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Friday, November 27

Fwd: The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

Following up on last week's mazal tov, my new great nephew now has a name – Yaakov Yosef Shonek. Mazal tov once again to the parents, Dovid Nisson and Tova Shonek, and to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Lidsky families.


Before his meeting with Eisav, Yaakov engages in an epic battle with a mysterious foe. Although Yaakov seems to overpower him, his adversary pulls a crafty maneuver on Yaakov's sciatic nerve and causes the showdown to come to an abrupt end. We are told (32:33) "Therefore B'nei Yisrael shall not eat the sinew of the vein which is on the hollow of the thigh until this day for he touched the hollow of Yaakov's thigh in the sinew of the vein." Indeed, we are forbidden from eating that part of the animal due to its significance in this episode. However, this pasuk does not appear immediately after the fight. The Torah first tells us that the sun had risen and Yaakov was still limping on his thigh. Only then does the Torah proceed with "Therefore..."


I believe the message here is that the prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve is not simply because it was used to end the battle with the angel. The significant fact in this episode is that this injury caused Yaakov lingering pain. The confrontation between Yaakov and what is commonly accepted to have been the angelic manifestation of Eisav is often understood as a harbinger of the eternal strife between Yaakov and Eisav, a constant war of values and ideals (See Sefer HaChinuch.) This war is never won, at least not until the end of days. Yaakov's injury symbolizes our weak point that Eisav is able to exploit. It is not simply the initial injury that is significant. It is Yaakov being hampered by that injury even after the sun rose bringing the dawn of a new day that symbolizes the constant thorn in our side that is Eisav. This is why we must constantly be mindful of this threat and thus, refrain from eating the sciatic nerve.

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky
AstroTorah: Eisav's Angel Fades Away by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, November 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

A hearty Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew, Dovid Nisson Shonek and his wife Tova on the birth of a baby boy in Eretz Yisrael last night. Mazal tov to the extended Bulka and Shonek families!


When Yaakov finally manages to escape the clutches of his evil father-in-law, Lavan, Rachel decides to do a little housecleaning and steals her father's idols. It didn't take long for Lavan to realize this. When he catches up with Yaakov and family he charges Yaakov with the theft of his gods. Yaakov pleads not guilty but, not knowing that Rachel had stolen them, offers Lavan to look around for them and declares that the one with whom they are found will not live. The pasuk that follows (31:33) is a rather confusing one and is the subject of much discussion. It reads, "And Lavan came into Yaakov's tent and in Leah's tent and in the tents of the two maids and did not find them. He then exited Leah's tent into Rachel's tent." How did he exit Leah's tent when he was in the tent of one of the maids? Rashi adds to the confusion by commenting that the tent of Rachel and the tent of Yaakov were one and the same and he was there twice. Is the pasuk out of order? It remains quite difficult to try and map out Lavan's exact search path.


R' Chayim Kanievsky, in Ta'ama D'kra, gives a fascinating and even slightly entertaining interpretation of the pasuk. He describes that the four tents were arranged in a 2x2 cube with the tents of Leah and Rachel on top, each of them above the tents of their respective maids. After passing through Yaakov's tent he began to search in Leah's tent because she was the oldest. From Leah's tent he came down to inspect the tents of the two maids and after coming up empty there he realized he may not simply be searching for his idols but rather chasing them. Maybe the idols were being passed from room to room as he made his way around. So, he thought, he would pull a fast one on them and go back the other way to look for them. Therefore, instead of entering Rachel's tent from Bilhah's tent, he came from Leah's tent because he had backtracked through the tents he had already visited. This explanation is even compatible with Rashi. He went through all the tents and then traced his steps back to Rachel's tent where he began. This resolves much of the confusion concerning with this pasuk. There are, however, many different ways to understand this pasuk amongst the commentaries but this, to me, was the most novel and most interesting.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: From his Sleep
Dikdukian: Complete it
Dikdukian: Qualification of the "ahoy" rule

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Friday, November 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l (Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo) whose yahrtzeit is this coming Sunday.

    Most of the notes we encounter when reading the Torah with the proper cantillation are part of a group of mainstream notes which are distributed, according to their rules, fairly evenly over the entire Torah. There are a number of notes, however, that appear very infrequently. The shalsheles, which appeared in both of the last two parshiyos, is probably the best known of this group. In this week's parsha we find another unusual note - the mercha kefulah. When Yaakov dresses up as Eisav to receive the blessings, after feeding Yitzchak the "fast food" that Rivkah prepared, Yaakov gives Yitzchak wine to drink (27:25). The mercha kefulah appears under the word lo, for him. Whereas the placement of the regular notes is usually governed by strict grammatical rules, the special notes usually hold a deeper intrinsic significance. (In an old parshas Tzav shtikle, the significance of the shalsheles was discussed.)

    Although it is not evident that his intention is to account for the use of the mercha kefulah, Chizkuni makes a comment on this pasuk that may offer some insight into this issue. Chizkuni writes that Yaakov brought his father wine because wine has a tendency to cloud one's judgment, thus making it less likely for Yitzchak to discover that he was being fooled. A mercha kefulah, as its name indicates, appears simply as a doubling of the popular mercha note, just as a "w" is actually made up of two "u"s… sort of. Thus, it is usually used to denote a double entendre. Perhaps, the word lo in this pasuk has two interpretations as well. The obvious reading is that Yaakov brought the wine for Yitzchak to drink, whereby the pronoun lo refers to Yitzchak. However, with Chizkuni's interpretation, Yaakov was bringing the wine as part of his scheme. Since he was doing this to further his own cause, lo may alternatively refer to Yaakov. The mercha kefulah is therefore used to indicate that there are two ways to read this pasuk.

Have a Chodesh Tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Yaakov and Eisav's Interesting Birthdays by R' Ari Storch

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on