The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, September 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Ha'azinu / Shuva

In the beginning of this week's parsha in the song of Ha'azinu, HaShem is praised (32:4) as "Keil emunah v'ein avel," a God of trust with whom there is no wrongdoing. R' Eilyahu Lopian asks, in Lev Eliyahu, what should be an obvious question. What kind of praise is this? If we were to praise a dignified individual, would it be fitting to say that he was "not bad?" What is the meaning of this praise?

He answers that when a court of humans pronounces a judgement upon an individual, it may be what the defendant himself deserves. However, it is possible that this judgement could be a wrongdoing for others. It is possible that this judgement could affect someone else in an adverse way which he does not deserve. This man's friends and family may be righteous individuals who don't deserve to have to suffer through the hardship of this verdict. Nevertheless, the judgement must be made. However, when HaShem passes judgement on an individual, He takes into account how it will affect everyone around him. Someone who is deserving of a certain punishment may actually be saved from it due to the effect it will have on an undeserving friend or relative. It is for this reason that it is said that one who wants to merit a good judgement should make himself needed to the public. The saying goes, "ish haklal, nidon kiklal," a man of the community is judged as a whole community. Thus, with HaShem's judgement there is no wrongdoing - not for the judged one, and not for anyone else to whom he is close.

With this concept he explains the gemara (Rosh HaShanah 18a) in reference to the mishnah which states that all of us pass in front of HaShem on Rosh HaShanah like a herd of sheep, in a single file line. Rabba bar bar Chanah states "vechulam niskarim biskirah achas," all are marked with one marking. The marking of the sheep symbolizes the passing of judgement, but it is one long marking that marks all of us. With every one person's judgement, the effect on the rest of the community is considered.

Have a good Shabbos and chasimah tovah!


Eliezer Bulka


Weekly Shtikle Blog Roundup:

Dikdukian: HAL

Dikdukian: A Happy Ending

Dikdukian: Remember Us for the Good


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

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Friday, September 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

One of the more prevalent themes of Rosh HaShanah is the focus on the episode of akeidas Yitzchak and its eternal national implications. Rabbeinu Bachya (Bereishis 22:7) discusses an interesting quandary in analyzing the event. It was certainly a significant challenge and test for both Avraham and Yitzchak. But which challenge was greater? After deliberating on both sides, he decides that Avraham had the greater of the tests. It is certainly worth noting, however, the intriguing language used by the gemara )Rosh HaShanah 16a) when it explains why we use a shofar from a ram – so that HaShem will remember the episode of akeidas Yitchak ben Avraham and consider it as if you had bound yourselves before Him. The focus seems to be put solely on Yitzchak's personal sacrifice.


There is another discussion regarding this episode which we explored approximately three years ago which may shed some light on another question that can be asked: Of all the challenges Avraham was given, what is it about akeidas Yitzchak which makes it so relevant to Rosh HaShanah? (This is by no means a difficult question to answer. I'm sure there are many approaches. As well, according to some midrashim the episode took place on Rosh HaShanah.


Rashi, based on a gemara (Sanhedrin 89b) cites a deeper meaning of the beseeching nature of HaShem's request which seems, at first glance, to border on hyperbole. HaShem uses the word "please" as if to say, "Please stand up to this test so that people do not say of the first tests that there was nothing to them." Suppose Avraham had difficulty with this command. Suppose he had questions about this daunting, impossible task. Would that really have detracted from the utter devotion he showed in the previous tests?

R' Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beish HaSho'eiva, explains that while the first 9 challenges were all great in their own right, there was one very important element missing – the involvement of his progeny. Passing these tests were of great significance on a personal level for Avraham. But that, on its own, would not be enough to pass on to the great nation of which Avraham was to be the father. We often speak of Avraham as having instilled the will and the strength of self-sacrifice in all future generations. But this is not accomplished simply through genetics. Akeidas Yitzchak was a trial of sacrifice that Avraham and Yitzchak would experience together as father and son. Only through enduring this test and persevering together could this virtue be passed on. Indeed, if Avraham were to have failed this test in any way, his previous accomplishments would be of much lesser value to the generations that followed. This explains the urgency of HaShem's request.


Indeed, this was the test that would instill in us the perseverance to pass the most daunting challenges throughout the generations. The events of this past year were perhaps among the most challenging of our generation. However, while these challenges involved a great degree of separation from our loved ones, we were able to still experience these trials and tribulations with a special togetherness, be it by means of technology that joined people together in new ways or simply a family unit staying locked down together. As such, these unprecedented experiences will live on with our progeny as they had the opportunity to watch how their families rose to the occasion to overcome these daunting circumstances – how we yearned to return to davening  with a minyan and return to shul, how we found new ways to attend shiurim and learn, how we made extra efforts to reach out to loved ones or attend a simcha when doing so in person was not an option. We were given the opportunity to pass on these lessons, much in the way that Avraham passed them on to Yitzchak and to the entire Jewish people.


It is also interesting that we blow the horn of the ram as opposed to using some other part of the animal to trigger this remembrance. The horn was (22:13) caught in the thicket and prevented the ram from getting wherever it felt it needed to be. This led to the ram becoming an integral part of Jewish lore for all generations to come. Often times, we are "caught in the thicket" and it is difficult to perceive what is in store. The shofar challenges us to find in ourselves the strength and the emunah to accept that we are in HaShem's hands and part of a master plan.


Have a good Shabbos, good Yom Tov and Shanah Tovah. May we all merit a year of blessings and health and a full recovery from this devastating pandemic.


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Remember us for the Good

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

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Friday, September 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

This week's parsha speaks much about teshuvah and the study of Torah. The pasuk proclaims

"For this mitzvah (the whole Torah, according to Rashi) that I command you today is not removed from you, nor is it far. It is not in the heavens that you may say who will go up to the heavens and take it for us and teach it to us and we shall do it. Nor is it across the sea that you may say who will cross the sea and take it for us and teach us and we shall do it." (30:11-13)

The Torah illustrates the ease with which it may be conquered by means of these two analogies. Perhaps there is a homiletic reasoning behind the use of this imagery. Each corresponds to a situation in B'nei Yisrael's short history where they came together with a collective complaint. First, when they reached Yam Suf, they all complained that they were trapped by the sea and could not move forward. With a miracle of miracles, HaShem delivered us. The Torah tells us here that to learn the Torah, we do not have to rely on such great miracles. We do not have to cross the sea; it is right in front of us.

When the spies come back with the negative report, B'nei Yisrael begin to believe that they will be unable to conquer the land. Caleiv silences the nation and declares (Bemidbar 13:30) that they will indeed go up and conquer the land. The gemara (Sotah 35a) comments on Caleiv's declaration that he proclaimed "Is this not all that (Moshe) ben Amram has done for us? Has he not brought us out of Mitzrayim, split the sea and fed us man? Even if he were to instruct us to make ladders and climb to the heavens, we shall surely go up!" In accordance with this, we are told lo bashamayim hi, it is not in the heavens. It is right in front of us for the taking.

Have a good Shabbos and a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Nitzavim Takes it on the Nee

Dikdukian: Don't you Worry

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

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Friday, September 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

The bulk of this week's parsha is taken up by the tochacha, literally the rebuke, in which we are warned of the terrible consequences of not heeding HaShem's word. The tochacha is preceded by a shorter, yet significant list of blessings that are bestowed upon us when we do perform the will of HaShem. There is a phraseology that is expressed almost identically in both the blessings and the curses. With regards to the blessings, it is written (28:2), "uva'u alecha kol haberachos ha'eileh vehisigucha," and these blessings will come upon you and overtake you. Regarding the curses, it is written (28:45), "uva'u alecha kol hakelalos ha'eileh urdafucha vehisigucha," and these curses will come upon you and chase you, and overtake you.

Although these pesukim seem extremely similar, R' Chayim Kanievsky, in Ta'ama D'kra, notes that when speaking of the blessings, vehisigucha is written withoutvuv. However, when speaking of the curses, it is written with a vuv. He offers a fascinating interpretation of this discrepancy.

In parshas Naso (Bemidbar 6:23) the kohanim are instructed as to how to bless the nation. The Torah commands "amor lahem," say unto them. Rashi points out that although the word "amor" could conceivably have been written without a vuvaleph-mem-reish, here it is specifically written with a vuv. The midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 11:4) learns from this that the kohanim must not bless the nation hurriedly but rather carefully, intently and wholeheartedly. R' Chayim extrapolates from here that in general, a word written in its shortened form denotes hurry, whereas if it is written completely, it denotes a lack thereof. The meaning in our case, therefore, is that the blessings will come swiftly and rapidly. The curses, however, if they must come, will come slowly and gradually. An example of this is the slow progression with which tzara'as inflicts a person, rather than inflicting his body, clothes and house all at once. The purpose of this is to give a person the opportunity to react early and repent before the punishments grow and overtake him.

As one reader pointed out, this idea is found even more explicitly in the tochacha of Bechukosai where there is a clearly delineated progression associated with the curses whereas the blessings come all at once.

This theme may also explain the appearance of the word urdafucha, and they shall chase you, regarding the curses but not regarding the blessings. This refers to the "chasing" period when the retribution is only starting out gradually. At this point, the person is being chased to repent. It is only when he does not answer this call that the curses will overtake him. The blessings, conversely, will not chase you but simply come full force immediately.

This theme is quite pertinent to the month of Elul, in which this parsha always falls out. We are always given a window of opportunity, even an encouraging push, to repent for our sins before being punished fully. The month of Elul is prescribed for repentance and mending of ways so that we may achieve a favourable judgment for the coming year.

Have a good Shabbos.

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim 

Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on