The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, August 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

In this week's parsha we are warned (24:17) not to misjudge the stranger or orphan and not to take a garment as collateral from a widow. Following that, we are again instructed to leave behind the sheaves that are forgotten during the harvest and to leave olives and grapes behind for the stranger, the orphan and the widow. Both are followed by a reminder that we were slaves in Mitzrayim and that is why HaShem has commanded us such. However, in the first instance we are also reminded that HaShem took us out from Mitzrayim whereas there is no such mention in the second instance.


There is a fundamental difference between the first set of commandments and the second. The second set concern an indirect relationship with the stranger/orphan/widow. You are to leave these sheaves/olives/grapes behind so that they may come and gather them. You are not instructed to give them these gifts but rather, to leave them so that they may pick them up on their own. The first set, however, focuses on direct dealings with these people. In these cases, we are commanded to remember not only our slavery in Mitzrayim but also the compassion with which HaShem brought us out. We are required to exhibit this Godly attribute and show similar compassion in our dealings with them. In the second set of laws, where we are not given the opportunity to meet the beneficiaries of our charity, we are expected only to put ourselves in their position by remembering our poor state in Mitzrayim, thus impressing upon us how much this gift is appreciated by them.


It is interesting to note that both times, we are told, "that is why I command you to do this." In both instances HaShem is seemingly referring to more than one commandment. Therefore, it would appear more appropriate to refer to "hadevarim haeileh," these things. Also, each of the commandments is a prohibitive one, instructing us what not to do. It would therefore have been more appropriate to say, "that is why I command you not to do these things." Rather, each and every one of these commandments focuses on one central theme - showing care and compassion to those less fortunate than you. It is easy to get caught up in the fine details of these individual mitzvos. But with this pasuk, HaShem is telling us that there is one goal behind it all and this is what HaShem wants from us.


If you have a few extra minutes, this cute game was developed a couple of years ago to demonstrate the mitzvah of "Shiluach HaKein." The site which hosted it is not up anymore but I was able to rescue the file and host it:

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Chesbon: Tum'ah Under a Beam

Zachor in the Middle

Every year, we read from the maftir of this week's parsha on the Shabbos before Purim to fulfill the mitzvah of Zechiras Amaleik. Regarding this mitzva, the Chasam Sofer states, based on a gemara in Berachos, (58b) regarding aveilus, that the prerequisite timespan for forgetting is 12 months. He suggests, based on this, that perhaps in a leap year situation where there will be 13 months between the reading of Parshas Zachor to the next, that one should have specific kavana in Parshas Ki Seitzei to fulfill the mitzva of Zechiras Amalek. The Mahara"m Shi"k writes that the Chasam Sofer's custom was to do so. However, the Chasam Sofer himself ends up saying that one need not do so. Either way, it occurred to me that this may even apply to a year which is not a leap year. This year would be just such an example. This past year, Purim was on Tuesday so Parshas Zachor was read on the 11th of Adar. Next year, Purim is on Sunday so Parshas Zachor will be read on the 13th of Adar, more than twelve months after the last reading. If we were to require specific kavana in the leap year situation and it should apply here as well. Nevertheless, we need not do so, so it doesn't really matter. I later heard, though, that R' Mordechai Willig of YU and R' Eli Wolf had the same thought.
ברוך שכוונתי!

Friday, August 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

In the beginning of the Parsha (17:6), regarding the giving of capital punishment, the pasuk says "Al pi shnayim eidim...", that we require at least two witnesses. Later on, (19:15), regarding monetary matters, it states "Al pi shnei eidim...", again that two witnesses are required. Although the word 'shnayim' and 'shnei' both seem to mean '2', there is still a difference between the two. What is the difference, and why is one used over the other in each instance? 

Netzi"v writes, in Hemek Davar, that 'shnei' means two identical objects whereas 'shnayim' doesn't mean 2, but rather a pair. In the Yerushalmi Sanhedrin, brought in the Rosh 23a, it says that if two witnesses give absolutely identical testimony, they must be checked out for something is a little suspicious. It is told that the GR"A would disqualify witnesses who gave absolutely identical testimony based on a Mishna in Sanhedrin. Therefore, with regards to capital cases, since there is a requirement to deeply investigate the witnesses (derisha vechakira), it says 'shnayim', because identical testimony is not accepted. But in monetary matters, where there is no requirement of 'derisha vechakira', it says 'shnei', because they are allowed to be identical.

[I was once asked why when we count the omer we say 'shnei shavuos' or 'shnei yamim' instead of 'shevu'ayim' or 'yomayim'. I answered based on the above, that shvuayim or yomayim would mean a pair of weeks, or a pair of days and therefore, would not be a real counting of two and for the sfira, we require a genuine count.]

Mahari"l Diskin offers an alternate explanation. The word 'shnayim' means not only two, but two at the same time. Just as raglayim or yadayim refers to a presence of two hands or feet, shnayim means two together. Therefore, for capital matters, it says 'shnayim' because the two witnesses must be present together. Two witnesses who both see a crime, but don't see each other are not valid witnesses. This is referred to in the gemara as "eidus meyuchedes". However, for monetary matters, "eidus meyuchedes" is still valid. So the Torah wrote shnei instead of shnayim over there.

Friday, August 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

As I have done previously for my mother, Zadie, and Bubbie, a"h, I will be dedicating this entire year of shtikles to my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a"h.

In this week's parsha a word not used any where else in the Torah (although it is found 20 times in NA"CH) appears twice. The inhabitants of the "ir hanidachas," the city that has been led astray, are referred to (13:14) as "b'nei beliya'al." Later, when discussing the requirement to reach out to the needy and lend them money, we are warned (15:9) lest there be an inclination of "beliya'al" in our hearts not to lend to the needy since the Shemitah year is approaching. This unique word is used to describe idolaters as well as those who refuse to lend money as Shemitah approaches. Surely, there is a connection.

I have purposely left "beliya'al" untranslated. It is difficult to attach an exact meaning to the word and we must therefore turn to the commentaries for the etymology of the word. Rashi writes that it is a contraction of "beli ol," without a yoke. It refers to someone who has thrown off the yoke of the service of HaShem. Clearly, one may only throw off a yoke if it was once upon him. Perhaps we may explain in the second case that it is referring to one who has thrown off the yoke of communal responsibility. The Torah is talking of someone who might very well appear to appreciate the importance of charity. But when push comes to shove and his loan is in danger of having to be forgiven, he is unwilling to his duty to society. He bears the yoke when it suits him, but is quick to unload it when it does not.

Another insightful rendering of the word is given by Rav Hirsch. He explains that it is a contraction of "bli al," without one above, someone who acts as if there is no one above him. This may also be applied to the apprehensive lender. The Shemitah year is one of the primary tests of faith. A farmer is required to put all his faith and belief in HaShem that despite the land being unworked for a full year, he will still pull through. The lender has to have a little faith as well. Someone who fears that the Shemitah will interfere with his financial dealings fails to see HaShem's Hand and considers himself a master of his own destiny. It is this behaviour specifically that is labelled as "beliya'al."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, August 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

This week's shtikle comes with most unfortunate news: On Wednesday, my dear Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits, passed away at the age of 85 after a long and arduous battle with Parkinson's. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso,
Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel.

Anybody who had the pleasure of even a limited relationship with my Opa likely realized that one of the virtues that defined his very being was his devotion to his rebbe, R' Eliyahu Lopian, zt"l. Even the most mundane conversation would somehow ultimately lead to a story, a quote, or a dvar Torah from R' Elya. For me, the aspect of that special relationship which stood out the most was his strong dedication to "kevod hatefillah." I have heard many stories about R' Elya's fervent commitment to tefillah. One that comes to mind is the story of the air-raid sirens going off in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei and how the last to enter the shelter was R' Elya with a distraught look on his face. He was not upset about the imminent danger. He was upset about the lost kavanah for those last berachos of Shemoneh Esrei which was now gone forever. 

I can still remember as a young child how much my Opa would be bothered by people talking during davening. I remember his expression of dibelief, "How can this person not understand the holiness of Kaddish? Who in their right mind would even THINK of talking during Kaddish?" When I was a young, spunky kid, I lacked the maturity to truly appreciate this. But as I grew older, I found myself often wishing I could gather the strength and the courage to stand up for kevod hatefillah in the way that my Opa always did.

While kevod hatefillah was at the top of his list, his own kavod was always way down at the bottom. He would always insist on being called Mr. Jakobovits. Anyone who made the innocent error of calling him Rabbi Jakobovits would very hastily be corrected. But as is often the case, when someone runs away from kavod, it chases after him. 

While it is common to say when someone succumbs to illness that they lost their battle with that illness, I will venture to say that my Opa won a convincing and decisive victory over his illness. Whenever his illness would render a task too difficult, my Opa would never give up. When it became increasingly difficult to drive, he drove anyway. Then, it became absolutely impossible to drive to davening in the morning. So he walked. When it became impossible to get to davening without an hour's preparation that still did not stop him. His strength and determination was certainly a lesson to us all.


In parshas Kedoshim, we are taught for the first time that we must go out of our way to show love towards a convert. The pasuk says (19:34) regarding the convert "ve'ahavta lo kamocha," you shall love him as yourself. The authorities on the specification of each of the 613 mitzvos, such as Sefer HaChinuch and Rambam, do count this as a mitzvah unto itself. However, their source is not from Kedoshim. Rather, this mitzvah is not discussed until this week's parsha where it is said (10:18) "ve'ahavtem es hageir," and you shall love the convert. Asks R' Kulefsky, zt"l, why is the source for this mitzvah not its first mention in the Torah?


In Kedoshim, we also find the famous commandment to "love thy neighbour as thyself." The Torah's wording (Vayikra 19:18) is "ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha." The prefix "le" usually means toward. With regard to the love of HaShem, it is written (Devarim 6:5) "ve'ahavta es HaShem Elokecha." Accordingly, one would have expected the Torah to write "ve'ahavta es rei'acha kamocha." However, this pasuk uses a deliberately alternative wording. Our love of HaShem is expected to be absolute. Indeed, we are commanded to devote all our heart, soul and possessions toward that cause. But the Torah realizes that we cannot be expected to show such unequivocal love toward each and every one of our fellow Jews. Thus, the commandment to love your neighbour is not worded to imply that you must love him as yourself. Rather, we are simply commanded to act towards him in a manner that we would expect from others. As Hillel explained it simply to a convert, ironically, in the gemara (Shabbos 31a), that which you would not want done to yourself, do not do to others.


This, suggests R' Kulefsky, is the key to our original quandary. The pasuk in Kedoshim merely commands us "ve'ahavta lo." The command is in the same form as our requirement to love every Jew and thus, does not single the convert out in any way. However, the pasuk in Eikev  says "veahavtem es hageir." The use of the word es teaches us that we are required to show a special love towards converts, over and above that which we show towards every other Jew. This is what compelled the Sefer HaChinuch to derive this mitzvah from parshas Eikev, rather than parshas Kedoshim.

Indeed, my Opa showed a love for everyone (geirim included,) perhaps over and above what is expected in "ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha." In particular, his special love for his children and grandchildren is something we will always cherish and sorely miss. 

Yehi zichro baruch.

Have a good Shabbos and may we hear only of besuros tovos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Astro Torah: Superhuman Sight (by R' Ari Storch)