The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, November 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

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

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l (Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo) whose Yahrtzeit is today.

    Two years ago, I wrote a piece for a Ner Yisroel Alumni publication on the occasion of R' Kulefsky's yahrtzeit:
    Rashi (27:1) details a discussion in the midrashim as to why Yitzchak's vision was impaired. First, he quotes the Midrash Tanchuma that it was caused by the smoke from the incense that Eisav's wives would burn for idol worship. The second suggestion, from Midrash Rabba, is that the angels were crying at the akeidah and their tears fell in his eyes. Rashi's third and final explanation is that Yitzchak became blind so that Yaakov could receive the blessings.
    The third explanation is quite different from the first two in that it fails to offer any cause for Yitzchak's blindness. It would seem that the third opinion is suggesting that there was no cause at all. It was simply a Divine decree with a purpose rather than a cause.
    When I first arrived in Ner Yisroel and began in Rav Kulefsky, zt"l's shiur, he had already lost most of his vision. I am not aware of what it was that caused his vision to go. At the same time, we are certainly not in any position to be guessing at what it was HaShem had in mind. But looking back, I can't help but feel that to a certain degree, his impaired vision was brought about for the benefit of us, his talmidim. We watched Rav Kulefsky endure and overcome his impaired vision. He would have the dapim of gemara blown up to a large size. When it became increasingly difficult for him, he would simply have it blown up larger and used a magnifying glass and a lamp. He never gave up. It was a true lesson in mesiras nefesh for Torah.
    Normally, in publicly displayed photos, especially of revered gedolim, it is unusual, perhaps disrespectful, to accentuate their handicaps. However, it is not uncommon to find pictures on walls of Rav Kulefsky in his study with his bright light and his enlarged texts. Certainly, it is the tremendous mussar value that makes these photographs appropriate.
    Rav Kulefsky would always point out Rashi's explanation of (Devarim 30:12) "lo bashamayim hi." Indeed, the Torah is not in the heavens and we need not ascend to the heavens to learn Torah. However, what this pasuk is really telling us is that if it were in the heavens, we would be required to do so. Rav Kulefsky did not have the Torah available right before his eyes as we, who are blessed with proper vision, do. He was a true, living example of this Rashi.
    I'm sure that anyone who was in Rav Kulefsky's shiur has the picture of his sweet smile etched in his brain, expressing the sweetness of Torah which was his hallmark. But the memories of his ameilus and mesiras nefesh serve as a lesson to us of how hard we must work and how me must not let even the most difficult of circumstances get in our way of achieving that.
    If the above is indeed on the mark, it is truly fitting that the yahrtzeit of Rav Kulefsky, zt"l, coincides with parshas Toledos.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Rosh Chodesh not a Function of the Moon? by R' Ari Storch

Friday, November 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

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

Avraham Avinu sends his servant to find a suitable mate for his son, Yitzchak. As he reaches his destination, the servant prays to HaShem. He declares (24:14) "The maiden to whom I will say, 'Tilt your pitcher so that I may drink' and she will say, 'Drink and I shall give your camels to drink as well' it is she whom You have designated for Your servant, Yitzchak." Indeed, Rivkah comes out and when asked to spare some of her water, she gives to the servant and pours the rest into the trough for the camels to drink. While she returns to the well to refill her pitcher, the Torah recounts that the servant was (24:21) "wondering... had HaShem made his journey prosperous or not." Rivkah seemed to have fulfilled his criteria mentioned above. Why was he still uncertain as to his success?

Rashi comments that the servant had not yet ascertained that she was from Avraham's family. Although this is true, he never mentioned that as a condition to begin with. The Maharsha makes this very point. The gemara (Taanis 4a) lists three Biblical figures who made improper requests of HaShem. One of the three is Eliezer, Avraham's servant. Even had his prayer been answered, argues the gemara, the generous girl could very well have been lame or blind. Maharsha asks why the gemara did not criticize Eliezer for not having requested a member of Avraham's family. However, he concludes that the end of his prayer "and I will thereby know that You have done chesed with my master" was ultimately another way of requesting that the girl be from Avraham's family.

Shaarei Aharon, based on Radak, explains that Rivkah had really not yet fulfilled the servant's criteria. There are many people who speak of doing chesed, but only the true generous person will actually carry out their offers. Anyone could have offered to feed the camels. But that wasn't enough. The servant was waiting to see if Rivkah was sincere about her offer. This sincerity was a trait of Avraham and only with that would she show that she was from his family. In essence, the condition that the girl should be from Avraham's family was subsumed in the initial criteria.

Malbim explains similarly that the servant was suspicious that perhaps Rivkah was being so kind in order to ultimately request payment for her toil. That would clearly have disqualified her. This explains why the servant did not take any action until the camels finished drinking. Even the fact that she brought the water was no proof that she was the one until he was certain that this was a wholehearted act of kindness.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Mincha 3 Minutes After Chatzos? by R' Ari Storch

Friday, November 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben Avi Mori Reuven Pinchas, a"h, whose Yahrtzeit was yesterday, the 18th of Cheshvan.

As well, this Sunday, the 21st of Chesvan, is the  Yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel be Yoel, a"h as well as, per usual, le'iluy nishmas my Opa, his brother, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a"h.

When HaShem instructs Avraham to take Yitzchak and perform the akeidah, He commands (22:2), "Please take your son, your only son, that you love, Yitzchak..." Rashi writes that HaShem did not want to take Avraham by surprise and thus progressed gradually as he commanded him to bring his son as a sacrifice.

Ohr HaChayim offers an interesting insight on this pasuk. He suggests that the three terms used to refer to Yitzchak, "bincha," "yechidecha," and "asher ahavta" correspond to three forms of love we are commanded to show HaShem. Every day in the Shema, we read (Devarim 6:5) that we must love HaShem with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our resources or possessions.  The first reference, "your son," corresponds to the commandment of "bechol levavecha," with all your heart, as there is no love, writes Ohr HaChayim, like the love of a son. Yitzchak is referred to as his only son in correlation to "bechol nafshecha," with all your soul. Sacrificing Yitzchak would have left Avraham essentially childless which is tantamount to death as stated in the gemara (Nedarim 64b). Finally, Avraham loved Yitzchak more than all of his possessions and thus, "asher ahavta," the son that you love, is a manifestation of "bechol me'odecha." We therefore observe from this pasuk that Avraham, in carrying out the akeidah, fulfilled every necessary component of Ahavas HaShem.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstorTorah: Issues with Haneitz HaChamah by R' Ari Storch
AstorTorah: A Scratch on the Wall
AstorTorah: Witnesses to Sedom's Destruction
AstorTorah: The Sky is Falling (on Sedom)! by R' Ari Storch