yomim Tovim we celebrate each year also give us a chance to relive the miracles of the past as if they were happening today.

The beginning of this week's parsha also presents us with a number of important cycles. We have the Shemittah cycle which resembles that of the week and then the Yovel cycle when we essentially hit the "reset" switch at the end of 50 years. Another time when we are able to experience the "circle of life" is when we name a child after a close relative who has passed on. As Shelomoh HaMelech stated (Koheles 1:4) "Dor holech vedor ba." We have now been fortunate to name our three daughters after three special women who each had a profound impact on our lives. Our Nechama being named after my mother, o"h, whose Yahrtzeit is this coming Tuesday, and is Shaindy named after my wife's grandmother.

Yehudis is named after my Bubbie, my father's mother, o"h. I was able to spend a lot of time with my grandparents - when I was younger and they lived in New York and later when I spent a couple of years in Israel. Although many people probably remember my Bubbie for her delicious food she made, as grandchildren we can never forget the unconditional love she showered upon us with just a simple smile. We obviously wish she were with us today and we wouldn't have to name our daughter after her. But as we reflect on the "dor holech," the generation that has passed and how fortunate we were to be inspired by them, we can only hope and pray that our daughter Yehudis follow in the ways of her great grandmother.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, May 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

This week's parsha ends off with the tragic episode of the megadeif, the blasphemer who cursed HaShem out of anger. When Moshe is taught how to proceed, he is instructed (24:14) that the man is to be brought outside of the camp where those who heard (i.e. the witnesses and judges)  place their hands on his head. He is subsequently stoned. This follows standard procedure for stoning except for one step. In no other instance do we find the placing of hands before an execution. It is unique to the case of a blasphemer.


The Da'as Zekeinim miBa'alei haTosafos cite a Midrash explaining what makes the case of the blasphemer different in this regard. The judicial process as mandated by Torah Law makes it extremely difficult to impose capital punishment. The witnesses must be able to report every minute detail. In the case of the blasphemer we are faced with a difficult dilemma. The witnesses must tell the judges what they heard. Therefore, as the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 56a) explains, the judges and witnesses would leave the courtroom for a private session and the witnesses would indeed verbalize the exact words that came out of the mouth of the blasphemer, at which point the judges would tear their clothes to signify the mournful distress at having to hear such words uttered. The placing of hands on the head of the blasphemer, a process more common to sacrifices, is symbolically transferring the burden of responsibility for one's sins. Normally, we place the hands on the animal, allowing it to be an atonement for our sins. Here, the witnesses make a clear statement absolving them of responsibility for having to repeat the curses and the judges for having heard them. Since it was all brought about by the actions of the blasphemer it is he who bears the responsibility even for the repetition.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, May 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

In Bemidbar 3 and 26 when Nadav and Avihu are referred to, the pasuk recounts "vayamusu... bahikravam eish zara..." the pasuk recounts the specifics of their sin in bringing the ketores which they were not commanded to bring. However, here, it only says at the beginning of the parsha "b'karvasam ... vayamusu." The pasuk refers to their coming close to HaShem and their subsequent death but there is no specific mention of the "aish zara" as there is in the other references.


The reference to the death of Aharon's two sons is followed directly by the instruction of Aharon as to the proper procedure for entering the Kodesh HaKadashim on Yom Kippur. The procedure is briefly prefaced by the warning that one may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever they please. Rashi connects the two topics with the parable of the doctor who tells his patient, "Follow these directions so that you don't die the way so-and-so died." But what in fact is the connection between Nadav and Avihu's death and entering the Kodesh HaKadashim?


            The simplest answer might be that according to Bar Kappara in the Midrash, the actual sin of Nadav Avihu was entering the Kodesh HaKadashim. However, R’ Ephraim Eisenberg, zt”l, offers an answer which is concurrent with all the opinions in the Midrash. There are quite a number of opinions quoted in the Midrash as to the actual sin of Nadav Avihu. But with close examination, there emerges a pattern amongst all of them. The central theme seems to be that Nadav and Avihu were trying to reach a degree of closeness to HaShem which was beyond their reach. Their actions indicated a desire to become closer to HaShem but this yearning brought them to act inappropriately. Therefore, their actions serve as a lesson that there are limits when it comes to closeness to HaShem. This is the theme of the Yom Kippur avodah. A Kohein Gadol may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever he pleases, even if it is to become closer to HaShem. There is a time and place for this practice and it is on Yom Kippur only.

            Perhaps this answers the original question. In this specific reference to the demise of Nadav and Avihu, we are not concerned with the actual actions that lead to their tragic death. We are merely concerned with the motives behind their actions and how they relate to the principal topic, the avodah of Yom Kippur.


            In perek 19 (9‑10), we are taught four different mitzvos with regard to the poor: peah, leket, peret and olalos. The required quantity for these mitzvos is quite small. For instance, the Mishna in Peah teaches that one or two sheaves constitutes leket but three do not, i.e. if one dropped as few as three sheaves, it is still considered too much and may be retrieved by the owner.

            R' Moshe Mintz asks why the Torah commanded us a number of mitzvos of such small quantity instead of perhaps commanding us one mitzva of greater quantity. He answers that perhaps we can understand this with a Rambam on a mishna in this week's perek of Pirkei Avos, perek 3. Mishna 19 teaches "hakol l'fi rov hama'aseh". The Rambam explains that it is better for a person to give a little tzedaka at a greater frequency than to give a larger amount of tzedaka less often (assuming the total amount is the same). Doing mitzvos more often has a more profound impact on a person, even if the quantity of the mitzvos is small. Therefore, the Torah specifically commanded us to do many different acts of tzedaka in the field in smaller quantities, rather than less acts in larger quantities.  

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka