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Friday, October 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini Atzeres / Koheles / Simchas Torah

This past Tuesday was the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Naftali Neuberger, zt"l of Ner Yisroel.
This shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Naftali ben Meir.

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

    In the book of Koheles, which we read tomorrow, Shelomoh HaMelech declares, (10:8) "He who breaches the fence shall be bitten by the snake." The term "poreitz geder," the breacher of the fence, is often used to refer to someone who defies a decree or ordinance of Chaza"l, as indicated by Rashi on this pasuk. The penalty for this defiance is the venomous bite of the snake.
    But perhaps Shelomoh HaMelech is coming to teach us much more than a matter of crime and punishment. Perhaps there is more to this lesson. In the earlier generations, a man walking freely in a proverbial field might have been subjected to certain spiritual dangers. The chachamim therefore put up various boundaries and fences to keep these dangers out. A good example of this would be the laws of muktzah. The chachamim also instituted certain proactive laws, such as the laws of tefillah, to better define the life of a Jew in a manner necessary for the time. As generations pass, the defiant one might approach these fences. He might look over and see no danger in the distance. Questioning the need for these barriers, he breaks down the fences that were built in generations past. But his presumptuous actions prove costly, for he does not see the clear picture his predecessors did before erecting these fences. He might see on his eye level or slightly below and determine that there is no danger. But it is the low-lying creatures, the snakes that he cannot see from behind the fence, that are waiting there to attack.
    Shelomoh HaMelech is teaching us that someone who fails to heed the decrees of Chaza"l, and other sages who have preceded him, assumes that he is fully aware of their deep calculation in establishing these decrees. He doesn't realize that there might be more to them than meets the eye. This is not a punishment. It is simply a matter of fact. We must approach these aspects of our laws with utmost faith and trust that they saw further and deeper than we, lest we stumble and fall prey to the very dangers they set out to protect us from.
    Pesach provides much opportunity for us to explore the prohibitive components of this thought in the many strict prohibitions set forth by the sages to protect the issur of chameitz. One might not understand why we can't eat corn if the Torah told us not to eat chameitz. Nevertheless, we accept it. Sukkos, however, gives us a window into the proactive realm of rabbinic ordinances. The seven days of lulav shaking is not a Torah decree but rather a "zeicher lamikdash," instituted by Raban Yochanan ben Zakai (Rosh HaShanah 30a). The hoshanos ceremony, Hoshana Rabba itself and certainly Simchas Torah are great examples of how our yearly practices have been shaped by the prophets and sages before us.

    But this year, we are able to see the prohibitive aspects during this time as well. Although we are clearly instructed in the Torah to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah and take the lulav on Sukkos, the sages decreed that this should not be done when Yom Tov fallsout on Shabbos. Although the reasoning behind these decrees might be difficult to understand, we follow them to the letter, trusting that the sages knew what lay behind the fence.


     For Simchas Torah, I have another observation without much of an answer to offer. When Moshe blesses the tribes before his passing, nearly all of the blessings are given in the third person - "Yechi Reuvein ve'al yamos," "Shema HaShem kol Yehudah," etc. But there are a number of exceptions. First, the berachah of Levi begins "tumecha v'urecha," in the second person."Semach Zevulun betzeisecha, veYissachar be'ohalecha" would probably also qualify as second person. So why are these blessings different from the others in that manner? (A similar analysis may be done on the berachos in Vayechi.)

Have a good Shabbos and Good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Kohele's Foolish Orion (by R' Ari Storch.)


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