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Friday, June 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

In the end of the parsha we have the episode of the mekosheish eitzim, the one who gathered wood on Shabbos who was given the death penalty for transgression of Shabbos. Targum Yonasan writes that the mekosheish acted with good intentions. Until that time it was only known that a transgressor of Shabbos is given death but it was not known which of the four forms of capital punishment were to be administered. The mekosheish transgressed the Shabbos in order to expose to the true halachah.

Maharsha (Bava Basra 119a) asks how he could take such drastic measures as to transgress Shabbos just to teach this halachah. He answers that in truth, since he performed the act with the sole intention of fining out the halachah, it is considered a melachah she'eina tzricha le'gufa, a work that is not needed for its principal purpose for which one is not liable. For example, if one digs a ditch because he needs the dirt, he is not liable for digging a ditch because he did not need the ditch. So too here, the mokosheish's purpose had nothing to do with the actual melachah. However, since he did not inform the witnesses, he was liable for the death penalty. However, min haShamayim, he did not transgress Shabbos.


The sentence given to the mekosheish was sekilah, stoning. The mishnah (Sanhedrin 45a) discusses the sekilah procedure. One of the witnesses pushes the offender of a cliff and if he does not die from that, they throw a large rock on him. If he still doesn't die, then everyone stones him until he dies. The gemara (45b) presents a conflict, quoting a beraysa which states that it never occurred that they actually reached the third step of the entire nation throwing stones. The gemara answers that the mishnah was indeed not telling us that it happened but rather that if it were to come to that, that would be the procedure. However, it seems to state clearly in the parsha (15:36) that the entire nation stoned him. How are we to interpret the beraysa or the pasuk?

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: What's Different About Efrayim? 

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Friday, June 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

This past Wednesday, 16 Sivan, was the 17th yahrtzeit of R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi.


One of the numerous topics discussed in this week's parsha is the commandment to make two silver trumpets to be used under specific circumstances. The Torah decrees that the trumpets are to be blown at times of war so that we may be remembered before HaShem and we may be saved from our enemies. The pasuk begins with a puzzling wording, (10:9) "Vechi savo'u milchamah be'artzechem..." The word milchamah is singular but tavo'u is a plural verb, thus making the exact translation of this pasuk unclear.


According to Targum Onkelos, the pasuk is read as if it were written "Vechi savo'u lemilchamah," when you come to [wage] war. The Sifrei (Beha'alosecha 76) states very simply, based on this pasuk, that the trumpets are to be blown whether you are waging war on your enemy or your enemy is attacking you. Eimek HaNetziv suggests that it is the grammatical incongruity of the pasuk that is the reasoning behind the midrash. Because it is unclear whether the pasuk is talking about B'nei Yisrael waging war or war being waged, we may understand that it is referring to both.


Sha'arei Aharon points out, however, that according to Rambam (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 2) it is clear that this does not include a milchemes reshus, voluntary war. Therefore, when the Sifrei includes B'nei Yisrael waging war on its enemies, it refers only to milchemes mitzvah, a Divinely sanctioned war. Rambam defines this elsewhere (Hilchos Melachim 5:1) as the wars against the seven nations, Amaleik and any act of defence. [This definition has some pretty serious implications. According to this, it would seem that any military or political move which clearly undermines the efforts of national security and defence may in fact be a transgression of failure to engage in "milchemes mitzvah."]


Rav Hirsch makes an insightful observation in support of the above interpretation. The Torah, in reference to war, will sometimes use the verb tavo, but at times it uses the word teitzei. The word teitzei, to go out, implies a voluntary act of going out to war and thus, it is used in reference to an uncommanded war. The word tavo, indicating the coming to or coming of war, implies a more passive acceptance of the realities and necessities of war. Therefore, it is used, as it is here, in reference to a milchemes mitzvah, which is carried out only by Divine decree.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 

Dikdukian: The Impure

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

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Friday, June 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar / Shavuos

Although I am only covering Shavous in the shtikle, please explore the many intriguing blog posts on Bemidbar below:

The holiday of Shavuos has a unique name. All of the other holidays that adorn our calendar are aptly named for something to do with the chag itself. We sit in sukkos on Sukkos, for example. Rosh HaShanah is the beginning of the year. Our upcoming chag, however, is not called Chag HaTorah, not even Chag HaCheesecake. Rather, it is called Shavuos, referring to the weeks that proceed it. Why is this chag so differently named.


It would seem that the naming of Shavuos is meant to send us a message. We are not meant to view the time between Pesach and Shavuos as a mere lead-up to Shavuos. Rather, these days are an integral part of the chag itself. B'nei Yisrael could not have merited being given the Torah if they had not gone through the seven-week period of spiritual cleansing. Likewise, we must use this period as a preparation for Shavuos just as they did. The preparation is the essence of the chag. Indeed, Nachalas Yaakov writes that the reason why there is no chol hamoeid for Shavuos is because Shavuos is connected to Pesach as one unit and the period of sefiras ha'omer is the chol hamoeid between the two.


On that note, I heard a wonderful thought from my cousin, Dr. Yoel Jakobovits. Indeed, the name "sefiras ha'omer " is rather strange. We are not counting the omer. We are counting from the bringing of the omer. But so what? Why is that the defining characteristic? Would it not have been more appropriate to call it something simpler yet more succinct like "sefiras hayamim?"


HaKesav veHaKabbalah offers a fascinating insight into this name. In the episode of the yefas to'ar (Devarim 21:14), if the woman is no longer desired, she is sent away. The pasuk says, "lo sis'ameir bah," you shall not enslave her. Rashi comments that imra'ah is a Persian word denoting servitude and utilization. This is the same root as omer. Sefiras ha'omer, therefore, is not meant just to remind us of the korban omer. Rather, it is the period which leads up to Shavuos, when we established our ultimate servitude to HaShem and His Torah. Each year, we devote seven weeks towards the reaffirming of that servitude. This understanding gives much more meaning to sefiras ha'omer and what it is meant to accomplish.


Another interesting perspective is offered by Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh – not on the word omer but on the word usfartem. He references the midrash that identifies the stone that the luchos were crafted from as sanperinun, possibly sapphire. The period of sefira is a cleansing process to wipe of the filth that had gathered through our time in Mitzrayim, or in our time, a time to work on our middos and prepare for matan torah by which time we will hopefully regain our luster like the sapphire stone.


Have a good Shabbos and chag samei'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase

Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky

Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers

Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability

Dikdukian: Be or Ba?

Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on