The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, July 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Mas'ei

A Weekly Shtikle Mazal Tov to my cousin Menachem Seliger of London on his engagement to Malkah Levinson of Manchester. Mazal Tov to the ganse mishapachah.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated to the following Israeli soldiers (list expanded to include family members): Amir ben Tzipporah, Daniel Aharon ben Esther, Binyamin Avraham ben Mindel Sarah, Elichai Aryeh ben Sarah Rivkah, Asher Refael ben Dinah Leah, Yechiel David ben Gella Rachel im kol chayalei Yisrael.

This issue was first discussed in 2005 when it became relevant for the first time in 21 years. This year we once again encounter it for the fourth time in 10 years but we are bidding farewell here in chutz la'aretz as it will once again be 21 years until this arises again. 

Magen Avraham (428:8) cites Tzeror HaMor, stating that one must not make a break in the middle of the masa'os, the pesukim dealing with the list of B'nei Yisrael's resting points in the midbar. The reason for this is that there are 42 venues, corresponding to one of the Divine names which has 42 letters.When Matos and Mas'ei are read together, the aliyah which joins the two parshios does not end at sheini of Mas'ei but rather, it continues until shelishi. The issue only arises when Matos and Mas'ei are separate.
Most chumashim have sheini planted smack in the middle of the masa'os. But according to Tzeror HaMor, we should not stop there. As this ruling is based primarily on kabbalah, some kehilos adopt the practice of reading them all at once and some simply do not.

Even among those who do adhere to this, another question arises already at minchah the week before and on Monday and Thursday. One school of thought is that the issue is only present when all 42 masa'os are read. Therefore, there is no problem with stopping at sheini. But some, minhag Chabad, for example, are still careful in all cases. 

There is yet one more matter that requires some clarity. How exactly do you slice it up? Some have the kohein read the first three pesukim, as we find in our siddurim and then the levi reads all of the masa'os. But technically, the recounting of the travels already begins in the third pasuk. Therefore, it is the custom of some, such as Munkatcher and Berditchever chassidim, to have the kohein read all the way. The rationale behind allowing the stop is that the sojourn from Rameseis is repeated again in pasuk 5. So the 42 travels are still contiguous.

Now, this opens up another interesting discussion. There actually only 41 travels listed. How do we get to 42? A number of answers have been suggested. Prishah (YD 275:14) writes that we don't count the actual trips but rather, the actual locations. Just as one trip involves two locations, two trips involve three, etc., the 41 trips involve 42 total locations. 

The GR"A completes the 42 with an interesting understanding of pesukim 48 and 49. He understands that they first came to rest in a general area known as Arvos Moav. But then, they traveled to a more specific area of Arvos Moav known as Beis HaYeshimos. Even though no traveling is recounted, it constitutes to trips. 

Targum Yonasan (Shemos 19:4) explains that on the night of Pesach, B'nei Yisrael were actually transported from Rameseis to the location of the Beis HaMikdash and brought the korban pesach there. There are sefarim that suggest, therefore, that the two mentions of the travel from Rameseis refer to two separate trips. After all, the first mention does not say they went to Sukkos, just that they traveled from Rameseis. This would of course be a strong support to the above mentioned practice of Munkatch and Berditchev not to stop at all at the beginning.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Daily Leaf: Delayed Response
Daily Leaf: Provisional Beauty
Daily Leaf: Provincial Beauty
Daily Leaf: Weight a Minute

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

Friday, July 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos

I recently signed up with a very special program, The Shmira Project, which pairs ordinary people with soldiers putting their lives on the line in defense of our Nation. The Weekly Shtikle is therefore dedicated bizchus Amir ben Tzipporah im kol chayalei Yisrael.

Some time after the victorious military campaign against Midyan, (31:25-47), all of the booty - humans and animals - is counted and divided in two. One half is designated for the soldiers who fought the war and the other half is for the rest of B'nei Yisrael. Of the half that went to the soldiers, one out of 500 was to be given to Elazar. Of the half that went to the rest of the nation, one out of 50 was given to the Levi'im.


There are a number of puzzling nuances in this chapter. First, the totals of the sheep, cattle, donkeys and humans are tallied. Then the halves to the soldiers are counted as well as Elazar's portion. The halves for the rest of the nation, although exactly the same as the halves to the soldiers are counted. It is recounted that Moshe distributed the portion for the Levi'im but no count is given. Lastly, Elazar's portion is said to be "from the humans, from the cattle, from the donkeys and from the sheep." The same phrase is repeated with regards to the portion of the Levi'im but the words mikol habeheimah, from all of the animals, is added.

Netzi"v in Ha'amek Davar suggests that mikol habeheimah includes other species of animals that were brought back that were fewer in number. Since they were fewer than 1000, there would not have been enough to give Elazar even one. Therefore, this phrase is left out of the command of Elazar's portion and these animals' numbers are not significant enough for the Torah to recount.


A fascinating approach is offered in the name of R' Shlomoh HaKohein of Vilna. Elazar's portion is referred to in the pasuk (29) as a terumah laShem. One of the laws of terumah is that one may not separate from one species as terumah for another. Therefore, Elazar's portion was required to be one out of every 500 of each animal. However, this was not a requirement with the portion of the Levi'im and it was sufficient to give them 1/50 of all the animals combined. That is the meaning of mikol habeheima. The Levi'im were given 1/50 of all the animals. And that is why the Torah does not go into any detail concerning the division for it was not exact.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Chesbon, AstroTorah: The least frequent haftaros
Daily Leaf: All Sides
Daily Leaf: No More, No Less

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

Friday, July 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

This Shabbos is the Yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 
This Sunday is the Yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander, for whom our daughter Shaindy, who turns 7 today, is named.
Tuesday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the Yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

    In the beginning of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are once again counted. While examining the descendants of Reuven, the Torah tangentially discusses Dasan and Aviram and their involvement with Korach. Then the pasuk states, "uvnei Korach lo meisu". R' Chaim Kanievsky asks in Ta'ama D'Kra that this pasuk seems to be out of place. Why would the Torah discuss Korach's sons here? If they are to be discussed at all, should it not be with the tribe of Levi?
    He answers that while discussing the demise of Dasan and Aviram, one might be led to ask why they were punished so severely. After all, as Rashi writes at the beginning of parshas Korach, Dasan and Aviram were drawn into Korach's group because their camp was situated right next to Korach's - "oy l'rasha, oy lishcheino." So why did they deserve their ultimate demise if their actions were a product of their proximity to Korach? Therefore, the Torah tells us that Korach's sons didn't die. They did teshuvah and thus, were saved from their father's ill fate. Despite growing up in the same home as the evil man himself, they were able to see the error of his ways and turned away from his following. If his own sons were able to resist his influence, Dasan and Aviram had no excuse to fall back on.
    This seemingly simple pasuk in the Torah is in fact coming to teach a tremendous lesson of responsibility. We must always be aware that our deeds and actions are completely under our control. At no time, and for no reason, may we shift the blame for our misgivings on the atmosphere or the people around us.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev
Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato
Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral
Daily Leaf: Similar Raffles (Related)
Daily Leaf: Righteous Clowns (Unrelated)
Daily Leaf: Death Frequency

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

Friday, July 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

Following the unfortunate discoveries in Eretz Yisrael this week, it is only appropriate this week's shtikle be dedicated le'iluy nishmos Eyal ben Uriel Yifrach, Yaakov Naftali ben Avraham Frenkel and Gil-ad Michael ben Ofir Shaar.

At the beginning of this week's parsha, we find that Moav is frightened of Bnei Yisrael because of what they did to Sichon. Many are bothered by the fact that B'nei Yisrael are commanded not to wage war with Moav. So they need not have worried. However, it is unclear to me how exactly Moav would have known that. But I was once asked a more intriguing question concerning Balak's entire approach to B'nei Yisrael. Sichon met his demise only because he started up with Bnei Yisrael. B'nei Yisrael clearly had no intentions of war with Sichon and he was the one who came out and attacked. As long as Balak avoids a confrontation, what does he have to be afraid of? If he simply leaves B'nei Yisrael alone, his country is in no danger whatsoever.

Perhaps what frightened Moav was that they observed that as soon as B'nei Yisrael requested a passage through Sichon's land, that is when everything started to fall apart for him. Sure, Sichon started the war, but what was he supposed to do? How is a country supposed to see such a request as a friendly gesture? The way Balak saw it, as soon as B'nei Yisrael asks for permission to go through the land, it means trouble. Now in the parsha we are not told that any such request was sent to Moav. However, in the haftara of Chukas (Shoftim 11:17) we find that messengers were sent to Moav as well with the same request. Perhaps the episode of Balak happened after these messengers were sent and that is why he became frightened. When Balak saw his nation following the same course of events as that of Sichon, he felt threatened and saw fit to take preemptive action.

However, there is a much simpler approach to Balak's actions which teaches a great lesson. Perhaps Balak was simply misinformed and misguided. B'nei Yisrael's trouncing of Sichon's army had them looking like the aggressors at the end of the day. B'nei Yisrael began to be looked upon as a force of terror ripping through the region. Balak was not aware, or did not allow himself to be aware that B'nei Yisrael had no intentions of any involvement with him whatsoever. This whole parsha is therefore a clear example of "ma'aseh avos siman labanim," a harbinger of events to follow for many generations. Throughout history, Jews have always been vilified on false pretenses. But in our days it is most glaringly evident. After the Holocaust there was an atmosphere of pity for the Jewish people and the State of Israel was a direct outgrowth thereof. But that only lasted or a fleeting moment. Israel has been blessed by HaShem with the strongest and most successful of armies. With the Divine gift of power and might, they have crushed their enemies to bitter defeat. But suddenly, we are looked upon as aggressors. Each war was a defensive battle but yet, we are looked upon as instigators and subsequently, occupiers. In sweeping, defensive attacks against terrorists, we are seen as terrorists ourselves. The incidence of misguided public opinion is far to great and far too obvious to even bother enumerating examples.  As we see in our parsha, this is old news. As the generations pass it seems evident that the Jews will always be misunderstood and misjudged in the public eye. It is something we will just have to live with.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

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