Weekly Reading Insights: Yitro 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Yitro

To be read on 22 Shvat 5764 (Feb.14 )

Yitro is the 5th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 17th overall, and 46th out of 54 in overall length.
Exodus 18:1-20:23; Haftorah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6 (because of resemblence to vision at Mt. Sinai)

Pirkei Avot: not till after Passover

Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law, came with Moshe's wife and sons to join the Jews. Yitro suggested that Moshe delegate the job of judging to leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The Jews were given three days to sanctify themselves and a barrier was built around Mt. Sinai in preparation for G-d's revelation there. The Ten Commandments were said{1. 'I am the L-rd your G-d who brought you out of Egypt..." 2. Prohibition to believe in other gods and worship idols 3. Prohibition to take G-d's name in vain 4. Remember the Shabbat and keep it holy 5. Honor parents 6. Do not murder 7. Do not commit adultery 8. Do not steal 9. Do not bear false witness 10. Do not envy}. The direct revelation of the first two was too strong for the Jews, so they asked Moshe to hear the remaining ones for them. The Jews were also commanded not to make physical representations of G-d, and to make an earth-filled altar of unhewn stone with an ascension ramp.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:16-64/Beshalach )

A person cannot cleave to that spiritual side unless he places his heart and will in awe to it. [In failing to do so] he only receives a small fine grasp of all kinds of forces that are external to the holy.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:17-64/Yitro )

Bina, whose task it is to develop the flash of insight that is chochma into a full-fledged intellectual development, must evince a measure of self-orientation, or what becomes - in later contexts - ego, in order to do its job.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:17-64/Yitro )

We are already well aware that the entire Torah consists of permutations of the name of
G-d, permutations which extend endlessly in all directions of the universe.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"And Yitro heard." (18:1)
Yitro was not alone in hearing about the Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the Red Sea. What made Yitro different was that only he drew the right conclusion and acted upon it. Many people listen but don't truly hear; the words fail to penetrate their hearts and minds. Yitro heard - and correctly recognized what he was hearing.
(Kotzker Rebbe)

"Mount Sinai was altogether smoke (ashan)." (19:18)
The three letters of the word ashan, ayin-shin-nun, stand for olam (world - the dimension of place); shana (year - the dimension of time); and nefesh (soul - the energy that animates the physical plane). The revelation at Sinai signified that from that point on we were given the ability to refine and elevate these two dimensions (through Torah and mitzvot), and infuse them with a G-dly light and vitality.
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:17-64/Yitro)

There is a lot of discussion in the Talmud and Midrash about the size of Mount Sinai, about how it had to be a mountain but a small one, teaching us that while we must be proud to be Jews and keepers of the commandments, we have to be careful not to let it get out of hand. But why a mountain? The Lubavitcher Rebbe's father-in-law and predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, wrote a simple explanation. Mountains and flatlands have one thing in common, they are both made out of earth. The mountain, however, is elevated. The Torah was given on a mountain to reinforce the concept that the goal of the giving of the Torah is to allow the Jews to fulfill their purpose, which is to purify and elevate the physical world (earth and all that comes from it). This is hinted at in a mountain, which is made of earth, but stands higher.

Going deeper, the Torah was given on a mountain to teach us that studying Torah, fulfilling its commandments, and especially living in a way that the Torah directs us, is supposed to hearten a person. It elevates their being, giving them extra confidence in their relation to the world. The Rabbis did not mince their words. They said as follows (Pesachim 68): If it were not for that very special day (of the giving of the Torah), how many Yosefs would be shlepping in the market. What makes the Jewish people unique in their relation to the world is the Torah.

Still, we DO have to be careful that this elevated dimension in dealing with the world does not turn into haughtiness. This is why the verse (19/2) says, neged hahar, "against the mountain." We have to always be on guard, 'against' the mountain, not to let our proficiency in Torah close us off with pride. This is also hinted at by what it says later (19/23), "make a boundary around the mountain," to put limits on our negative emotions.

On this same verse, I saw a wonderful insight from Rabbi Pinchus Maizlish, chief rabbi of Lotemsak. The word for mountain in Hebrew is har, spelled hei, raish. Hei is the 5th letter of the aleph-beit, preceded by the letter dalet and followed by the letter vov. Raish is the 21st letter of the aleph bais, preceded by the letter kuf and followed by the letter shin. Those four letters, kuf-vav-dalet-shin, the 'boundary' letters of the hei-raish of the Hebrew word for mountain, spell kodesh. Kodesh is usually translated as 'holy,' but its root meaning is 'separate.' The key to success in the path of Torah is when we are able, each of us to whatever extent we are able, to separate ourselves from the attractions of the world.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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