The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, June 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

Tomorrow, 16 Sivan, is the 22nd yahrtzeit of R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi.

In parshas Vayeitzei (Bereishis 29:10), when Yaakov shows unusual strength in removing the rock from the well single-handedly and giving the flock to drink, all three of the mentions of Lavan refer to him as Lavan, the brother of his mother. This is rather unusual and is addressed by some of the commentaries. Ohr HaChayim writes that this is to show that every step he took was for the honour of his mother. R' Chaim Shmuelevitz, in Sichos Mussar, (which I don't have available to be at the moment,) also writes that this indicates the love Yaakov had for his mother and how that influenced his actions. Seemingly unnecessary repetition of a name is an indication of love and reverence.


The same idea may be applied to a passage at the beginning of this week's parsha. We are told (8:5-22) of the process of purification of the Levi'im and their consecration as the tribe that would be in charge of the avodah. By my count, the word halevi'im is found at a frequency of once per pasuk throughout that passage of 18 pesukim. In many cases, the word could easily have been "pronouned" and the inclusion of the word seems unnecessary. It would seem that it is included so many times to show the love that HaShem has for the Levi'im.


But there is one pasuk within this passage which also stands out. In 8:19, the words B'nei Yisrael appear 5 times!! At the same time as HaShem is showing special love for the tribe of Levi, there is a special love expressed for B'nei Yisrael as a whole as well.


Have a good Shabbos!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 

Dikdukian: The Impure

Dikdukian: In My Humble Opinion

Dikdukian: To Make Travel 

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Friday, June 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Naso

There are a number of interesting correlations between this week's parsha and this week's haftarah. The obvious connection is that the haftara speaks of Shimshon who was a nazir and the nazir is discussed in this week's parsha. However, there are some other connections that lie beneath the surface. First, the sotah process is discussed in this week's parsha. We are taught, (according to one opinion in the gemara Sotah 26a) that a sotah who was previously childless, will become pregnant if she emerges from the sotah process alive as an innocent woman. R' Dovid Kohn explains why this is. If someone is childless, it is because there has been some decree from Shamayim that this person suffers, for whatever reason, a punishment comparable to death. However, there are other circumstances mentioned by Chazal that are comparable to death. One of them is embarrassment. If someone embarrasses another person, it is as if they are killing them (Pirkei Avos). Therefore, when the woman goes through the sotah process, she endures so much humiliation that she has served the punishment equaling death and now there is no longer a place for the decree of infertility. This concept, too, is seen in the haftara. The midrash recounts that Ivtzan (Boaz) who was the judge at the time, had 30 sons and 30 daughters and made two banquets for each one. However, he did not invite Manoach, Shimshon's father to any of these banquets for he reasoned "He doesn't have any kids, how could he ever return the favour?" R' Dovid Kohn suggests that here too it was enduring the embarrassment of 120 banquets to which he was not invited, an embarrassment directly related to the fact that he was childless, that earned him the merit to eventually have a child.

Also, Chazal tell us that the purpose of the sotah process is to eventually instill peace between man and his wife by resolving the existing conflict. Peace is so important that HaShem has His name erased in the water for it. In the haftara we also see the importance of peace between a man and his wife. The midrash recounts that when Manoach and his wife were not able to have children, they were fighting over whose fault it was that they were not having kids. Therefore, the angel informed Manoach's wife that she was in fact the akarah. R' Chaim Kanievsky writes that from here we learn a very important lesson regarding establishing peace and harmony by resolving conflict. If you know that one party in an argument is correct, it is proper to go over to the one who is wrong and inform them so that they may confess, for in that way you will preserve peace. If you inform the one who was correct, you will not resolve the argument and the conflict will only continue. That is why the angel went directly to Manoach's wife rather than Manoach. The prevalence of the theme of shalom is also found in the culmination of birkas kohanim (which is actually the pasuk on which this midrash appears.)

Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Aleph's and Ayin's

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Tuesday, June 11

The Weekly Shtikle -Shavuos

The midrash (Mechilta Yisro 5, Sifrei V'zos HaBerachah 343) recounts the events that preceded matan Torah. HaShem offered the Torah to the other nations before offering it to B'nei Yisrael. When He approached the descendants of Eisav, they asked, "What is written in it?" HaShem responded "Thou shall not murder." The offer was subsequently rejected as they were unable to commit to that provision for Eisav ultimately lives by the sword. When the sons of Ammon and Mo'av were approached and were told that the Torah included a prohibition against illicit relations, they rejected the offer for the very source of Ammon and Mo'av was the incestual relationship between Lot and his daughters. The Yishmaelites were given the same offer. When they asked what such a commitment would entail, they were told that it would be forbidden to steal. Thievery being the essence of the descendants of Yishmael, they were unable to commit to follow the Torah. The Midrash states that there was not one nation that was not offered the Torah but no one would accept it. When B'nei Yisrael were approached they all declared in unison "na'aseh v'nishma," we will do and we will listen.


R' Yaakov Weinbergzt"l, asks a very simple question on this midrash. Why was the sample law given to each nation one that contradicted their very existence and thus, certain to lead to rejection? Why were they not given a taste of the Torah that was more likely to please them? R' Weinberg answers that HaShem's actual response to the nations was of little relevance. The very moment that they asked what is written in the Torah, they disqualified themselves from receiving it. By making their acceptance of the Torah contingent upon their approval of its contents, the nations showed a lack of commitment which is incongruous with a Torah nation. Torah must be at the forefront while society is built around it. When the nations asked their seemingly innocent question, they showed that they were not prepared to give up their ideals for Torah. HaShem, therefore, answered them in such a way that showed them that Torah was not for them.


The response of B'nei Yisrael was the exact opposite. They did not flinch. They did not vacillate. They accepted the Torah with true faith and showed no concern for their own agendas. This is why their response is so vital to the process of matan Torah. With this understanding, we ourselves have the opportunity to reach the level of "na'aseh v'nishma" in our own way. By subordinating ourselves to the values of the Torah, we show, like our ancestors did, that we are ready to commit unequivocally to a life of Torah. If we set our standards in accordance with the Torah, not allowing them to be tainted by the contrary influences of society, we are, indeed, showing our true devotion to the word of HaShem, much like our forefathers did at the foot of Har Sinai when they accepted the Torah.

I recently heard an intriguing question which might perhaps spur some discussion over the Shavuos table:  Suppose the Jews had responded first inquiring what was written in it. What might the response have been?


Have a chag samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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Friday, June 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew Eliyahu Boruch Shonek of Far Rockaway on his recent engagement to Tova Fine of Monsey. Mazal tov to the extended Bulka and Shonek mishpachos.


One of the points of interest concerning the census is the discrepancy between the population of the tribe of Levi as compared to all other tribes. The tally of the tribe of Levi was 22,300, almost 10,000 short of the lowest tally amongst the other tribes, Menasheh's 32,200. But the Leviim were counted from one month old whereas the rest of the nation was counted from 20 years old so their numbers are even more unusually low.


Ramba"n notes this point and offers two explanations: 1) B'nei Yisrael's dramatic increase in population was a result of the subjugation in Mitzrayim. As the pasuk (Shemos 1:12) "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad." Since, as we know, the tribe of Levi was not subjected to the same hardships as the rest of the nation, they did not multiply at the same rate. 2) When Yaakov Avinu expressed his anger with Shimon and Levi over the incident in Shechem, Levi was cursed with being less in number than his brothers.


Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh takes issue with both of these offerings from Ramba"n. First, he argues that B'nei Yisroel's miraculous rate of reproduction was not a result of the subjugation. The pasuk stating, (Shemos 1:7) "And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them," comes before any mention of slavery. As far as Ramba"n's second suggestion, Ohr HaChayim cites a census in Divrei HaYamim in which the tribe of Levi was great in number, implying that there was no such curse on Levi.


Ohr HaChayim and Klei Yekar offer an alternative suggestion. The gemara (Sotah 12a) recounts that when Par'oah issued his evil decree on all Israelite males, Amram divorced Yocheved and everyone else followed suit. Although Amram eventually did take Yocheved back, this move had a drastic effect on population growth, and most drastically on his own tribe, Levi. Over 80 years later this was reflected in the census.


R' Sander Goldberg (Baltimore) in Nachal Chayim, shows mathematically how Ramba"n's first answer does not seem to work. B'nei Yisroel totalled 603,550 of which 22,273 were first born. That would mean the first born made up less than 4% of the population. But the first born were also counted from one month. It can be assumed that the total population of B'nei Yisroel counting from one month would be far greater than 603,550. As there is only one first born per family, that means the families had an average size of over 30! This is impossible under natural circumstances and is therefore a testimony to the statement of Chaza"l that the Israelite women would give birth to six babies at a time.


When we observe the tribe of Levi we find similar numbers. The population of Levi was 22300 of which 300 were first born. That amounts to even smaller percentage of first born and thus, an even larger average family size! Clearly, when the tribe of Levi multiplied, they did so at a similar if not greater rate than the rest of the nation.


Have a chodesh tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clarification of a Sheva Na rule

Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase

Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky

Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers

Al Pi Cheshbon: Discrepency in Levi's Population

Al Pi Cheshbon: Explaining the Uncounted Levi'im

Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability

Dikdukian: Be or Ba?

Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on



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