The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

View Profile

Friday, July 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

Monday, 9 Tammuz, is the 9th yahrtzeit of my sister-in-law, Batsheva Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Batsheva Blima, a"h bas HaRav Moshe Yosef HaLevi, ybl"t.


Towards the end of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are confronted by Sichon and his mighty army (21:1-3). B'nei Yisrael made a vow to HaShem. The vow itself is cause for discussion in and of itself. In the end, HaShem delivered them and they defeated the Canaanites and destroyed their cities. They then named the place of their battle Charmah, destruction.


Charmah - that should sound familiar. Only two parshios ago, a small group from B'nei Yisrael rose up and charged towards Eretz Yisrael in an attempt to vindicate themselves for the sin of the spies which had doomed them to 40 years in the desert. As we know (14:45) They were quickly wiped out by the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt on the mountain and were beaten unto HaCharmah. Rashi comments that the place was named for the events that transpired there, namely the destruction of that group from B'nei Yisrael. Being that the battle site in this week's parsha was named on the spot, it is safe to assume that these were not the same place.


I believe the identical names given to these places is surely no coincidence. The Charmah of Shelach was named for a tragic destruction of a group of over-zealous fighters. More importantly, it symbolized that HaShem had put His final stamp on the 40-year decree. It became clear that no act of repentance could possibly overturn the decree. The aron stayed put and did not go out to accompany the fighters, thus devoiding them of Divine protection. This defeat brought home the reality of B'nei Yisrael's failure.


It was now many years later. Most of B'nei Yisrael was now made up of those who would merit to enter Eretz Yisrael. This was the first battle that B'nei Yisrael would fight since that fateful defeat at the hands of Amaleik and Canaan. It did not get off to a good start, either. But B'nei Yisrael endured with prayer and devotion and through their prayers HaShem led them to victory over their adversaries. This battle symbolized the turnaround from the previous generation. The dramatic defeat of decades ago made the clear statement to their forebearers that they would not enter Eretz Yisrael. Contrarily, this dramatic victory over Sichon indicated that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael had begun. To accentuate this turnaround, they named the site of this great battle the very same name as the site of the previous battle. The name of the site where B'nei Yisrael were once smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites was now the very same name of the place where they devastated Sichon and his army on their way to entering Eretz Yisrael.


Please see Noam Jacobson's video post for this week where he explains in a similar vein. Unfortunately, he did not publish a video with English subtitles this week.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: What land was Sichon king of?

Dikdukian: Watch out for that Chirik
Dikdukian: Yahtzah, what is your real name?

Dikdukian: It wasn't thrown

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 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

After the episode of Korach, B'nei Yisrael continue to challenge Moshe and Aharon's authority. After yet another plague strikes B'nei Yisrael, Moshe is instructed to perform a demonstration that would show, through Divine intervention, the authenticity of Aharon's leadership as kohein gadol. He was told (17:17-18) to gather twelve staves from the twelve leaders of the tribes and to write their names on their respective staves. Aharon's name was to be written on the stave belonging to the tribe of Levi. Later, when the demonstration is performed, the Torah recounts (17:21) that the leaders gave the staves to Moshe - twelve staves with the stave of Aharon among (besoch) them. Throughout the episode, it is unclear whether Aharon's stave was one of the twelve or if it was in addition to the twelve for a total of thirteen.

Ramban, citing an apparent tradition that the Tribes of Israel shall never be counted as more (or less) than twelve, asserts that the stave of the tribe of Levi was one of the twelve. He suggests that to compensate, the tribes of Efrayim and Menasheh were not separate this time but were considered as one tribe under the umbrella of Yoseif. This approach leads to another question. Efrayim and Menasheh had their own independent leaders. Which one's stave was used? Malbim posits that the leader of the tribe of Efrayim was the one whose stave was used as per Yaakov Avinu's command (Bereishis 48:20) that Efrayim be placed before Menasheh at all times.

Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, challenges Ramban's position. He proposes that there is no problem with counting B'nei Yisrael as more than twelve in this case because the end result of the demonstration was to be that one of the staves would blossom, thus removing the tribe to whom it belonged from the group of twelve. Rather, Aharon's stave was indeed the thirteenth.

Although Netziv does address Ramban's issue of a maximum of twelve, Ramban's opinion is based on a textual inference as well. Moshe was commanded to collect the twelve staves and write Aharon's name on the stave of Levi. We do not find a command to take a separate stave for Levi. Ramban infers, therefore, that the stave of Levi was among the original twelve. Netziv does not address this inference.

Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach

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