The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, February 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh / Purim

In general, of the two parshios that deal in depth with various technical details, parshas Terumah is dedicated to the architectural detail of the Mishkon and related structures whereas parshas Tetzaveh deals primarily with details relating to the Kohanim. This exception that proves this rule is found at the end of this week's parsha. After all the procedures pertaining to the Kohanim have been discussed, the Torah details the golden altar that was placed inside the Mishkon. One would have expected this to be dealt with in parshas Terumah, when the Torah dealt with the Menorah and Shulchan. Instead, it is mentioned here.

Meshech Chachmah offers an explanation for the placement of the instructions for the golden altar. Every one of the structures and utensils had a specific purpose. If any of the structures were missing, their purpose could not be performed. If the Menorah was not present, the lighting could not take place. In the absence of the outer altar, the sacrifices could not be slaughtered and offered. A Kohein certainly could not perform any service without the proper garments. In this, the golden altar differed. The principal function of the golden altar was for the "ketores," incense. The gemara (Zevachim 59) teaches that if the altar is not present, one may still offer the incense in its proper place. The golden altar is excluded from all the other components to show its uniqueness in this respect.

The GR"A offers an insight into this issue which may shed some light on the reasoning behind the above law. The primary purpose of the entire Mishkon undertaking was for HaShem's Divine Presence to rest on the nation. This is stated clearly at the very beginning (25:8) of the instruction and stated once again at the end (29:45) "And I will dwell amongst B'nei Yisroel..." Everything within these two statements shared the same purpose. However, the golden altar, which is mentioned afterward, was not for the purpose of affecting the Divine Presence. The principal role of the golden altar was atonement. The daily incense was an atonement offering. The incense was also used in emergency situations to halt the breakout of a plague. Indeed, it is here that we learn that the Kohein Gadol was to sprinkle blood on the golden altar once a year on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Since the golden altar served a different purpose than the rest of the components of the Mishkon, it is separated and dealt with on its own.


A few weeks ago, the Daf Yomi passes the famous gemara in Shabbos (88a) detailing the coercive nature of Matan Torah. It was as if the mountain was inverted over our heads and we would either accept the Torah or be buried on the spot. Rava adds, though, that although the original acceptance was under duress, we "re-accepted" the Torah in the days of Achashveirosh. (Interesting to note that this re-acceptance is attributed to the days of Achashveirosh, not the days of Mordechai.) We know this from the famous words of the Megillah - "kiyemu vekibelu," we upheld what he had previously accepted. 

To this day, we are constantly being urged by our leaders to strengthen our observances in various areas. For example, the Chofetz Chaim led the charge to increase observance of the grave sins of Lashon Hara. We were never directed to "re-accept" the mitzvos pertaining to Lashon Hara. Yet, in the days of Achashveirosh we didn't simply strengthen our Torah observance or Torah study. It was something different.

A more recent passage from Daf Yom shed some light on what the significance of this re-acceptance might be. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel teaches (Shabbos 130a) that any mitzvah which B'nei Yisrael accepted happily, such as Bris Milah, they still perform happily to this day. A mitzvah which was accepted with a quarrel, such as those of illicit relations, are still problematic to this day. We see that the very nature of our forefathers' acceptance of each mitzvah has an everlasting effect on the manner in which we perform these mitzvos to this day. Therefore, we may suggest that the coercive nature of the original Matan Torah made it difficult for the following generations to study and uphold the Torah with wholehearted joy. The re-accpetance after the miracle of Purim out of love from the HaShem's miracles (as Rashi writes) was a reset, a start from scratch. From that moment forward, the generation of Mordechai and Esther instilled in us the strength and the drive to study and keep the Torah with true happiness and joy. 

Have a good Shabbos and a Great Purim! Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimcah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Zachar Amaleik? What was he smoking?
Dikdukian: Ner Tamid
Dikdukian: Tarshsih veShoham
Dikdukian: Sham and Shamah

AstroTorah: What's that in the West? by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Invisible Signs from Heaven by R' Ari Storch

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Thursday, February 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

    In this week's parsha, as part of the description of the construction of the Mishkan, the beams are described (36:29) as being paired at the bottom as well as the top. The terminlogoy used  (26:24) is, "and they shall be 'soamim' on the bottom and together they shall be 'samim' on top." The words "toamim" and "tamim" mean essentially the same thing. They are to be paired. As Rashi describes, the beams had to be flush with each other from the bottom to the top and were joined together with a ring on top. Why is a different word used for the bottom and the top?
    When Rivkah gives birth to Yaakov and Eisav, the pasuk (Bereishis 25:24) states "behold there were 'somim' in her womb." Rashi notes that here the word "tomim," which is missing an aleph, is used whereas when Tamar gives birth to Peretz and Zerach (Bereishis 38:27) the word "te'omim" (with an aleph) is used. The reason given is that Tamar's two children would both grow up to be rigthteous men whereas one of Rivkah's children would grow up to be an evil man. The word "te'omim" written in full denotes a greater similarity between the twins. When it is written missing an aleph, it denotes twins which are not so identical.
    If one were to survey the beams of the Mishkan on the bottom and the pegs that held them in place they would see a relatively uniform pattern as they went around. However, they might notice a slight change when they observe the tops of the beams. The rings that held the beams together on top rested in an indentation made in each beam. Joining the corner beams was a little more difficult. Rashi (26:24) describes the process which ultimately required the indentation to be in a different spot in that beam. The picture books on the Mishan make this more clear. Here is an example. Perhaps this is why the word "tamim" is used to describe the pairing of the beams on top. The pairing did not appear uniform throughout. But for the pegs that held the beams in place on the bottom, the word "toamim" is used to denote their uniform appearance.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Amudei HeChatzeir
Dikdukian: Venahapoch hu
Dikdukian: Kikar Zahav


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, February 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

This week's shtikle comes with some unfortunate news - the passing of my wife's paternal grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Yeres of Rechovot. the shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef. 

This coming Tuesday, 2 Adar is the yahrtzeit of my paternal grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Bulka. The shtikle is also dedicated le'iluy nishmaso Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak.

    Among the plethora of commandments in this week's parsha (53 to be exact), we are told (23:13) "You shall not mention the names of other gods, they shall not be heard on your mouth." This prohibition is expounded upon in the gemara (Sanhedrin 63b). It is forbidden to say to someone "wait for me beside such-and-such idol." The only exception to this prohibition, as explained in the gemara, is an Avodah Zarah that is mentioned in Tanach. Therefore, there is no prohibition against saying the name "Ba'al Pe'or," for example.

    Hagaos Maimonios (to Rambam Hilchos Avodah Zarah 5:3) writes that this prohibition is also limited to a name used to honour the Avodah Zarah. But a common name of something or someone which was made into an Avodah Zarah is not subject to this prohibition. Thus, if a group of people started worshipping some guy named Joe, there would be no prohibition to refer to Joe. This nuance may be relevant to the possible prohibition against reciting the name of the one that most of the Modern World considers, mistakenly, to be the Messiah. Hagaos Maimonios actually derives his ruling from the fact that the gemara freely refers to Yeshu. The common English name beginning with a J is likely an Anglicized version thereof. However, some believe it to be an anglicized version of the word "Yeshuah," salvation, for obvious misguided reasons. Nevertheless, if this is a name used to refer to the person, it is possible that it would not fall under this category. The two-word name that is used to refer to him, JC, however, is certainly prohibited for the second word means Messiah and this is certainly a name used in his honour.

    What bothered me, however, is that it seems that many people, based on the aforementioned gemara, specifically abstain from using a church as landmark when giving directions. At first glance, this might seem to be the case discussed in the gemara. However, a more careful analysis of the gemara, and the pesukim involved, show that the prohibition is to say the actual name of an Avodah Zarah. The word "church," on its own, is not the name of an Avodah Zarah and the prohibition should not apply to this word. I heard, however, that Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, concurred with this very point but added that it seems that Jews have customarily accepted upon themselves to be extra stringent in this matter and that is why the are careful to avoid using a church as a landmark.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim be'Simchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: The Ox and his Friend
Dikdukian: Answer vs. Torture
Dikdukian: Give it to me
Dikdukian: Ha'isha viladeha

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Friday, February 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

    In this week's parsha, Yisro advises Moshe that he could not possibly handle the entire nation's legal issues on his own. Rather, he should "discern from among the entire people, 'anshei chayil,' God-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money..."(18:21) However, when Moshe actually goes about choosing the men to take care of the lower-level cases, he chooses 'anshei chayil' from among all Israel(18:25) The obvious question is, what happened to all those other traits that Yisro advised him to seek out?
    When translating the pasuk above, I specifically left 'anshei chayil' untranslated. There are varying opinions on the actual meaning of this term and the govern the various approaches to this question. First is the somewhat disheartening opinions of Rashi, Chizkuni and Siforno. Rashi in Devarim 1:15 writes that Yisro instructed Moshe to seek out seven traits and he only found 3. Chizkuni interprets 'anshei chayil' as wealthy men. Of the traits recommended by Yisro, only the trait of wealth was one that could be recognized by one's peers. The other three were "traits of the heart" which one could not discern on the surface and therefore, Moshe was only able to be choosy about the 'anshei chayil.' Siforno writes that Moshe could not find men who possessed all the characteristics recommended by Yisro. Therefore, he decided that the most important one was 'anshei chayil,' well versed, deep, sharp men who are determined to get to the bottom of things and willing to fight for the truth. He reasoned that a God-fearing individual who does not possess this attribute is of inferior quality to a less God-fearing individual who does.
    Ramban and Malbim offer more optimistic views. On pasuk 21, Ramban writes, and Malbim likewise, that 'anshei chayil' simply means men who are fit to lead a large nation, for the word 'chayil' is used to refer to large assembly. The term 'anshei chayil' was used as a general term. The next three attributes were only a description of the three components of 'anshei chayil.' Since 'anshei chayil' was the general and the others the specific, pasuk 25 only refers to the general and we understand from that that all the necessary characteristics were included.
    Netziv in Ha'amek Davar writes Moshe chose from the scholars of B'nei Yisroel. Therefore, he could take for granted that these great men would be God-fearing men of truth who despise money for this is the way of the Torah. However, the trait of 'anshei chayil,' which Netziv interprets as leaders who can guide the nation (like Ramban) is not necessarily found in all. Therefore, among the scholars, it was only this trait that he had to seek out but the rest were assumed.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Many Who Fear God
Dikdukian: Letzais
Dikdukian: Ram veNisa by Eliyahu Levin

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on