The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, March 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

A belated dedication: Mazal Tov to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Rabbi & Mrs. Avi Lifshitz of Perth, Australia on the birth of a baby girl, Ora (about a month ago.) Mazal Tov to the extended Yeres mishpacha!

Last week we discussed the connections within parshas Shemini. This week, we will explore the connection between the end of Shemini and the main theme of Tazria. The topic that takes up most of parshas Tazria is the illness of tzara'as. Traditionally, (as per Arachin 15b) tzara'as afflicted someone who spoke lashon hara as it did Miriam at the end of parshas Beha'alosecha.

R' Moshe Shternbuch in Ta'am Voda'as, in the name of R' Yisrael Salanter, writes that the end of the previous parsha we are taught of the animals that are not to be eaten and the tum'ah that results when we do. While it seems that very many people are careful about what they put into their mouths, they are seemingly far less careful of what comes out. The juxtaposition of these two topics is meant to show that just as putting the wrong things in our mouths results in serious tum'ah, the same grievous consequences result when we allow the wrong things to come out.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: White Hair
Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin

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Friday, March 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

This past Wednesday, the 17th of Adar II, marked the third yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Fuller, z"l, of Ner Yisroel. He was instrumental in spearheading a Central/South American program, running camps in the Yeshivah during the winter and summer bringing hundreds of kids closer to yiddishkeit. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso. 

This week's parsha begins on the eighth day of the proceedings leading up to the final setup of the mishkan. The joy of the day is interrupted by the tragic death of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. Later on, the parsha deals with the various signs of kashrus pertaining to animals, fish and birds. This is a rather odd transition at first glance. One usually expects to find some sort of common thread between two juxtaposed passages.


The key is one word.


Following the death of Nadav and Avihu, HaShem commands Aharon that he and his sons (and all kohanim who follow) that they may not drink wine before performing the service or they will be subject to death. The reason for this, as stated in the following pesukim (10:10-11) is ulhavdil, so that they may discern between holy and mundane, tamei and tahor. And so they may teach B'nei Yisrael all the laws that HaShem spoke to them through Moshe.


At the end of the parsha, after the discussion of the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, we are told the reasoning - or at least some driving force - behind these laws, (11:37) lehavdil, so that we may discern between the tamei and tahor, between the animal that is to be eaten and the animal that is not to be eaten. The repetition of lehavdil is the essence of the thread that runs through the parsha. First, we are taught of the great burden that the kohanim carry, the responsibility to judge between holy and mundane and between tamei and tahor. There are certainly many areas where it is only the kohanim who bear this burden. However, lest one think that this task is one reserved only for the kohanim, the Torah impresses upon us that each and every Jew carries this responsibility to a certain extent. This is an essential challenge for all Jews. The world has been created with forces of tum'ah and forces of taharah. Through this parsha we see that we have all been provided with the necessary guidelines to tackle this challenge and accurately discern between the holy and mundane, and the tamei and tahor.

In a leap year, this lesson falls in just the perfect time (although maybe just one week too late.) We just finished the joyous celebration of Purim. A superficial view of the holiday might lead one to refer to it as the "Jewish Halloween." But of course we know that it is nothing like that whatsoever and we must strive to make that distinction clear. Also, the lessons regarding responsibility with wine are also most apropos for this time. And as we leave Purim behind (while we finish off all the candy and nosh) and turn our sights to Pesach, we find another similar challenge. The Christian holiday of Easter falls out on Pesach nearly every year - not by coincidence but by design (theirs, not ours. In fact, the only time it does not fall out on Pesach would be on certain leap years when it falls out just after Purim.)  Again we are given the opportunity to make a clear distinction between the devotion and dedication with which we celebrate our Holy Days and the way others celebrate their holidays.


Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim b'Simchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Lehavdil
For Parshas Parah:
Dikdukian: Oops (This one's quite funny. At least I think so.)

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Sunday, March 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

I apologize for the lack of shtikle before Shabbos. Hopefully, this installment might still be helpful for some:

There are certainly no shortage of interpretations out there for the exact understanding of the ad delo yada obligation on Purim. However, I would like to share yet another which R' Kulefsky, zt"l, would unabashedly repeat nearly every year in the name of the Nesivos. R' Kulefsky would often repeat certain vortlach in their applicable time over and over but would make it clear that he was well aware of the repetition but that it was nevertheless worthwhile for all who have heard it to hear it again.

As an introduction, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) states that whereas in this world, we make the berachah of hatov vehameitiv on joyous news and dayan haemes on unfortunate, saddening  news, in the world to come we will only make the berachah of hatov vehameitiv. The Tzelach asks, what unfortunate saddening news will there be on which to recite hatov vehameitiv? Rather, we will look back in retrospect at the events in history we regarded as sorrowful and realize the truth purpose of each and  every one and realize that it was all for the good.

In fact, even for us in this world, a certain degree of this realization can be reached. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sh'ar HaSimchah) describes the highest levels of joy, citing the gemara (Berachos 48b and others) which states that just as we recite a blessing on the good, we must recite a blessing on the bad and unfortunate. He understands that when the gemara says kesheim, just like, it means that we should recite a blessing on the bad with the same degree of joy and happiness as that which we do on the good.

In the story of Purim we read about the evil decree of Haman, a mournful moment for the people of that time. And yet, that decree was a catalyst to unprecedented levels of teshuvah and the ultimate deliverance from that imminent threat. And so, suggests Nesivos, the obligation to rejoice on Purim until one does not decipher between "cursed Haman" and "blessed Mordechai" is not to say we should lose our ability to judge and not see the difference between them. Rather, we should reach a level of joy such that, with the utmost clarity, we realize that there is no difference and that even the gravest calamities that befall us are part of a greater good.

We certainly live in turbulent times on many fronts. (Have there ever been times that weren't turbulent?) Our nation faces threats to its very existence at nearly every turn. But perhaps these dire times present an even greater opportunity to use this Purim to strive to reach the realization that everything HaShem does is for the good.


PET PEEVE ALERT: I'm not sure why this has bothered me more this year than other years but it seems no matter where you turn everyone is being taught that Mordechai was Esther's uncle. The problem is it's simply not true. The text of the megillah is very clear on more than one occasion that Mordechai and Esther were first cousins. I tried my best to look around for some source for this all-too-common misconception. I did find this article on the OU's website highlighting the misconception and suggesting some possibilities for its origin. But it's baffling that this has managed to infiltrate so many of our esteemed education institutions.


Purim Torah: The gemara (Yoma 29a) discusses Tehillim 22, beginning with a reference to ayeles hashachar, a passage attributed to Esther. It is asked why Esther is likened to an ayeles, a doe. A doe is cherished by its spouse for all time as if it were the "first hour." Achashveirosh apparently had similar feelings for Esther. What bothered me, though, was how this was unique to a doe. Does a doe and its spouse really enjoy that much more marital bliss than any other species in the animal kingdom. And then, it hit me - that must be why it's called a DEER !!!

Have a Chag Purim Samei'ach. Please check out all Megillah-related Dikdukian posts including one published just now based on something that came up tonight.

Eliezer Bulka

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Friday, March 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayikra

    In 1:14 we are told that an olah offering of birds is of turtledoves or pigeons. Ramban describes why specifically these two birds are chosen for the olah offering of birds over all other birds. He explains that the traits of these birds resemble that of B'nei Yisrael hinting to a more metaphysical resemblance between the birds and humans. I believe there is a specific reason why Ramban was compelled to take this approach to the bird offerings.
    On pasuk 9 we are exposed to the famous dispute between Ramban and Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim as to the reasoning behind korbanos. Ramban states there that the sacrificing of the animal is representative of the deserved sacrifice of one's own body. The animal on the mizbei'ach is really an exchange for the body of the one bringing it. It is easier to understand this connection with regular, four-legged mammals. They have four limbs and innards like that of a human. When a bull or sheep is lying on the mizbe'ach, one can conceive how it represents a human being. When its innards are burnt, one can conceive how this is an exchange for the burning of a human's innards. However, with a bird, the connection is harder to see. A bird's physical make-up is nothing like that of a human. The bringing of a bird offering does not entail the burning of the innards as an essential component like the animal offerings do. Therefore, Ramban illustrates that although a physical connection between birds and humans is hard to see, a spiritual connection between the birds and B'nei Yisrael exists in such a way that we may conceive a bird offering on the mizbei'ach to represent the one who is bringing it.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbin beSimchah! 

Eliezer Bulka

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