The Weekly Shtikle Blog

An online forum for sharing thoughts and ideas relating to the Parshas HaShavua

View Profile

Friday, July 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eschanan

In next week's parsha we are warned not to mistakenly attribute our successes and accomplishments to our own power and might without giving proper recognition to HaShem who has granted us that power.(8:17-18) When we say in our heart kochi ve'otzem yadi - my power and the might of my hand have made me this wealth - we must remember that it is HaShem who gives us the power to make that wealth. The need for this warning is understandable as it is easy to get carried away with one's own accomplishments and forget the true source that made everything possible.

(Since we recently memorialized Rabbi Sholom Gold, z"l, I should mention an important perspective he would offer on the above, specifically addressing the way in which that phrase is overused to chide anyone glorifying the value of human might and ingenuity. The Torah is not stating that kochi ve'otzem yadi is an inherently evil standpoint. Rather, when one touts his own strength, it is imperative to recognize at the same time that HaShem is the ultimate source of that might.)

However, in this week's parsha we find a warning against a much more brazen form of forgetfulness. (6:10-12) HaShem will bring us to the land of Israel where we will find great cities which we did not build, houses full of plenty which we did not fill ourselves, hewn cisterns which we did not hew, vineyards and olive trees which we did not plant. Yet we are immediately warned to beware lest we forget HaShem who brought us out of Mitzrayim. This would seem, from our perspective, almost preposterous to suggest. Nevertheless, it would appear that it is part of the human condition that even while enjoying a plentiful bounty which we are fully aware was given to us as a gift, one can get so carried away that the Giver is forgotten.

Perhaps for this reason, this warning is immediately preceded by the first parsha of Shema. If it could be summarized, the message seems to be to surround ourselves with reminders of HaShem's Divine Providence and His Torah. We are to surround ourselves physically and temporally - in all places and at all times. From the moment we awake until we go to sleep, at home or on the road we must constantly remind ourselves. We adorn ourselves with reminders on our head and arms and on each doorpost in our home. The precise juxtaposition of the parshios is teaching us that the only true way to make sure never to forget is to constantly remind ourselves.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: You were shown

Dikdukian: Raise the Valleys

Al Pi Cheshbon: Moshe's Pleas

Al Pi Cheshbon: Gemtrias off by 1

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to

Tuesday, July 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Tish'ah B'Av

Two and a half weeks ago, Rabbi Sholom Gold of Har Nof passed away at the age of 88. He was a musmach of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore and founded Ner Yisroel in Toronto. Although I never really met him in person, I gained a great deal from his fiery shiurim on cassette tape. Below is a shiur I heard from him on Tish'ah B'Av. His Torah, as well as a video of the levaya are available on his website. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.


On one occasion, three consecutive people charged Rabbi Gold with being a zealot and asserted that it was because of the zealots that the second beis hamikdash was destroyed. Indeed, the very tragic gemara in the fifth perek of Gittin (56a) does recount the ugly actions of the zealots who burned the food supply of the resistance from within Yerushalayim. But there is much more said in the gemara and rishonim regarding the causes of the churban.


First, if you ask anyone what the single cause of the churban bayis sheini was, they are more than likely to say it was sin'as chinam, baseless hatred. Indeed, the gemara (Yoma 9b) does state that the cause for the destruction of the second beis hamikdash was sin'as chinam. But there is more. The gemara (Shabbos 119b) also lists a difference of opinion involving eight different amoraim as to what caused the destruction of Yerushalayim. Societal breakdowns such as disrespect of talmidei chachamim and lack of shame are listed. A certain marketplace was destroyed 3 years prior to Yerushalayim because monetary matters were judged too strictly, according to the gemara in Bava Metzia (88a).


As part of the infamous episode of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, the chachamim are faced with a quandary as to whether or not to bring as a korban the animal which Bar Kamtza had deliberately blemished. First, they suggest to just bring it anyway. Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas rejects that possibility as onlookers might derive from there that you may bring a blemished animal as a korban. They then suggest killing Bar Kamtza so that he would not report back to the emperor. Again, they are opposed by R' Zechariah ben Avkulas who suggests that one might derive that the penalty for bringing a blemished animal for a korban is death. R' Yochanan then says in the gemara (56a) that R' Zecharia's "humility" destroyed our beis hamikdash, burnt our sanctuary and exiled us from our land, a rather harsh charge for a seemingly innocent exchange of opinion.


However, we find such a statement in an even more surprising setting. The Tosefta (Shabbos 17) discusses a disagreement between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai regarding what may done with leftover bones on the table on Shabbos. R' Zecharia ben Avkulas would not do like either and would make sure the bones never reached the table. R' Yossi then charges R' Zecharia's humility for causing the destruction. R' Gold explains that R' Zecharia ben Avkulas represented leadership that was unable to make a stand. When the future of Klal Yisroel was on the line with Bar Kamtza, a decision needed to be made. There were options but R' Zecharia could offer nothing more than reasons why those options were not viable. He was not able to take a position and stand behind it. It is the same theme we see regarding Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel. It is this lack of leadership that caused the nation to crumble.


In an encounter with Rabba bar bar Chanah while immersing in the Jordan River, Reish Lakish (Yoma 9b) charges viciously that he (Rabba bar bar Chanah) and the rest of the Babylonian community are hated by HaShem. Citing a pasuk in Shir HaShirim, Reish Lakish explains that had the Jews of Bavel returned to Eretz Yisroel with Ezra en masse, like a wall, they would have been likened to silver which does not rot. Since the influx of Jews was only like that of doors, they were likened to cedar wood and indeed, they did ultimately rot. There were approximately 7 million Jews in Bavel during the short exile there, of which only two million or so followed Ezra and returned to the Holy Land. Had the Jews of Bavel followed Ezra's call in greater numbers, the destruction of the beis hamikdash might have been prevented.


Rambam once wrote a letter to the wise men of Montpelier (France, not Vermont) addressing their interest in astrology. Rambam explained that astrology is an empty and vain study. He added that the wise men in the time of the second beis hamikdash devoted much time to the study of astrology. They did not spend the necessary resources to learn about warfare and build a respectable and formidable army. The reliance on astrology and lack of experience in warfare, explained Rambam, ultimately brought about the destruction of our kingdom.


Finally, Ramban (Vayechi and Bechukosai) points us to King Agrippas and his travels to Rome and the many treaties that were signed with the Romans. With these unnecessary treaties, we invited our future oppressors onto our own turf. Through apparent acts of peace and friendship, we brought our own demise upon us.


So, it seems quite clear that it was not the zealots who single-handedly brought down the second beis hamikdash. But what are we to make of all these apparent differences of opinion? R' Gold explains that our crushing defeat at the hands of the Romans was far more than a simple military downfall. The Roman conquest of Eretz Yisrael was comprised of a number of unique and specific components. Our capital was sacked and completely destroyed. Our Holy Temple was brought down to the ground. Rather than being occupied by our conquerors, we were exiled from our land. The many causes of the churban bayis sheini listed above address the many aspects of our downfall.


The beis hamikdash itself fell because of sin'as chinam. It simply could no longer accept the sacrifices of a people who harboured such unprovoked hatred of one another.


The gemara in Shabbos citing the various societal and religious deteriorations are clearly talking about the fall of Yerushalayim. The city was guarded not by its walls but by the deeds of its inhabitants. When the society fell apart, the city followed suit.


Militarily, we simply had nothing significant to put forth to stop the Roman onslaught. Had we not spent our time studying astrology and built up a proper army, Rambam suggests the outcome might have been different.


The churban also brought with it the loss of sovereignty and independence and the ultimate loss of our homeland. When our leadership lost its resolve and its ability to take a stand on the issues when the going got tough, the very fabric of our nation was doomed. A nation must be able to rely on its leaders to make critical decisions. R' Yochanan, in criticizing R' Zecharia's humility, makes specific mention of the exile in addition to the churban. Of course, we cannot ignore that our presence in Eretz Yisrael was weak from the very beginning. The stories of the churban show that we came ever so close to fending off the Roman attack. Reish Lakish was thoroughly convinced that had our numbers been greater, had more than an embarrassing minority followed Ezra to reinhabit Eretz Yisrael, we just might have succeeded.


This exploration of these holy words of our sages has shown, if nothing else, that the churban habayis was an extremely complex turn of events. It is foolish to look back and pin the responsibility on one individual, group or event. But it is safe to assume that this matter was not addressed by our sage merely for its historical value. We are given these many approaches and understandings of the churban so that we may do a better part in our day to learn from the mistakes of the past and to help end this exile and bring the Moshiach, may he come speedily in our day.


Have a meaningful fast, or better yet, may there be no fast at all!

Eliezer Bulka

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to

Friday, July 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim / Chazon

When a parsha is positioned next to a special day there certainly must be a connection. Indeed, few parshios are as inextricably tied to their calendar events as Devarim is to Tish'ah B'Av. The connection is surely not a difficult one to make as the story of the spies is featured prominently in the parsha and has very direct correlations to Tish'ah B'Av. However, another perspective occurred to me recently.

Focusing on Devarim as more than just a parsha but rather the beginning of a sefer, it is the first installment of a lengthy homily delivered by Moshe to the nation as he approached the end of his life. Recounting the various episodes and highlights of the past 40 years, Moshe addresses the implicit question, "how did we get where we are today?" By detailing some of the less glorious events and the underpinnings that led to them, he also offers insight into the necessary follow-up question, "what can we do to improve?"

This is very much a crucial component of the Tish'ah B'Av experience. In addition to simply mourning the loss of the Bais HaMikdash, it is incumbent upon us to ask some very similar questions. We must first understand what it is we had and lost. This is why there are kinos devoted to detailing the splendour and beauty of the Bais HaMiksash. We go on to relive the horrific history of how we did lose it and why, and the countless tragedies that continue to befall us. (I plan to elaborate on this next week.)

The Yerushalmi (Yoma 1) teaches us that any generation that doesn't have the Bais HaMikdash rebuilt is considered as if they had destroyed it. It is therefore imperative that with the same reflection and introspection with which Moshe Rabbeinu begins this sefer, we reflect on the centuries of hardships with a concentration on what we can do to change things and bring the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash in our generation.

Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Don't you worry!

Dikdukian: Past and Future

Dikdukian: Yahtzah, what is your name?

AstroTorah: Like the Stars of the Heavens

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to

Friday, July 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

This coming Sunday, 27 Tammuz, is the 5th yahrtzeit of my cousin, Mrs. Michelle Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Rochel Mirel bas Shmuel HaLevi.


When Moshe Rabbeinu finally settles with the tribes of Gad and Reuvein and allows them to settle in the land to the east of the Yardein, he sets out strict conditions upon which their settling of the land is contingent. In response to their offer to cross the river and fight with the rest of B'nei Yisrael, Moshe begins (32:20) "If you will do this thing, if you will arm yourselves for war before HaShem..." Certainly one of the two parts of that sentence seems superfluous. Moshe could have simply either made reference to their offer, or spoken it out directly. He didn't have to do both.


Or HaChayim addresses this issue and offers an explanation. Moshe sensed that although Gad and Reuvein pledged their military support, there was something lacking in their intent. They were going to fight solely for the purpose of fulfilling their side of the agreement so that they may settle in their desired land. They would be lacking the proper intentions that are necessary when engaging in HaShem's war, as described by Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 7:15). Therefore, Moshe made two separate statements. If they do as they have promised, that is all well and good. However, he added that in doing so, they needed to arm themselves "before HaShem," with specific intent for the destruction of the enemies of HaShem and to cleanse their minds of their ulterior motives in battle.


Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: The Cold has Passed

Dikdukian: Watch out for those Mapiks!

Dikdukian: To Afflict or to Answer

Dikdukian: The Interrogative

Dikdukian: The first aliyah in Mas'ei

Dikdukian: They are Correct, Sir!

Dikdukian: Whose Tribe is it Anyway?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Splitting up the Animals

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to

Thursday, July 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

Monday, 14 Tammuz, was the 36th yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack (ben Yehuda Leib HaLevi) Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 


Tuesday, 15 Tammuz, was the 20th yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Shaindel bas Alexander HaLevi.


Today, 17 Tammuz, is the 24th yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov

(ben Yitzchok Matisyahu) Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshivah of Ner Yisroel.


Today is the 2nd yahrtzeit of my dear father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h. As was done last year, the shul hosted an online Pirkei Avos learning event. A recording is available at this link.


The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

This week's parsha recounts the famous episode of the daughters of Tzelafchad who approached Moshe claiming the unfairness of the laws of inheritance. They maintained that since they had no brothers, their father's inheritance should go to them rather than to other relatives. HaShem asserts the validity of their claim by instructing Moshe (27:7), "kein b'nos Tzelafchad dov'ros," the daughters of Tzelafchad speak correctly. Rashi writes here that we are taught that they saw what even Moshe Rabbeinu had not seen (for he was not aware of the halachah.) The following Rashi continues with the praises of the daughters of Tzelafchad, "praiseworthy is he/she whom HaShem concurs with their words." R' Moshe Shternbuch, in Ta'am Vada'as brings up an interesting point. The daughters of Tzelafchad came to Moshe with a complaint, apparently out of a desire to maintain their father's right to property. They did not know any more than he did. They had their own motives in mind. What is it about their behaviour that merited such extensive praise by Chazal?

He answers that the daughters are not being praised because of their knowledge of halachah. Rather, the reason for praise was that, although having been taught some of the procedures dealing with the division of the land, B'nei Yisrael still saw Eretz Yisrael as a distant venture. They were still wandering the desert. They focused themselves on the current situation and did not concern themselves with the details of the forthcoming inheritance of the land. The daughters of Tzelafchad, on the other hand, were more infused with belief and trust in HaShem's word, to the point that, to them, the inheritance was a current and present issue. Their haste in coming before Moshe showed an exceptional level of faith which deemed them worthy of praise.

Although the daughters of Tzelafchad showed exemplary faith and love of Eretz Yisrael, their meritorious deeds were not completely unique – at least not amongst the women. Following the census that appears at the beginning of the parsha, we are told (26:63) that of these individuals counted in the current census there was not one man who was part of the previous census because they had all died in the desert. Rashi infers from the superfluous mention of the word ish that the decree applied only to men. Women were exempt because they showed a greater love for Eretz Yisrael.

We have begun the period of mourning the destruction of the bais hamikdash and the galus that has ensued. But we, like B'nos Tzelafchad and the other women of the dor hamidbar, must not lose sight of the promise of the ultimate end to that galus, the redemption and the arrival of Mashiach, may he come speedily in our day.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato

Dikdukian:  I say Yericho, you say Yereicho
Dikdukian:  All of the brothers

Dikdukian: One Big Happy Family?

Dikdukian: Pinechas: What's in a Name?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to