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Monday, April 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

For this year's thought on the Pesach seder, I wish to focus on a pasuk which is not traditionally part of the "meat and potatoes" of the Haggadah and was only added around the 12th century, possibly as a response to the devastating crusades. It has recently gained more prominence and recognition as it is featured the ominous perek 79 of Tehillim which has become a common part of the rotation since the tragic events of Shemini Atzeres.

We open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi and recite (Tehillim 79:6-7, followed by two pesukim from elsewhere in Kesuvim) "Shefoch chamascha el hagoyim asher lo yeda'ucha, v'al mamlachos asher beshimcha lo kara'u." We beseech HaShem to pour out his wrath upon the nations who do not know Him, and the kingdoms who do not call His name. I was puzzled by the use of el hagoyim vs. al mamalachos. Intriguingly, any commentaries I could find that address the usage of el and al suggest that they are more or less interchangeable. (Try asking for a ticket on an Al El flight and see where that gets you.) But why use different words in the very same pasuk? (It should be noted that this pasuk has a nearly identical mirror in Yirmiyahu 10:25 in which the word al is used both times.)

Perhaps the precise wording can be explained as follows: el denotes towards, in the direction of, whereas al means directly upon. We ask that HaShem mete out retribution towards the nations – the common folk who do not know HaShem but perhaps might still maintain an inkling of innocence and might still deserve the opportunity to repent. This is a somewhat softer tone. On the mamlachos – the kingdoms, I.e. the leadership – we ask that HaShem heap his anger directly upon them. They are the true source of the evil that confronts us and their due should come more swiftly and precisely. It is in fact this approach which – to some degree – governs the very delicate operation we are currently engaged in. There is a sinister entity which can be afforded nothing more than complete demise. At the same time, there is a nation in their midst – by no means innocent – but perhaps not deserved of the same fate.

Despite the apparent fit of this interpretation with the words, it is interesting to note that the plagues in Egypt seemed to follow a diametrically opposite pattern. Many plagues took a heavier toll on the citizens of Egypt than they did on Paroah himself.

Have a chag kasher ve'sameiach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Dikdukian: Shiras HaLevi'im

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya 

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Friday, April 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

This past Wednesday, 2 Nissan, marked the 18th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.


Today, 4 Nissan, marks the 6th yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.


In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzara'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Nota Greenblatt, zt"l, (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzara'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other negaim require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of nig'ei batim is twice that of other negaim or that nig'ei batim requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzaa'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of nig'ei batim, he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is tahor. The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but is nevertheless tahor since it hasn't reached the required size. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzara'as out of one's skin applies even to a nega tahor.]


It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second, that nig'ei batim require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Nota, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.



Of note: this Shabbos, we will read the haftara of Tazria for the first time in 21 years.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: White Hair

Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin


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Friday, April 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

A slightly overdue book plug: I am happy to inform of the release of a wonderful biography of my father, z"l, written by my niece, Rikki Ash. Canada's Rabbi: The Life and Legacy of Rabbi Reuven Bulka is available from Ktav and Amazon.


This Monday, erev rosh chodesh Nisan, there will be a full solar eclipse visible to many different major cities in the US. There will not be another such event in this part of the world for another 20 years. Please check out a piece I wrote a number of years ago, Eclipses in Halachah and Machshavah.


The pasuk states (9:7) regarding Aharon's personal chatas offering that it should be an atonement for him and for the nation. R' Moshe Mintz of Ner Yisroel asks why Aharon's korban involved an atonement for the nation. Ohr HaChaim answers that Aharon's involvement in the sin of the golden calf was brought about by the nation who coerced him into aiding them in the making of the golden calf. Therefore, the nation could not achieve a full atonement until Aharon, for whom they were responsible, achieved his own atonement.


Rabbi Mintz explains the important lesson that is learned from this. We must be ever so careful with all our actions within the kahal for all of our actions have a spiritual effect on the kahal as a whole. If one were to (chas ve'shalom) have a part in leading another to sin through his actions, full atonement can only come once all involved have achieved atonement.  


Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Lehavdil


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