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Thursday, April 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharon Shel Pesach

The davening experience during chol hamoed of Pesach is significantly different from that of Sukkos. For one, we arrive with much less baggage and there is no hoshanos following mussaf. The laining for each day is also more diverse on Pesach. But one of the most significant differences is that we do not recite the full hallel once the initial days of yom tov are complete. There are numerous reasons given for this. The gemara (Erchin 10b) explains that each day of Sukkos is considered a separate special day in its own right since the korbanos change for each day. Since every day of Pesach requires the exact same lineup of korbanos, each new day is not significant enough to warrant saying a full hallel.


But perhaps the better known reasoning is that given by Mishnah Berurah (490:7), quoting the midrash. HaShem forbade the angels from reciting shirah while the Egyptians were drowning in the sea. Although we celebrate our deliverance at Yam Suf on the last day of Pesach, we diminish ever so slightly from our joy by not completing hallel in order to acknowledge the loss of Egyptian life. Since it is not proper for chol hamoed to be on any sort of higher level than yom tov, we refrain from saying a full hallel beginning with the first day of chol hamoed.


However, a serious difficulty with this reasoning occurred to me recently. On the first day of Pesach we are commemorating the exodus from Egypt. On that very night, makas bechoros wiped out all the first born in Egypt. We know approximately how many Egyptians perished at Yam Suf. There were only 600 chariots. Although we don't necessarily know exactly how many soldiers there were in each chariot, one nevertheless has to imagine that the magnitude of the carnage of makas bechoros was much greater. Furthermore, the deaths at Yam Suf could certainly be written off as casualties of war. The soldiers were chasing us down in order to bring us back to subjugation or possibly worse. They certainly got what they deserved. The dead of makas bechoros must have included many innocent young children. Even a newborn baby, if the first born of the family, would have met the same demise as an adult in that position. So the circumstances surrounding the night of our exit from Egypt involved not only a much larger loss of life but also presumably the loss of innocent lives. Why then are we so moved by the loss of life at Yam Suf but we have no qualms about reciting a full hallel on the first days (removal of drops of wine at the seder notwithstanding?)


One practical - but perhaps overly simplistic - approach to this difficulty is that we must certainly begin yom tov by reciting a full hallel due to the significance of the new holiday. Any other discussions concern only the matter of whether we continue that way. But it wouldn't be proper to never say a full hallel for all of Pesach.


There is, perhaps, another aspect which might demand more sympathy for the events at Yam Suf. Although we read about makas bechoros in great detail, the plague was experienced, for the most part, behind closed doors. B'nei Yisrael were segregated from the native Egyptian community and it is possible that with all that transpired on that fateful evening and following morning, none of the destruction was actually witnessed first hand by the general population. They may have heard the screams but did not see death with their own eyes.


At Yam Suf, however, while the people might not have borne witness to the actual drowning of the Egyptian soldiers, the perished corpses washed ashore in plain sight and the nation even benefited from the spoils. Coming literally face-to-face with the deceased soldiers, as guilty and deserving as they might have been, our natural sense of compassion and sensitivity demands that we cannot walk away from that experience with complete, wholehearted joy and therefore, we take it down one tiny notch.

Have a Chag Samei'ach and Good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Omer Counting in Different Bases
Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy!

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
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Friday, April 22

Th Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

This year's thought on Seder Night draws its inspiration from a rather unlikely source. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival, whose existence was unknown to me until recently, has embarked on an advertising campaign which is admittedly quite entertaining. The clips feature various individuals who appear not the slightest bit Jewish but do something ever so slightly Jewish such as toasting a bagel for lunch or wishing someone "gezuntheit." The repeating tag line is "Jewish enough." My initial observation was the cute coincidence of this campaign intersecting with the Seder when we sing the famous song, Dayeinu. But then I realized that they have it all wrong.

At the seder, there are indeed two very opposite themes of "enoughness." The obvious one is of course the song of Dayeinu in which we declare that any single one of the multitude of acts of graciousness that HaShem bestowed upon us are each individually worthy of praise. Even a partial redemption would have demanded that we show gratitude to HaShem. We therefore view the totality of the exodus from Egypt and all its facets as far more than enough and perhaps even more than we deserve. This theme is already foreshadowed in the haftarah of Shabbas HaGadol, wherein we are promised that upon the proper performance of the mitzvos of terumah and ma'aser, HaShem will bestow upon us great blessing "ad beli dai." This term is interpreted in the gemara (Shabbos 32b) to mean until our lips become dry from repeatedly exclaiming "dai," enough.

But that is only regarding HaShem's dealings with us. But with regards to what is demanded of us, the very opposite is true. As we have discussed on different occasions, that one of the very central themes of the entire seder is that of praise and thanks and that is why we declare that even a sage who knows the whole story backwards and forwards must engage in the retelling of the story. And there is no upper limit whatsoever for the fulfillment of this requirement as any excess is praiseworthy. And finally, in the Hallel portion later on in the seder, we assert, "ein anachnu maspikim lehodos lecha, HaShem." Our praise and thanks to you, HaShem, is never sufficient.
So our relationship with HaShem as the beneficiaries of His kindness, demands that we always our contribution as lacking and insufficient. There is therefore no such thing as "Jewish enough."

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Kasher veSamei'ach!.

For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
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Friday, April 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

This Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzara'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Netta Grunblatt (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzara'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other negaim require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of nig'ei batim is twice that of other negaim or that nig'ei batim requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzaa'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of nig'ei batim, he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is tahor. The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but is nevertheless tahor since it hasn't reached the required size. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzara'as out of one's skin applies even to a nega tahor.]

It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second, that nig'ei batim require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Grunblatt, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.


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

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

Friday, April 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini / Parah

This past Sunday, the 17th of Adar II, marked the yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Fuller, z"l, of Ner Yisroel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.

This Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

The beginning of this week's parsha recounts the proceedings on the eighth day of the consecration of the mishkan. After preparing a series of korbanos, Aharon raises his hands, blesses the nation and then steps down from preparing the chatas, olah and shelamim sacrifices (9:22). Rashi writes that the blessing that Aharon gave to the nation was the traditional birkas kohanim (Bemidbar 6:24-26).

Ba'al HaTurim offers a concise, yet interesting insight into the relevance of birkas kohanim to this specific occasion. Aharon HaKohein had just completed the preparation of three korbanos and the three blessings of birkas kohanim each correspond to one of the sacrifices. The first blessing, "Yevarechecha HaShem veyishmerecha," is the berachah of shemirah, watching over. We find the theme of watching over in connection with prevention of sin, as in the song of Chanah (Shemuel I 2:9) "Raglei chasidav yishmor," He guards the ways of the pious. This is traditionally interpreted as HaShem guarding the righteous from unintentional sin. This blessing, therefore, corresponds to the korban chatas, brought for inadvertent transgressions.

The second blessing is connected to the korban olah by means of the pasuk referring to the trek to Yerushalayim for the shalosh regalim, (Shemos 34:24) "Ba'alosecha leiraos," when you go up to be seen. The going up to Yerushalayim facilitates our "being seen" before HaShem. The olah, all of which goes up to the Heavens, warrants the second blessing that HaShem will illuminate His countenance towards us.

The final blessing of birkas kohanim, "veyaseim lecha shalom," is the bestowing of peace. The root of the word shelamim is shalom, peace, as Rashi (3:1) explains. The shelamim brings peace to the world and peace to all the parties involved in the korban because each one gets a portion. This establishes the most obvious connection of the three between the shelamim and the final blessing. Aharon invoked birkas kohanim not as an arbitrary series of blessings but one that was specifically related to the service he was performing.

Have a good Shabbos.

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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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on