The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, February 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh / Zachor

Much of this week's parsha deals with the vestments that the kohein gadol and regular kohein wore when they performed the service. Although their wardrobe seems to be discussed in its entirety, there is no mention of any tzitzis. (It may be argued that tefillin is not mentioned either but it is clear that they did wear tefillin.) It isn't completely clear which of the vestments actually had four corners. According to Rambam, it seems that at least the me'il, worn by the kohein gadol, had four corners. Why then is there no mention of the kohein gadol  putting tzitzis on the me'il?

The gemara (Arachin 3b) mentions a number of mitzvos that apply equally to kohanim, levi'im and yisraeilim and discusses them in depth. One such mitzvah is tzitzis. The gemara, as it does in the other instances as well, questions that it is obvious that everyone is obligated in the mitzvah of tzitzis. Why would one even have thought that a kohein or levi would be excluded? The gemara answers based on the juxtaposition of the mitzvos of sha'ateneiz and tzitzis (Devarim 22:11-12). The vestments of the kohanim are exempt from the prohibition of sha'atneiz, the combination of wool and linen, as the linen belt is placed tightly over the woolen tunic. One might have thought that since they are exempt from sha'atneiz, they are exempt from tzitzis as well. The gemara, therefore, needs to confirm that they are not, for they are only exempt from sha'atneiz while they are performing the service in their garments but not otherwise. Beis Yitzchak comments on this gemara that it seems that nevertheless, since the kohanim are, in fact, exempt from sha'atneiz while they are performing the service, they are also exempt from tzitzis while they are performing the service. This would explain why tzitzis were not placed on the me'il.

Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 99, siman 4) discusses this issue and rejects the notion that the exemption from tzitzis has to do with being worn while performing the service. Rather, he contends that the reason why tzitzis were not placed on the me'il is because we are taught in the gemara (Chulin 136a) that there is only an obligation of tzitzis on a garment that belongs to you. A borrowed garment, for instance, is not obligated to have tzitzis. The vestments of the kohein gadol were hekdeish, consecrated, and did not belong to the kohein gadol  himself. Therefore, he was not obligated to put tzitzis on them.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Ner Tamid
Dikdukian: Tarshsih veShoham
Dikdukian: Sham and Shamah

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
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Friday, February 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

This past Tuesday, 28 Shevat, was the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef, z"l.

Tomorrow, 2 Adar, is the yahrtzeit of my Zadie, Rabbi Yaakov Bulka. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak, z"l.


The shtikle is also dedicated lizchus a refuah sheleimah for Ben-Tzion Pinchas ben Gella Rachel

Kiddush Levanah Advisory: The custom amongst most Ashkenazim is to wait at least 72 hours after the molad to recite kiddush levanah. The announced molad for Rosh Chodesh Adar  was less than a minute before midnight, Wednesday night. It is once again important to make it clear that this is Yerushalayim (local) time. Therefore, in the Eastern time zone, the molad was really before 5 pm. Therefore, North American Ashkenazim should be able to say Kiddush levanah this Motzaei Shabbos, weather permitting. (Note: According to scientific data, the true new moon occurred at 6:47 pm. If one wishes to wait a full 72 hours from that moment, it might be a close call for cities further east.)

After detailing the structure of each component of the mishkan, the Torah explains their arrangement. When dealing with the placement of the shulchan and the menorah, the pasuk states (26:35) "And you shall place the shulchan outside of the curtain and the menorah opposite the shulchan, on the southern side of the mishkan. And the shulchan shall be placed on the northern side." This pasuk could easily have been condensed to only mention the shulchan once. Why was the placement of the shulchan mentioned before and after the placement of the menorah?

The menorah traditionally represents Torah and spirituality while the shulchan represents wealth and sustenance. Sifsei Kohein bases his explanation on the mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:17) "Im ein kemach, ein Torah. Im ein Torah, ein kemach." Without flour (sustenance), there can be no Torah and without Torah, there is no flour. The shulchan was brought into the mishkan first and placed in front of the curtain as a reflection of the first phrase, that there can be no Torah without sustenance first. However, its position on the northern side was not fixed until after the menorah was placed in its spot on the southern side, this to reflect the second phrase, that without Torah there is no sustenance.

Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, explained the Sifsei Kohein based on the GR"A's explanation of the mishnah. When the mishnah tells us that without sustenance there can be no Torah, it means that we need sustenance in order to achieve Torah. However, when the mishnah says that without Torah, there is no sustenance, it means without Torah as the ultimate goal, the sustenance is futile and purposeless. That is why although the shulchan is brought into the mishkan first, it is only placed in position after the menorah is first placed in its position, to show that in the end, the Torah must be the central focus with the sustenance only a means to that end.

Netziv in Ha'ameik Davar also deals with this issue and offers an alternate explanation. The shulchan has, in fact, a two-tiered symbolism. On one level, it represents sustenance and blessing insomuch as is needed for everyday livelihood. This is represented by the lechem hapanim, the bread that was placed on the shulchan. The structure itself, however, represents wealth and majesty. It is for this reason that it is placed in the north. In order to facilitate the efficient emersion in Torah, one needs only achieve the first level of sufficient sustenance. The next level of wealth and majesty can only reached through the merit of Torah. Therefore, the shulchan is brought into the mishkan first but is put in its place after the menorah and that is why the pasuk must mention it twice.

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

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

Friday, February 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

One of the laws dealt with in this week's parsha is that of damages incurred when one's animal gores another. The pasuk states (21:35) "v`chi yigof shor ish es shor rei'eihu..." Ibn Ezra explains these words as follows: And if the ox of a man gores the ox of his (this man's) friend. However, he brings an alternative explanation from a Karaite by the name of ben Zuta. He interprets: And if the ox of a man gores his (the ox's) friend - another ox. Ibn Ezra rejects this ridiculous interpretation based on the notes of the pasuk which clearly indicate that it should be read otherwise. Besides, adds the Ibn Ezra sharply, an ox has no friends - except for ben Zuta!

It is not often that the commentary of a rishon on chumash will have one rolling in laughter although it is not unusual for Ibn Ezra to take on a Karaite and his misguided interpretation. However, Ibn Ezra's sharp attack on ben Zuta is not so clear. Daniel Scarowsky, z"l, once pointed out to me that we find in the mishnayos in Bava Kamma perek 5 (bottom of 48b) "Shor shehaya miskaven l'chaveiro...," an ox that had intention to gore "his friend." Perhaps the ox is not the social outcast the Ibn Ezra had perceived him to be.

Daniel explained, however, that there is a difference between the term rei'a, used in our pasuk, and the term chaveir, used in the mishnah. Chaveir comes from the same root as chabura, a group, or chibur, connection. A chaveir is merely one who is a member of the same group, associated by any means of connection. Any two oxen are associates by means of their being of the same species and thus, they are chaveirim. Rei'a, conversely, is a term used to denote a more serious friendship, as we find rei'im ahuvim in reference to the marriage bond. It denotes a friendship in the mind, involving real feelings that only a human being can experience and an ox surely cannot... except, perhaps, with ben Zuta.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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

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Friday, February 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

At the beginning of the parsha, we learn that Yisro was so inspired by the news of the great miracles of the Jews' exodus from Egypt that he felt compelled to join them in the desert. Rashi discusses which event it was that actually triggered this decision. There are some interesting perspectives on that topic itself but at any rate, it is clear Yisro was quite well-informed in current events. Strangely, however, when Moshe comes out to greet his father-in-law, he recounts for him (18:8) everything that had happened. Rashi writes that this was done to allure him and stimulate his desire to follow the ways of the Torah. Nevertheless, this appears somewhat superfluous as Yisro was seemingly already aware of all this information.

This might be explained merely as repetition, as suggested by some commentaries, as the repetition of a story always makes a deeper impression, especially when it comes from a first-hand witness. However, based on Malbim's approach, there was indeed much purpose in Moshe's repetition of the events. Rashi points out on the first pasuk of the parsha that Moshe is seemingly equated with all of Yisrael. The pasuk certainly puts strong emphasis on Moshe with regards to the miracles performed by HaShem. It is possible that Yisro's drive to join B'nei Yisrael, although genuine, was bolstered by a sense of pride in the accomplishments of his son-in-law. To avoid such a misconception, Moshe, in his infinite humility, had to retell the story with the focus on B'nei Yisrael, as the pasuk clearly indicates, "al odos Yisrael." This in turn justifies Rashi's statement on this pasuk. Had Yisro come to join B'nei Yisrael simply out of appreciation of Moshe's accomplishments as a leader, he would have lacked the proper reverence for the merit of B'nei Yisrael and thus, been less likely to follow in the path of their Torah. Moshe had to impress these ideas on his father-in-law in order for him to grasp the true significance of the nation he was about to join.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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