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Wednesday, September 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah

    The Hoshanos ritual which is performed daily on Sukkos ends with a passage from Shelomoh HaMelech's prayer upon the completion of the Beis HaMikdash: (Melachim I 8:59-60) "May these words of mine, which I have suplicated before HaShem, be near to HaShem, our God, by day and by night; that He bring about justice for His servant and justice for His people, Israel, each day's need in its day..." On Shemini Atzeres, when we no longer perform the Hoshanos ritual, this passage appears once again in the haftarah.
    There are some obvious and practical reasons for the inclusion of this passage but I would like to suggest another. The Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 16a) states the virtually obvious, that we are all judged on Rosh HaShanah. However, the opinion of R' Yose in the gemara is that we are in fact judged every day. The pasuk which the gemara eventually determines is R' Yose's source, is the above quoted pasuk from Melachim.
    The final seal of the judgement of Yom Kippur is said to stretch until Hoshana Rabba. As the intensity of the Yemei HaDin wanes, one might tend to feel that the judgement is "over." One might feel that we will not be judged again until the next Tishrei. This is certainly not the mindset with which we want to be leaving the great month of Tishrei. The repetition of this pasuk throughout Sukkos, and then one last time on Shemini Atzeres, drives home the message that Divine judgement is not something reserved only for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur but something we must be constantly aware of on a daily basis.


  For Simchas Torah, I would like to revisit a question I had last year and a nice thought contributed by a cousin of mine. Here is the original question: 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.)

   First, my question was based on a slight misconception. A more careful analysis of the berachos reveals that they are in fact expressed as Moshe beseeching HaShem on each tribe's behalf. "Tumecha v'urecha" is not an exception. It's not Levi's "Tumim veUrim," but rather HaShem's. But that opens up a fascinating insight into the berachah of Yissachar and Zevulun. One would not necessarily expect "tzeisecha," the comings and goings of Zevulun, to be expressed as belonging to HaShem. But we see, nevertheless, that when the classic Yissachar-Zevulun relationship is arranged, with Zevulun engaging in business in order to support Yissachar's Torah study, his business is regarded with the same "Divinity" as Yissachar's learning.

   (The berachos of Vayechi are more difficult to explain, however. I guess I have a couple of weeks to come up with something on that.)

Have a chag samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Do You Sea what I Sea?
AstroTorah: Sukkos and Going Extreme by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

Wednesday, September 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Sukkos

This coming Sunday is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav NaftaliNeuberger, zt"l of Ner Yisroel.
This shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Naftali ben Meir.

The weather here in Toronto is looking quite ominous for the first couple of days of Sukkos. So this is most apropos:

As we make the move out of our house and into the sukkah to spend all of our meals and for some, our nights as well, one of our principal fears is the threat of rain. Excessive precipitation negates the mitzvah of sukkah and forces us back into our homes. It is for this reason that we delay the commencing of the "Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem" prayer until after Sukkos (whereas the "Morid hatal" prayer is initiated at the beginning of Pesach). The mishnah (Sukkah 28b) relates the following parable: "To what is this comparable (rainfall on Sukkos)? To a servant who came to dilute his master's wine and the master spilled out the pitcher in front of him."

The GR"A offers a fascinating insight into this parable. The month of Tishrei begins with Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur which are days of judgement. The chag of Sukkos is given to us immediately following as a gesture of mercy by means of the numerous mitzvos we are given to increase our merits and get the year off to a good start. The concept of strict judgement is symbolized by the sharp wine which, in earlier days, needed to be diluted before drinking. We, the servants, wish to dilute the strict judgement of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur with mercy by means of the numerous mitzvos we perform. By bringing down rain, HaShem, the Master, shows that (Heaven forbid) He does not desire this modification of judgement and rejects the dilution. He therefore spills the pitcher of water (not of wine) in front of the servant to show that He does not wish for the wine to be diluted.

Let us hope that we can all avoid the rain and the negative implications thereof as much as possible over Sukkos.

Have a good Yom Tov and then Good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Comment on above AstroTorah post
Al Pi Cheshbon: The Search for Worthy ... Humans (Koheles)

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

Wednesday, September 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

     The main component of the Rosh HaShanah davening are the sections in Musaf known as Malchios, Zichronos and Shofaros. Each section contains 10 pesukim from Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim relating to their respective topics. The gemara (Rosh HaShanah 16a) explains that the purpose of Malchios is to proclaim HaShem's ultimate kingship. Of the pesukim referring to kingship, 2 of them, (Ovadiah 1:21, Zechariah 14:9) refer to HaShem's recognized kingship over all humanity in the days to come. At first glance, this seems puzzling. If we are supposed to be proclaiming HaShem's dominion over us, as the gemara spells out, how do we accomplish this by speaking of HaShem's future kingship?

     I believe the answer lies in the following thought: The fear instilled by a human king, no matter how intense, is never of an everlasting nature. You might be scared of him today, but he may be dead tomorrow. Even the most tyrannical dictatorships can be overthrown in the blink of an eye. There is always that little bit of fear missing, that notion that the king will not rule forever. Therefore, on Rosh HaShanah, when we must declare HaShem's ultimate kingship, we must also stress the everlasting nature of this kingship. We must stress that HaShem's kingship is not only a current one but one that will last forever and will be accepted by all in the days to come. May we all merit to see these days speedily.

Have a Kesiva vaChasimah Tovah and a happy, healthy, sweet new year.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Shofar and World Domination by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

Friday, September 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

    This week's parsha speaks much about teshuvah and the study of Torah. The pasuk proclaims

    "For this mitzvah (the whole Torah, according to Rashi) that I command you today is not removed from you, nor is it far. It is not in the heavens that you may say who will go up to the heavens and take it for us and teach it to us and we shall do it. Nor is it across the sea that you may say who will cross the sea and take it for us and teach us and we shall do it." (30:11-13)

    The Torah illustrates the ease with which it may be conquered by means of these two analogies. Perhaps there is a homiletic reasoning behind the use of these two analogies. Each correspond to a situation in B'nei Yisroel's short history where they came together with a collective complaint. First, when they reached Yam Suf, they all complained that they were trapped by the sea and could not move forward. With a miracle of miracles, HaShem delivered us. The Torah tells us here that to learn the Torah, we do not have to rely on such great miracles. We do not have to cross the sea, it is right in front of us.

    When the spies come back with the negative report, B'nei Yisroel begin to believe that they will be unable to conquer the land. Caleiv silences the nation and declares (Bemidbar 13:30) that they will indeed go up and conquer the land. The gemara (Sotah 35a) comments on Caleiv's declaration that he proclaimed "Is this not all that (Moshe) ben Amram has done for us? Has he not brought us out of Mitzrayim, split the sea and fed us man? Even if he were to instruct us to make ladders and climb to the heavens, we shall surely go up!" In accordance with this, we are told "lo bashamayim hi," it is not in the heavens. It is right in front of us for the taking.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Making Sense of Idolatry by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,