The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Saturday, November 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

This week's parsha features the birth of 11 out of Yaakov's 12 sons. There is an interesting pattern that emerges – all of the children are named by either Leah or Rachel with the singular exception of Levi. Rashi (29:34) notes the anomaly and quotes the midrash that Gavriel the mal'ach was sent to name him. On a simpler, level, however, it would seem that the one who named Levi was likely Yaakov. That begs the question, however, what was unique about Levi that Yaakov named him on his own?


Rada"k explains that Yaakov was inspired by a prophecy showing the great role that Levi would play in doing the avodah and teaching Torah as well as Leah's words and that is why he named him.


If we look closely at the names of the children and the reasonings given by the imahos for each, they all seemed to reflect a personal experience of the mother – HaShem saw my affliction, HaShem saw that I was unloved, etc. Levi is an exception to this rule. Leah expressed that now that she has three children, her husband will now give her special attention. It would seem that this is what inspired Yaakov to provide Levi's name.


However, in this aspect, Levi is not the sole exception. The naming of Zevulun (30:20) is also based on Leah's wish that the birth of this child would provide her special attention from Yaakov. Yet, we do not find Yaakov doing the naming in this case.


Chizkuni addresses the naming of Levi and provides the same answer. Even better, he also identifies Zevulun as another exception and explains why Yaakov did not provide the name in that case. When Leah expressed her certainty that Yaakov would be more attached to her following the birth of Levi, Yaakov concurred and so he named him based on that statement. However, when Leah expressed her thoughts following the birth of Zevulun, Yaakov was not in agreement so he did not provide the name in that case.


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

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Thursday, November 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

Today, 3 Kisleiv, marks the 20th yahrtzeit of my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l. Just in time, Artscroll has released a brand new biography written by Baltimore's own Rabbi Yechiel Spero. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo.

Rashi (27:1) details a discussion in the midrashim as to why Yitzchak's vision was impaired. First, he quotes the Midrash Tanchuma that it was caused by the smoke from the incense that Eisav's wives would burn for idol worship. The second suggestion, from Midrash Rabba, is that the angels were crying at the akeidah and their tears fell in his eyes. Rashi's third and final explanation is that Yitzchak became blind so that Yaakov could receive the blessings.


The third explanation is quite contrasted from the first two in that it fails to offer any cause for Yitzchak's blindness. It would seem that the third opinion is suggesting that there was no cause at all. It was simply a Divine decree with a purpose rather than a cause.


When I first arrived in Ner Yisroel and began in Rav Kulefsky, zt"l's shiur, he had already lost most of his sight. I am not aware of what it was that caused his vision to go. At the same time, we are certainly not in any position to be guessing at what it was HaShem had in mind. But looking back, I can't help but feel that to a certain degree, his impaired vision was brought about for the benefit of us, his talmidim. We watched Rav Kulefsky endure and overcome his impaired vision. He would have the dapim of gemara blown up to a large size. When it became increasingly difficult for him, he would simply have it blown up larger and used a magnifying glass and a lamp. He never gave up. It was a true lesson in mesiras nefesh for Torah.


Normally, in publicly displayed photos, especially of revered gedolim, it is unusual, perhaps disrespectful, to accentuate their handicaps. However, it is not uncommon to walk into a house and find proudly-displayed pictures of Rav Kulefsky in his study with his bright light and his enlarged texts. Certainly, it is the tremendous mussar value that makes these photographs appropriate.


Rav Kulefsky would always point out Rashi's explanation of (Devarim 30:12) "lo bashamayim hi." Indeed, the Torah is not in the heavens and we need not ascend to the heavens to learn Torah. However, what this pasuk is really telling us is that if it were in the heavens, we would be required to do so. Rav Kulefsky did not have the Torah available right before his eyes as we, who are blessed with proper vision, do. But he never let any obstacle stand in his way. He was a true, living example of this Rashi.


I'm sure that anyone who was in Rav Kulefsky's shiur has the picture of his sweet smile etched in his brain, expressing the sweetness of Torah which was his hallmark. But the memories of his ameilus and mesiras nefesh serve as a lesson to us of how hard we must work and how me must not let even the most difficult of circumstances get in our way of achieving that.


If the above is indeed on the mark, it is truly fitting that the yahrtzeit of Rav Kulefsky, zt"l, coincides with parshas Toledos. As well, it is a fitting lesson for this year when we have all been met with so many different challenges that have put our dedication to Torah and mitzvos to the test.


Yehi zichro barcuch.

Have a good Shabbos. 

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: (From the) The Fats of the Land

Dikdukian: Be'er Sheva / Shava

Dikdukian: I will eat, You will eat

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Saturday, November 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

Rather than discuss what we have all been involved in over the last many months, as I have been trying to do, I would like to shift to discussing something we are likely all doing much less of these days, namely the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim. Hopefully, in this merit we will soon be able to engage in this mitzvah more freely as before.


If one were to ask what the parsha of hachnasas orchim is, the answer would likely be last week's parsha, Vayeira. Indeed, that is where we find the prominence of hachnasas orchim in general. But this week's parsha teaches us a number of important nuances. Eliezer designs his test to find the right girl for Yitzchak very cleverly. Surely, there would be plenty of people who would offer water to a thirsty man who asks for it outright. That is why it was necessary for him to add that – without asking – this girl must on her own offer to feed his camels as well. The way to take chesed to the next level is to anticipate the other's needs before they are even expressed.


Interestingly, Rivkah seemed to have learned this sensitivity from her home. Lavan greets Eliezer and invites him in and declares (24:31) "I have cleared the house." Rashi comments that he cleared the house from avodah zarah. At the risk of perhaps giving Lavan a bit too much credit, it seems that upon learning that Avraham's servant had come, he knew that it would not be sufficient to make a place for him to stay. Coming from Avraham's house he would not tolerate avodah zarah so he went out of his way to make sure there was none to be seen.


Eliezer asks Rivkah (24:23) if there is place in her father's home for him lalin. She answers him that there is room lalun. Rashi explains the difference. He only asked for one night. Lalun, however, refers to sleeping for many nights. (Possibly related to the French word for moon?) Rivkah teaches us that a truly gracious host goes not just the extra kilometre, but the extra mile! Offering a guest exactly what they need. But guests are often timid and afraid to ask for everything they might want. True chesed is offering much more than the guest appears to need.


My inspiration to write about this actually came from an intriguing halachah I recently happened upon in Mishnah Berurah. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 515:1) explains that if a non-Jew brings a gift to a Jew on yom tov, if it was fruit that were likely picked on that day, it is forbidden for the Jew – as well as others – to partake of this gift on yom tov. Rama adds another stringency that even if it as a two-day yom tov, one should not partake of the gift on the second day. But if he has guests the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim allows them to partake of the gift. Mishna Berurah(515:12), however, takes it one step further. If the host is eating with them, he may partake of the gift as well because this is part of the mitzvah. (A similar halachah exists regarding one who is careful not to eat pas akum168:5.) The message is clear: the essence of true hachnasas orchim is to make the guests feel like they aren't guests at all.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

Dikdukian: My Master's Brother(s)

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Friday, November 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week, I was asked to deliver some brief introductory words before a daily family Tehillim teleconference for the refuah sheleimah of a number of family members. Here is the audio.


This week's shtikle, as per tradition for parshas Vayeria, is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben avi mori Reuven Pinchas, whose 44th yahrtzeit was yesterday, the 18th of Cheshvan.


As well, this coming Sunday, the 21st of Chesvan, is the 21st yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel ben Yoel.


When HaShem instructs Avraham to take Yitzchak and perform the akeidah, He commands (22:2), "Please take your son, your only son, that you love, Yitzchak..." Rashi writes that HaShem did not want to take Avraham by surprise and thus progressed gradually as he commanded him to bring his son as a sacrifice.


Ohr HaChayim offers an interesting insight on this pasuk. He suggests that the three terms used to refer to Yitzchak, binchayechidecha, and asher ahavta correspond to three forms of love we are commanded to show HaShem. Every day in the shema, we read (Devarim 6:5) that we must love HaShem with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our resources or possessions.  The first reference, "your son," corresponds to the commandment of bechol levavecha, with all your heart, as there is no love, writes Ohr HaChayim, like the love one has for his son. Yitzchak is referred to as his only son in correlation to bechol nafshecha, with all your soul. Sacrificing Yitzchak would have left Avraham essentially childless which is tantamount to death as stated in the gemara (Nedarim 64b). Finally, Avraham loved Yitzchak more than all of his possessions and thus, asher ahavta, the son that you love, is a manifestation of bechol me'odecha. We therefore observe from this pasuk that Avraham, in carrying out the akeidah, fulfilled every necessary component of ahavas HaShem.




A question that for some reason has only begun to bother me recently: Over the course of this parsha, much of the story actually does involve Yishmael. However, he is never identified by name – not in the narrative and not by any of the other individuals (Avraham, Sarah or the mal'ach.) What is the reason for this? Ramban and Seforno both offer explanations for why his name is left out in specific instances. But I don't feel that satisfies the broader question of why it is left out throughout.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

AstroTorah: A Scratch on the Wall

AstroTorah: Witnesses to Sedom's Destruction

AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh by R' Ari Storch

Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on