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Friday, December 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

I have always found the text detailing the birth of Menasheh and Efryaim (41:50-52) rather intriguing. We are told that two sons were born to Yoseif before the onset of the years of famine. Perhaps the second one was just before the years of famine, but the first would have been a considerable number of months before then, at the least. Admittedly, this is not a very strong question for a number of reasons. We are then told the names that Yoseif gave his sons and the reasonings behind each. I cannot recall any other instance where we are informed in detail of the birth of two children simultaneously. The pasuk does not state that a son was born to Yoseif, he named him Menasheh and then he had another whom he named Efrayim. Rather, we are told that two sons were born to him.


This has always led me to believe that Efrayim and Menasheh were actually twins. Sure enough, in the sefer Seder HaDoros, it is indeed stated that this was the case. It would certainly explain how both sons were born just before the years of famine. It would also explain Yaakov's apparent difficulty in discerning between Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is stated that Yaakov's eyesight had deteriorated. But an older son would tend to have differing features from his younger brother. They were still young enough that one might have expected there to be a height difference and Yaakov shouldn't have needed his sight to determine that. But if they were twins and were approximately the same height (and perhaps similar appearance) that would explain everything.


A number of years ago, I was explaining the various historical episodes referenced in Maoz Tzur when it occurred to me that there is a chronological anomaly in the order of the verses. The third stanza relates the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the crowning of Zerubavel after 70 years of exile (which is of course also referenced in the haftarah we read on Shabbos.) However, the next stanza summarizes the story of Purim which, of course, predated the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. 


The gemara (Yoma 9b) is comparing the merits of the generations that saw the destruction of each Beis HaMikdash. The consensus seems to be that the fact the Beis HaMikdash has not been rebuilt, in contrast to the relatively short initial exile of 70 years, is proof of the greater merit of the earlier generations.


We are taught (actually Yerushalmi in this same perek): "kol dor she'eino nivneh b'yamav, ma'alin alav k'ilu hecherivo," any generation in which it is not rebuilt, it is considered as if they have destroyed it.


It would seem that the responsibility for bringing the Beis HaMikdash back would lie in the hands of the subsequent generations in exile. Yet, the gemara seems to tie it back to the generation in which it was destroyed. I suppose one support for this could be that the prophecy of the 70-year exile was already given to Yirmiyahu (29:10). The gemara must understand that it was due to the merit of the generation of the destruction that an expiry was put on the ensuing exile from the very beginning, whereas as no such favour was granted the second time.


Since apparently, it was the generation of the churban, on whose merit the Beis HaMikdash was so speedily rebuilt, the verse in Maoz Tzur actually belongs before the story of Purim as it was put in motion well before.

Have a Chanukah samei'ach and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes

Dikdukian: Be Strong

Dikdukian: Just Do It!

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Friday, December 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

This week's parsha begins by developing the theme that shapes the next few parshios - Yoseif's dreams. There are two very distinct differences between Yoseif's first dream and his second. The first dream involves 12 sheaves of wheat while the second, in addition to the 11 stars, involves the son and the moon. Yoseif's parents are represented by the sun and the moon in the second dream but they are not at all represented in the first dream.


The second dream involves all of the subjects bowing down directly to Yoseif himself. In the first dream, Yoseif and his brothers are present. However, it is not Yoseif being bowed down to nor is it his brothers who are doing the bowing. It is their sheaves of wheat bowing down to his.


It seems that much of the discussion and analysis of Yoseif's dreams and how their prophecies are fulfilled centers around the second dream more than the first. Before sefer Bereishis is complete, we do in fact see the dream come to fruition. What about the first dream? What does it mean? When was it fulfilled?

I have heard it suggested that the first dream was a foreshadowing of the brothers' first visit to Egypt. None of the parents was present and the brothers were not "in their glory," nor did they recognize Yoseif, which is why they are represented by sheaves. But I find that approach unsatisfactory since the brothers, Yoseif and the sheaves were present in the dream. Why could it not have been a dream with just sheaves?


I do have a suggestion of my own which I am led to by the distinct differences in the dream mentioned above. First, as mentioned above, the lack of representation of Yaakov or any mother figure suggests that whatever the fulfillment of the dream was, they were not present. Furthermore, the fact that it is their sheaves doing the bowing to Yoseif's sheaf implies that the revelation pertains not to Yoseif and his brothers personally but rather to their progeny. Considering this, I suggest that the prophecy might refer to the reign of Yeravam ben Nevat, the evil architect of the separation of Malchus Yisrael and of course, its first king. While he did not rule over all of Israel, his exploits certainly had a profound impact on the entire nation.


A reader suggested the following support for the first approach:

Sheaves seem to imply wealth or sustenance rather than progeny. At first glance, it would seem that these dreams are foretelling the meetings of Yosef and his brothers when they first come to Mitzrayim.  The respect that they gave to Yoseif was not for his being Yosef (they were unaware), but rather for his being the source of sustenance.  Their sustenance was reliant (subservient) to his generosity with the food.  That may be the implication of the sheaves bowing to his sheaf rather than the brothers bowing to Yosef.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Naaseh Neis (Chanukah)

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

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Saturday, December 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

At the beginning of the parsha, Yaakov sends messengers to Eisav and briefly explains his current situation. He states (32:6) that after his time with Lavan, he now has cattle, donkeys and sheep. Rabbeinu Bachye suggests that usually the sheep – tzon – would take precedence in a list of different types of animals. However, Yaakov specifically had them mentioned last because it was tzon – the goat –  which was the vehicle by which Yaakov managed to swipe the blessings that Eisav was to receive. He didn't want to put any focus on the sheep and anger Eisav further.


However, later, (32:15) when Yaakov prepares the gifts for Eisav, it seems that the goats are on the forefront. Rabbeinu Bachye, however, makes note of this on that pasuk. He explains that when he initially sent the messengers, it was before his heartfelt supplication to HaShem. However, after the prayer, he felt a surge of confidence and he no longer had any fear of facing Eisav. This confidence was manifest in his putting the goats first. Instead, he was making a statement to Eisav that if he wishes to do battle, he will not succeed because he received the berachah that granted him dominion over Eisav.


This analysis of the goats provided a new insight into an intriguing breakdown of the exact number of goats sent, which is addressed in this blog post. While it explains the number of goats sent, it begs the question why only the goats were sent in that exact number. Now we may understand that there was a particular sensitivity with the goats and that's why they were sent in an amicable number.


Have a shavua tov..

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Appearances

Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky

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Friday, December 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

A number of years ago on Simchas Torah, when I finally got my hakafah, I was holding my daughter. I had no choice but to hold the sefer Torah in one arm and my daughter in the other. As I carried them both around the bimah a friend came up to me and said, "I now understand the meaning of Levi's name."


When Levi, Leah's third son, was born, she said (29:34) "hapa'am yilaveh ishi," this time my husband will accompany me. When Leah had but one son, she was certainly capable of tending to his needs on her own. Even when the second was born very soon after, she was still plenty capable. After all, if she had two arms, she could hold two babies. However, once the third was born the babies outnumbered the arms. Leah couldn't possibly take care of the three boys on her own. Certainly, it would be necessary at this point for her husband to lend a hand. She therefore named him Levi.


It was seeing me with my two hands full and the inability to handle anything else that inspired my friend to come up with this interpretation of Leah's words. And, as a nice follow-up to that story, we were blessed that year with another girl, our third child.


Now, while this interpretation might have been the product of spontaneous inspiration, there is actually quite a precedent for it among the commentaries. It is apparently found in Chizkuni and Alshich as well as R' Chaim achi haMaharal in Igeres Hatiyul, Chelek haPeshat.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Wordsthatsticktogether

Dikdukian: From his Sleep

Dikdukian: Complete it

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule

Dikdukian: Different Types of Kissing

Dikdukian: Come on, People - Part II

AstroTorah: Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: Yaakov's Lesson on Zemanei HaYom by R' Ari Storch

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on