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Friday, March 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

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 coming Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

This week's parsha begins on the eighth day of the proceedings leading up to the final setup of the mishkan. The joy of the day is interrupted by the tragic death of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. Later on, the parsha deals with the various signs of kashrus pertaining to animals, fish and birds. This is a rather odd transition at first glance. One usually expects to find some sort of common thread between two juxtaposed passages.


The key is one word.


Following the death of Nadav and Avihu, HaShem commands Aharon that he and his sons (and all kohanim who follow) that they may not drink wine before performing the service or they will be subject to death. The reason for this, as stated in the following pesukim (10:10-11) is ulhavdil, so that they may discern between holy and mundane, tamei and tahor. And so they may teach B'nei Yisrael all the laws that HaShem spoke to them through Moshe.


At the end of the parsha, after the discussion of the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, we are told the reasoning - or at least some driving force - behind these laws, (11:37lehavdil, so that we may discern between the tamei and tahor, between the animal that is to be eaten and the animal that is not to be eaten. The repetition of lehavdil is the essence of the thread that runs through the parsha. First, we are taught of the great burden that the kohanim carry, the responsibility to judge between holy and mundane and between tamei and tahor. There are certainly many areas where it is only the kohanim who bear this burden. However, lest one think that this task is one reserved only for the kohanim, the Torah impresses upon us that each and every Jew carries this responsibility to a certain extent. This is an essential challenge for all Jews. The world has been created with forces of tum'ah and forces of taharah. Through this parsha we see that we have all been provided with the necessary guidelines to tackle this challenge and accurately discern between the holy and mundane, and the tamei and tahor.


In a leap year, this lesson falls in just the perfect time (although maybe just one week too late.) We just finished the joyous celebration of Purim. A superficial view of the holiday might lead one to refer to it as the "Jewish Halloween." But, of course, we know that it is nothing like that whatsoever and we must strive to make that distinction clear. Also, the lessons regarding responsibility with wine are also most apropos for this time. And as we leave Purim behind (while we finish off all the candy and nosh) and turn our sights to Pesach, we find another similar challenge. The Christian holiday of Easter falls out on Pesach nearly every year - not by coincidence but by design (theirs, not ours. In fact, the only time it does not fall out on Pesach would be on certain leap years when it falls out just after Purim.)  Again, we are given the opportunity to make a clear distinction between the devotion and dedication with which we celebrate our Holy Days and the way others celebrate their holidays.


Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim b'Simchah!

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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Friday, March 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav

In this week's parsha, the korban todah is discussed. The todah is brought as a thanks to HaShem for one of four reasons discussed by Chaza"l. The todah consists of a sacrifice and 40 loaves of bread. Netzi"v, in Ha'amek Davar points out that even though the todah is a shelamim sacrifice whose prescribed time for eating is a day and a half, the todah may only be eaten that night. This, in addition to the excessive bread requirement will make it impossible for the one bringing the korban to consume everything on his own and thus he will be compelled to make a gathering for all his friends wherein he will praise HaShem in public, in order that he not leave over any of the korban after the night. This, suggests Netzi"v, is the reason why the Torah commanded the bringing of the todah in this fashion.

With this concept, Netzi"v (in Herchev Davar on the bottom of Ha'amek Davar) explains the pesukim from Tehillim that we recite in Hallel: "L'cha ezbach zevach toda, uv'shem HaShem ekra", L'cha ezbach refers to the korban (animal) which is referred to as a zevach todahUv'shem HaShem ekra refers to the public thanks to HaShem that is given at the gathering of friends. Nedarai laShem ashalem refers to the korban. In "negda na l'chol amo", the word negda literally comes from the words neged, opposite. However, Netzi"v suggests it can also be construed as coming  from the word haggadah, to tell, referring to the telling over of HaShem's praise that will take place at the gathering. Finally, bechatzros beis HaShem, besochechi Yerushalayim would at first glance seem to be contradictory for bechatzros etc. clearly refers to the boundaries of the Beis HaMikdash whereas besochechi Yerushalayim refers to the entire city. However, according to the Netziv's interpretation it is clear that bechatzros beis HaShem is referring to the korban which is brought within the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. The meal in which the bread is eaten, however, will broadcast HaShem's praise throughout all of Yerushalayim. 

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: נעשה

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Wednesday, March 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

On a previous occasion, we have discussed that the story of Purim mirrors the story of yetzias Mitzrayim in many significant ways. However, it recently occurred to me that the very same time the story very much foreshadows the future destiny of our people, more significantly the events of the past century or so.


The period of exile between the two batei mikdash was certainly a difficult time. The destruction at the hands of Nevuchadnezzar and the subsequent subjugation in Bavel took its toll. But Haman's decree was a threat unlike any other which, if carried out, would have meant the demise of our nation. Similarly, in the period of galus we currently find ourselves, it can certainly be argued that threats we faced at the hands of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were more grave and ominous than anything else we encountered throughout the millennia of pogroms, expulsions and persecution.


As the story progresses, we eventually find Esther, though unwanting, rising to power as the queen of the kingdom that essentially ruled the entire world. While we enjoyed our own sovereign monarchy for many centuries, the idea of a Jew sitting at the throne of a foreign power was certainly a foreign one. But desperate times called for desperate measures and this was necessary to put our salvation in motion.


The establishment of our nation state in Eretz Yisrael is certainly a hotly debated topic, even more than 70 years later. Like Esther's rise to the throne, it puts a Jewish state in a position of power which was never experienced throughout the many years of exile. But it can be (and has been) argued that this was a development born out of necessity, with millions upon millions of Jews having been defenselessly slaughtered by the nations that previously allowed us safe and tranquil refuge in their land. The "luxury" of self-determination became a tool for survival.


Just as it was Achashveirosh, the ruler of all nations, who put Esther on the throne, it was an act of an international body representing countries from all corners of the globe that made the State of Israel a reality. But in the megillah, we have Achashveirosh the man, who was very much an enemy of our people in many ways, alongside the concept of the king - hamelech. I do not know the exact source but there is a well-known idea that although HaShem's name does not appear at all in the megillah, the repetition of hamelech - which in some megillos finds itself at the top of every column - is, in truth, a metaphor for the true King who was really orchestrating all of the events from above. This was the case then and is surely the case now. In fact, it is always the case.


After finally escaping the clutches of Haman and all the death and destruction he had planned, we found ourselves on the cusp of the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash, which completed only a few short years later. We surely hope and pray that today, in our time, the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash is just around the corner, may it come speedily in our day.


Have a chag Purim samie'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Please check out all Megillah-related Dikdukian posts

Al Pi Cheshbon: 10,00 Kikars

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The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

One of the topics often discussed in relation to Purim is the theme of (Esther 9:27) "kiyemu vekiblu," B'nei Yisrael's voluntary re-acceptance of the Torah and its correlation to the more coerced acceptance on Har Sinai. In going through the Megillah one year, it occurred to me that the connection is really much broader than that. The entire story of Purim parallels the episode of Yetzias Mitzrayim in many striking ways.

  • In Parshas Beshalach, Amaleik attacks B'nei Yisroel as a result of a lapse in Torah as Chazal teach us with regards to the word "Refidim"(Shemos 17:8). So, too, we are taught that B'nei Yisroel reached a spiritual low when they partook in the Achashveirosh's feast. And instantly Amaleik was brought upon them..

  • The pesukim (Ibid 15:14-16) tell us that after the splitting of Yam Suf, all the nations of the world trembled and were petrified of B'nei Yisroel. A similar situation is found in the Megillah. "Many from among the people of the land converted to Judaism, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

  • Despite the fear of the nations following the splitting of Yam Suf, Amaleik still displayed utmost brazenness by attacking B'nei Yisroel. Here, despite widespread conversion out of utter fear, Amaleik still had the audacity to wage war with B'nei Yisroel. (Pasuk 9:17 implies that all the killings were out of self-defense.

  • The gathering at Har Sinai brought B'nei Yisroel to an absolute level of unity, as Rashi teaches us (Shemos 19:2) "Ke'ish echad, beleiv echad," like one man with one heart. When Esther realized the time of need, she commanded (4:16) "go and gather together all the Jews." This was not to be a physical gathering but rather a gathering of hearts. Esther knew that the only way to pull through this ordeal was if the Jews were unified as one.

  • Following the acceptance of the Torah on Har Sinai, B'nei Yisroel merited the awesome "Gilui Shechinah" of the Mishkon. So, too, following the "Kiyemu vekiblu" of Purim, the Jews merited the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.

The important lesson to take from these correlations would seem to be that in order to accomplish anything, the Jews need to be united. This is surely a great challenge for the Jewish community today. But we must strive to bring K'lal Yisroel together and may we merit the building of the third Beis HaMikdash speedily in our day.


Friday, March 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Shabbas Zachor

In the special haftarah that is read for Shabbas Zachor, Sha'ul wages war against Amaleik and, in contradiction of his specific instructions from Shemuel HaNavi, he has pity on the king, Agag, and lets him live. Additionally, he does not heed the command to kill all the animals belonging to the Amaleikim and brings back those that were fit for sacrifice. Shemuel does his best to remedy the situation by personally disposing of Agag. Before smiting him with the sword, Shmuel declares poetically (Shemuel I 15:33) "As your sword has rendered women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women."


This statement may be understood merely as poetic irony. However, R' Chaim Kanievsky understands it literally and points out that we see from this statement that Agag's mother was still alive. Wasn't he the only Amalekite left alive? Agag's mother must have been from another nation.  R' Chaim therefore concludes that a foreigner who marries an Amaleiki is not included in the commandment to wipe out Amaleik. However, in accordance with the guidelines of the gemara (Kiddushin 67) pertaining to the lineage of gentiles, her children are considered Amaleikim.


With this, R' Chaim explains another interesting twist in the story. According to the Ba'alei Tosafos on Parshas Beshalach, on that one night of captivity, Agag had relations with a donkey. This donkey was, in fact, a woman who made herself appear as a donkey through witchcraft. It was this propensity for witchcraft which demanded that even the animals had to be killed. This woman gave birth to a son from whom Haman descended. It is clear that this woman was among the Amaleikim. Why was she not killed? Only the animals fit for sacrifice – donkeys not included – were saved. Therefore, she must have been spared while still in the form of a human. Once again, the only justification for this could be that she was the wife of an Amaleiki who in fact hailed from another nation.

Have a good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Zachar Amaleik? What was he smoking?
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

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