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Thursday, December 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

A special Mazal Tov to noted Weekly Shtikle reader, critic and contributor David Farkas and his wife Sara on the birth of their son, Chanan Nachman. In honour of the bris today, I am quoting David below.

Another special Mazal Tov to my nephew, Yitzchak Levy, along with the extended Levy and Bulka mishpachos on his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos. 

This Shabbos is the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr Israel Frankel, a"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.
    As the showdown between Yoseif and Yehudah escalates at the beginning of the parsha, Yoseif finally realizes that he could no longer go on deceiving his brothers and hiding his identity. He reveals to them that he is in fact Yoseif. However, he is able to keep up this chicanery for quite some time despite numerous hints. Rashi (42:8) writes that it was Yoseif's newly grown beard that prevented his brothers from discerning that it was him.
    However, David Farkas, author of Ha-Doresh Vi-Hamivakesh, suggests another approach. Indeed, one looks different with a beard than without. But after all of the dealings the brothers had with him, could not one of them figure out that this Egyptian viceroy looks an awful lot like their brother? Rather, the Egyptian Pharaohs were known to have worn masks. While Yoseif was only the Prime Minister to the monarch, it is possible that he wore a mask as well. In such a case only his voice would serve as any hint to his identity. It is thus much easier to understand that the brothers were unable identify him. [Note that the pasuk recounts Yoseif's recognition of his brothers immediately upon their arrival. However, we are not told that they didn't recognize him until after he speaks. This seems to suggest that until Yoseif spoke, the brothers had nothing with which they could possibly have identified him.]
    While this suggestion might seem slightly outlandish at first, it seems Ramban in this week's parsha concurs. He writes (46:29) that Yaakov did not recognize Yoseif right away because his face was covered with some sort of head covering as per the custom of Egyptian royalty. And so too, Ramban adds, his brothers did not recognize him. Ramban clearly asserts that it was more than just a beard that concealed Yoseif's identity.
    As mentioned above, Yoseif did drop numerous hints to his brothers and while they were baffled on occasion, they failed to come to the realization that it was Yoseif. R' Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, zt"l, mashgiach of Lakewood Yeshivah, asks if Yoseif was trying to conceal his identity, why did he in fact drop all those hints? And why did the brothers not pick up on them?
    He explains that when the brothers first encountered Yoseif in Egypt, the pasuk recounts (42:9) that Yoseif remembered his dreams and proceeded to charge his brothers with espionage. It's not that Yoseif necessarily used his dreams as a rationale for badgering his brothers. Rather, Yoseif developed a scheme by which he would allow his brothers to come to their own realization that he was the viceroy of Egypt. If they could discover this by themselves, it would be an acceptance of the integrity of Yoseif's dreams. An outsider might have easily identified Yoseif. The brothers, however, had an inner struggle to contend with. Yoseif kept on hinting to them. The facts were there in front of them. But inside, they could not bring themselves to accept it. Finally, it reached a point where Yoseif could no longer play his game. He tried to no avail. He had to spell it out for his brothers on his own.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon / Dikdukian: Can you count to 70?
Dikdukian: Pain in the Neck
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Ram'seis
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Vayigash by R' Eliyahu Levin

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Friday, December 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Chanukah

As part of the Hallel we recite all eight days of Chanukah, we include the following pesukim from Tehillim (116) "Ana HaShem ki ani avdecha. Ani avd'cha ben amasecha pitachta lemoseirai. Lecha ezbach zevach todah..." David HaMelech, in his pleas to HaShem, refers to himself as "avd'cha ben amasecha," your servant, the son of your maid. Many of the meforshim point out that a servant who was bought by his master serves him involuntary as he recalls the days of his freedom. The son of a maid, however, who is born into servitude, knows no better life and serves his master whole-heartedly. David HaMelech emphasizes his status of "ben amasecha" as a symbol of his whole-hearted service of HaShem.
In the introduction to the sefer Oneg Yom Tov, the author explains that complete gratitude requires generosity of the heart. One cannot be forced to show gratitude. It is an expression that must come graciously, out of one's own free will or it is not genuine gratitude. This explains the continuation of David HaMelech's words. After expressing his utter devotion as a servant of HaShem he notes that nevertheless, "pitachta lemoseirai," You have opened up my shackles. Even though David HaMelech was a servant, he felt freed from his shackles in such a way that he was able to give whole-hearted thanks to HaShem. Therefore, "lecha ezbach zevach todah," to You I may offer a thanksgiving sacrifice. Only with the feeling of freedom was he able to offer a sincere sacrifice of thanks.
Reb Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, quoting an anonymous source, commented that this idea may be employed to understand an interesting phenomenon in the halachos of Chanukah. Chazal decreed that the basic mitzvah of candle lighting is one candle for each household each night. The way of the "mehadrin," the extra mile, is for everyone in the house to light one per night. And the "mehadrin min hamehadrin," the quintessential performance of the mitzvah is for each member of the household to light and add an extra candle every night which is what most of us do. Why do Chazal ordain this as a "mehadrin min hamehadrin?" If this is indeed the ideal way to perform the mitzvah, why is not decreed that this is how we should do it? We often see Chazal suggest a stricter way of performing a mitzvah but seldom do we see Chazal dictate a "better" way to do a mitzvah. With the above, we may understand that Chazal specifically did not force us to perform this mitzvah in this way because the mitzvah of ner Chanukah, as we say in "Haneiros Halalu," is "kedei lehodos ulehalel," to give thanks and praise. This must be done out of generosity of the heart. Therefore, Chazal specifically spelled out an ideal way to perform the mitzvah, but left it to us to choose, of our own accord, to perform it in that way. This makes the lighting of the candles a true demonstration of gratitude to HaShem.
Have a good Shabbos and Chag Chanukah Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah by Eliyahu Levin

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Friday, December 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev


After throwing Yoseif into the pit, the brothers had clearly paid no attention to Reuvein's previous demand and were still contemplating killing Yoseif. Finally, they are convinced by Yehudah, who had taken on a role of leadership amongst the brothers. He reasons, (37:26) "Of what gain would it be for us to kill our brother, thereby requiring us to cover his blood?" Sensing that the covering of blood was meant metaphorically, Rashi renders "we will hide his death." This seemingly innocuous comment is actually slightly problematic. According to Rashi's interpretation, had the brothers actually gone through with killing Yoseif, they would have had to cover up his death altogether. However, in the end, when they did not kill him, they still told him that he had died. Therefore, it seems that covering up Yoseif's "death" would not have been the issue but rather, covering up his "murder."


Behind Rashi's comment may, in fact, be an intriguing psychological insight. Had the brothers actually killed Yoseif, it would have been too difficult for them to report his death to their father and, at the same time, deny any involvement. They would have been forced to make up some other story, much further from the truth. Since they sold him and knew that he was indeed alive and well, they were more comfortable making up a story of his tragic death. If this is the way Rashi is to be understood, it gives deep insight into the human mind. It is more difficult to tell a lie which is very close to the truth, a half-truth perhaps, than to tell a lie which is far from the truth.

Have a good Shabbos and a Chanukah Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

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Friday, December 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

Before his confrontation with Eisav, Yaakov prays to HaShem (32:12) to save him miyad achi, miyad Eisav, from my brother, from Eisav. Ohr HaChayim addresses the seemingly superfluous reference to Eisav has a brother. Although Yaakov was primarily afraid for his life, he was aware that Eisav posed a threat to his existence in two manifestations. The obvious threat was a physical one, with Eisav acting with his traditional enmity. However, Yaakov was also afraid of Eisav acting like a brother toward him, befriending him and influencing him spiritually. He therefore asked of HaShem to save him both from the physical perils of an encounter with a hostile Eisav and the spiritual dangers of a loving brother.


Later in the parsha, before Yaakov encounters Eisav, he does battle with an angel through the night until the morning. The Torah describes the battle, (32:25) vayei'aveik ish imo. Rashi quotes one interpretation of the word vayei'aveik as coming from the root avak, dirt, as the clash caused much dirt to be kicked up in the process. Rashi then offers his own interpretation of the word as being of Aramaic origin connoting fastening or intertwining, referring to the nature of their hand-to-hand combat. Ramban, asserting that a ches may be interchanged with an alef, suggests the true root of the word is chavak, meaning to hug.


The angel is traditionally considered the sar, (angelic manifestation) of Eisav. The battle is a paradigm of the eternal battle between Yaakov and Eisav. The battle's conclusion at alos hashachar, dawn, symbolizes the days of mashiach when the eternal battle will come to an end and Yaakov will emerge victorious. Perhaps we may understand that the different interpretations of vayei'aveik are not in conflict. Rather, they are in concurrence with the methods by which Eisav wages war with Yaakov. The angel kicked up dust in his attempt to destroy Yaakov. But the angel also hugged Yaakov in fraternal affection in an attempt to destroy him as a brother as well.


Indeed, we must be constantly aware of the dangers posed by Eisav's evil hatred. At the same time, however, we must be cautious not to be deceived and misguided by our apparent acceptance and comfort in his midst.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: The Great Dishon Confusion
Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky

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