The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, September 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Haazinu

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

At the end of this week's parsha, Moshe is told to go to the mountain where he is to pass away. The pasuk gives the reason why he is dying here (32:51): "Al asher me`altem bi... al asher lo kidashtem osi", (Concerning the rock-hitting incident) because of that which you trespassed against me... that which you did not sanctify me. Why is it that two reasons are given? The GR"A, in Pirkei Avos 3:1, "lifnei mi ata atid litein din vecheshbon" writes that din, judgement, refers to the judgement of a person's deeds. Cheshbon, calculation, refers to what that person could have been doing at that time. So one is judged not only for their bad deeds, but for the good deeds they could have been doing at that time. This, says Meshech Chachma, is the meaning of this pasuk. "Al asher me`altem bi" refers to the din, that which they did. "Al asher lo kidashtem osi" refers to the cheshbon, the judgement on what they could have done at that time, that had Moshe not hit the rock, there would have been a Kiddush HaShem.

Meshech Chachma explains in the end of Parshas Nitzavim that this concept is a very important one to keep in mind on Yom Kippur. The gemara in Yoma 20a says that the gematria of 'HaSatan' is 364, to hint that every day of the year the Satan is allowed to do his 'work'. But on one day of the year, Yom Kippur, he is not. This day is set aside to allow us to do a full teshuvah without having to battle the Satan. When we say the 'shehecheyanu' bracha at the beginning of Yom Kippur, we must say it with total and utter happiness, in appreciation of this opportunity that HaShem has given us. But if we don't use this time to do teshuvah, the time that HaShem has specifically set aside for teshuvah, how much greater of a transgression it is, that we have actively rejected this opportunity.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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Friday, September 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

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

One of the practices that seems to get considerable attention on Rosh HaShanah is the eating of the simanim on Rosh HaShanah. There are, of course, varying customs. Some only eat an apple dipped in honey. Conversely, many Sefardim have the custom to eat far more simanim than the average Ashkenazi is accustomed to.

The practice is already discussed in the gemara. The gemara (Kerisus 5b) initially lists a number of different practices which seem very much like superstitions although they appear to be permitted. They include trying to grow a chicken in one's house before embarking on a business venture as the fattening of the chicken is a harbinger of success. The final suggestion of the gemara pertains to someone who is about to embark on a journey and would like to know whether they will return successfully. They are instructed to enter a deserted house and see if they observe converging shadows. However, the gemara concludes that one should not do this because the test might not prove successful and even though it is necessarily a bad omen, he will be distraught and his emotional state might affect his mazal.

After all that, Abaye states, "Now that we have said that omens are significant, one should make a habit of eating gourds, dates, etc. on Rosh HaShanah." The conventional understanding seems to be that Abaye is basing his statement on the various suggestions given in the gemara relating to good "signs."  However, there is a difficulty with this approach. The procedures discussed in the gemara involve observing the outcome of a certain event whereas with the omens on Rosh HaShanah, we are merely creating the omens on our own. (It is possible, though, that Abaye is referring to the gemara's initial statement that kings should always be anointed by a spring so that his kingdom will spread.) Rather, I believe Abaye may well have been basing his statement on the very last point made in the gemara, that one should not rely on the sign of the shadows since it is possible that his own troubled state could contribute to his bad mazal. From here we see that ones state of mind can directly affect one's own welfare and the events that befall him. Therefore, Abaye suggests eating these specific foods - not because the eating of the foods will in and of itself be a good omen, but rather, that the eating of these foods with positive signs will put one in a more positive state of mind at the onset of the new year and that will in turn positively influence his mazal.

The Meiri (Horayos 12a) explains the concept of simanim on Rosh HaShanah in a similar vein. I have made a scan of the Meiri available here.

So, as we will probably all say tonight, may we all have a happy, healthy sweet new year.

Have a good Shabbos, a good Yom Tov and Shanah Tovah uMtukah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Friday, September 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

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

At the beginning of parshas Vayeilech, Moshe proclaims to the people (31:2) "I am 120 years old on this day. I can no longer go out and come in and HaShem has told me 'You shall not cross the Yardein.'"

Rashi comments that when Moshe says he can no longer go out and come in we know he could not possibly be referring to any physical limitations. His first interpretation is that Moshe is  not referring to his ability to lead B'nei Yisroel - not that he is not able, but that he is not allowed. Rashi suggests that the rest of the pasuk is in fact an explanation of this statement. Moshe is saying "I can no longer lead you because HaShem has told me that I may not cross the Yardein."

Perhaps Moshe is indeed referring to his leadership as Rashi suggests initially, but is still making two separate statements. First, he conveys to B'nei Yisroel that his ultimate desire is to lead B'nei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel. Alas, he has been told that he will not lead the people and Yehoshua will take over. But lest one think that it is Moshe's ambitions of grandeur and craving for honour that are fuelling that desire, Moshe tells the people that he would have been more than happy to forgo his position of leadership and enter the Land as a layman while Yehoshua leads. All he wanted was just to enter Eretz Yisroel. But even this was not to be, for HaShem had told him that under no circumstances would he be crossing the Yardein. So in this pasuk, he is indeed making two separate statements.

Friday, September 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

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

    This week's parsha begins with the laws pertaining to the bringing of Bikurim. The bringing of the bikurim is accompanied by a recitation of a number of verses known as "vidui bikurim." The first pasuk that he must recite reads (26:3) "higadti hayom laShem elokecha ki vasi el ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu..." Rashi on pasuk 10 writes that due to the possessive reference to the forefathers in this pasuk, "avoseinu," a ger (convert) who brings bikurim does not recite the vidui for the land was never promised to his forefathers. This ruling is based on the Sifrei and the mishnah (Bikurim 1:4). However, the Yerushalmi (Bikurim 1:4) reaches the opposite conclusion. The halachic ruling is further a matter of dispute in Tosafos (Baba Basra 81a). Rambam (Hilchos Bikurim 4:3) writes that a ger does in fact read the vidui for the reason given in the Yerushalmi, that the word "avoseinu" can be interpreted as referring to Avraham Avinu who is called "Av hamon goyim." Thus, even geirim can claim Avraham as a father.

    What is puzzling about this ruling of the Rambam is that with regards to "vidui ma'aser," the next issue dealt with in the parsha, he rules (Hilchos Ma'aser Sheini 11:17) that the ger does not read the vidui. The vidui for ma'aser contains the identical term "la'avoseinu." However, the Rambam's ruling is due to the reference made to Eretz Yisroel (26:15) as "ha'adamah asher nasata lanu," the land that You gave us and geirim do not have a portion in the land. But a similar phrase is found in vidui bikurim (26:3) "ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu lases lanu." What is the difference between the wording in vidui bikurim and the wording of vidui ma'aser that led the Rambam to rule differently between them?

    The sefer Kapos Temarim suggests that the difference lies in the tense of the reference to Eretz Yisroel. In vidui ma'aser we refer to the land that "was given" in the past tense. This would exclude geirim because they were not given a portion in the land when they came initially. However, in vidui bikurim we refer to the land that was sworn "to be given" in the future. There is a pasuk in Yechezkel that suggests that geirim will ultimately get a portion in Eretz Yisroel. So this pasuk does not exclude geirim. Although in vidui bikurim there is also a reference (26:10) to the land that "was given," this refers to the land that he actually owns and not to the land that was promised to the forefathers from which the geirim were excluded. Therefore, geirim may read vidui bikurim.

    The sefer Aruch LaNer suggests another difference between ma'aser and bikurim. The ger's reading of the vidui is predicated upon the word "la'avoseinu" referring to Avraham Avinu. However, the word la'avoseinu in vidui ma'aser appears in connection to the promise of "Eretz zavas chalav udvash," the land flowing with milk and honey. The forefathers were never promised a land of milk and honey. The reference to milk and honey was not mentioned until B'nei Yisroel were in Egypt. Since la'avoseinu could not refer to Avraham Avinu in this instance, it must exclude the ger from reading this vidui.

    I thought that perhaps another difference might be that in vidui bikurim the land is referred to as ha'aretz whereas in vidui ma'aser it is referred to as ha'adamah. Perhaps ha'aretz refers to the country as a whole. The privilege to benefit from Eretz Yisroel surely does not exclude geirim. The country was given to them just as it was to anyone else. Therefore, there is no reason to exclude them. But the word adamah refers more to the ground itself which connotes actual property. Property in land was something that geirim were not granted and therefore, they are excluded.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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