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Friday, August 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

In this week's parsha we are taught of the prohibition against plowing with an ox and a donkey together (22:10). Rashi writes that this prohibition applies to any combination of two animals. Rambam, however, is of the opinion that this applies only to a combination of a kosher animal and a non-kosher animal. Ba'al HaTurim explains that if the non-kosher animal sees the kosher animal chewing its cud it will think that it was fed and this will cause unnecessary distress to the non-kosher animal. R' Yaakov Kamenetsky in Emes l'Yaakov notes that this reasoning is not sufficient for Rambam's opinion. According to that reasoning, it would be permitted to plow with an ox and a camel, both of which chew their cud. However, Rambam clearly holds that it is forbidden.

Sifsei Kohein explains this pasuk in a symbolic manner. He writes that the words lo sacharosh beshor uvachamor yachdav are indicative of a prohibition against the extensive discussion and deliberation on the matter of the two צessiahs, Mashiach ben Yoseif and Mashiach ben David. The shor is a reference to Mashiach ben Yoseif, as we see that on Yoseif it is said (33:17bechor shoro.. The chamor refers to Mashiach ben Dovid who is described (Zechariah 9:9) as ani verocheiv al chamor. The word tacharosh refers to thinking, plowing of the mind so to speak, as it does in Mishlei 3:29.

Sha'arei Aharon cautions, however, that this position of the Sifsei Kohein is not to be confused with the constant requirement we have to anticipate the coming of mashiach as stated in Chavakuk 2:3 and stressed more strongly in the gemara (Shabbos 31a). We are commanded to yearn for the deliverance of mashiach constantly and, as stated in the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith, based on the pasuk in Chavakuk, even if he tarries, still we wait for him every day that he shall come. The unnecessary deliberation over the technicalities involved in the coming of mashiach, explains Sha'arei Aharon, ultimately facilitates a lapse in the fulfillment of these duties. If we know too much of when and how he will come, we will no longer yearn his appearance daily as we are required.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Daily Leaf:

:י"ד Pair of Lechis

.י"ט Past and Present


Dikdukian: Shiluah Ha...

Dikdukian: Shva vs Kamatz by R' Ari Storch


        Shiluach HaKein Game

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Friday, August 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

R' Sadia Gaon lists 10 symbolic approaches to why we blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. However, he makes only a remote, if any, reference to the connection between the shofar and war. This connection is seen perhaps most prominently in the battle of Yericho. Additionally, when B'nei Yisrael are engaged in a war, we are instructed (Bemidbar 10:9) to blow the trumpets. The shofar serves as a battle cry of sorts.


Today, we began blowing the shofar following davening as part of our yearly Elul ritual in preparation for Rosh HaShanah, only a month away. These shofar blasts are generally regarded as a wakeup call. Perhaps we can also view these shofar blasts as a call to arms - a reminder to begin to wage war against our yeitzer hara as we turn our focus towards teshuvah in preparation for the yom hadin.


It is therefore fitting that Rosh Chodesh Elul coincides with parshas Shofetim. Of the many mitzvos discussed in this week's parsha, a good handful of them pertain to how we are supposed to conduct ourselves when doing battle. Most notably, we are warned when waging war not to exhibit any fear of the enemy for HaShem is with us, orchestrating the outcome. We are then taught of the process of extending an offer for peace before waging war on a city. However, at closer inspection, the conditions of the peace are total and complete subservience from the inhabitants of the city.


I heard another thought this week from the chaburah of R' Tzvi Mordechai Feldheim which fits nicely in this theme. Before the soldiers enter battle, a number of different groups are told to return. The last group (20:8) is the yarei verach leivav. There is a discussion in the mishnah (Sotah 44a) as to the exact meaning of this phrase. R' Yosei HaGelili posits that it is one who is fearful of aveiros sheb'yado, sins in his hands. To which sins does he refer? A beraisa brought in the gemara (44b) suggests that even a sin as (seemingly) miniscule as talking in between the placement of the two tefillin is reason enough to return and not fight.


So who would actually be left besides the most pious individuals? The important word is aveiros sheb'yado, sins that are still in his hand. Every day we are faced with daunting challenges and we all have failures from time to time. However, if we resolve to let go of those sins and do our best to prevent them in the future, those are no longer "in our hands." Therefore, the Torah is only talking about someone who has sinned and is still clinging to those sins. One who continues the fight to constantly make himself a better person is already a soldier in his own right and need not return.

Indeed, the battle cry of the shofar coupled with the strict military instructions found in the parsha work together to focus our attention to the task at hand for the month of Elul. May it be a strong and productive month for us all and may we all merit a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Have a chodesh tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Daily Leaf: .ב No other משכן?

Daily Leaf: :ח A Pythagorean Question

Dikdukian: Two of a Kind

DikdukianNot necessarily a dumb correction

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Friday, August 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

In this week's parsha, we are taught about the meisis, the sinner who tries to seduce another to commit idolatry. We are instructed to deal with the meisis more stringently than with other transgressors. For example, his guilty verdict may not be overturned and we may use entrapment to catch him in the act.


The pasuk (13:9) says concerning the meisis, "lo soveh lo." Rashi interprets soveh‚ as derived from the same root as ahavah, love. He writes that although we are taught "ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha," you shall give love to your neighbour as you do yourself, to this man or woman, that commandment does not apply.


The gemara (Sanhedrin 45a) discusses the place where those who were to be stoned met their ultimate doom. The first step was to push them off a two-story cliff. The gemara asks why the cliff was not simply 10 tefachim high (less than two stories). We are taught elsewhere (Bava Kamma 50b) that this depth is enough to cause death. But the gemara answers that this would result in a more painful death and the Torah says "ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha," therefore, we must provide him a more proper and "pleasant" death. However, according to Rashi here, ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha does not apply to a meisis. Why, then, do we not kill a meisis by pushing him off a ledge only 10 tefachim high?


I asked this of a friend of mine who happened to have been bothered by the same question. He told me a friend of his answered from the gemara on 43b which states that he who is to be stoned does viduy, confession, before receiving the death penalty. It seems that even the meisis does this as well. Therefore, after he has confessed his sins, he may now be included in the mitzvah of ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha and is deserving of a more proper death. Rashi in the parsha is referring to the processes carried out beforehand and thus, he is still excluded from the mitzvah of ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha(It should be mentioned, however, as one reader pointed out, that the Minchas Chinuch writes that teshuvah is not effective regarding a meisis; if so viduy also won't be operative and this is not a valid answer.)


Perhaps another answer may be offered. Rambam (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 5:4), in explaining the practical prohibitions connected with this pasuk, writes, "It is forbidden for the seducer's target to show love towards the seducer." It appears from Rambam's careful wording that the prohibitions discussed in this pasuk are directed specifically at the seducer's target and not the general public. The beis din, who are responsible for carrying out and overseeing the execution, are thus never absolved of their obligation of ve'ahavta le'reiacha kamocha toward the meisis.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't Feed the Animals

Dikdukian: Jewish Milk


Friday, August 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Ruti (née Levy) and Yoni Epstein of Lakewood on the birth of their daughter, Adina Tova, last week. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Levy and Epstein mishpachos and to the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

Wednesday, the 15th of Av, marked the 11th yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.


For the past week, much of the east coast of the United States has been flooded by a Tropical Storm with the unique name of Isaias. The irony is just too much to ignore. Isaias – as one might surmise from reading it, rather than hearing it – is the Spanish/Portugese form of Yeshayah. Indeed, during this time of year, we are also being flooded – in a good way – by Yeshayah.

In a heartfelt Tish'ah B'Av message, former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks points out that we lead into Tish'ah B'Av by reading the beginning of Yeshayah and his grave, ominous prophecy of impending doom. However, the very next section already begins to speak words of comfort and hope – (2:3) "ki mitziyon teitzei torah, udvar HaShem miRushalayim. "  After a brief turn to Yirmiyah for Tish'ah B'av morning, the shev d'nechemta, the seven haftaros of comfort, are actually a nearly sequential journey through the latter chapters of Yeshayah. The doom and the comfort come from the same source.

This is also part of the message of Tu B'Av. One of the events that highlights the day is the discovery of the corpses from the ill-fated revolt In Beitar which did not rot. An entire blessing in birkas hamazon is dedicated to commemorating this miracle. R' Tzvi Mordechai Feldheim, the Rosh Mesivta of my son's yeshivah, Kesser Torah, asks why does this belong among the other berachos? Each of the other berachos highlights fundamental tenet of our faith – that HaShem provides sustenance to all, the gifts of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, and the ultimate redemption and rebuilding of Yerushalayim. What makes this theme worthy of such company?

In truth, he answers, the miracle at Beitar underscored another vital component of our belief system. The destruction of the beis hamikdash and ensuing exile broke the spirit of the nation and created the notion that HaShem had left our midst. The preservation of the corpses and the opportunity to give them a proper burial was and important reminder that even in the darkest times, HaShem is always with us and watching over us. It is only with this realization that we have been able to endure through all of the difficult challenges of this long and arduous galus, may it come to an end speedily in our day.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: To Afflict the Corrector

Dikdukian: To Make a misnaged Cringe

Dikdukian: Those Bad Egyptians

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on