Weekly Reading Insights: Yitro 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Yitro

To be read on 20 Shvat 5766 (Feb.18)

Torah: Exodus 18:1-20:23; Haftorah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6 (because of resemblence to vision at Mt. Sinai)

Yitro is the 5thReading out of 11 in Exodus and 17th overall, and 46th out of 54 in overall length.

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 takeG-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:1566/Bo)

We learned that Moses was puzzled by this [see Menachot 29a] until the Divine Presence taught him by examining [together with him] the visages of all those men and selecting them [to be judges and leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties etc.]. It was then that Moses learned with wisdom and delved into it. This is the meaning of [the verse] "...Now see to it to select from among all the people...." You, and no other, should see to it - know how to look at 600,000 men [and select those worthy of leadership].

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:1766/Yitro)

But [this is true for every soul] in accordance with its level. There are those [whose souls] are mostly evil and contain only a little good, and there are those in whom the opposite is the case. There are many gradations within this spectrum, but "there is no righteous person on earth that does good and never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20), for everyone is composed of [both] good and evil, as we have said.

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

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From Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Atar (O:1766/Yitro)

G-d explained that inasmuch as the very land of Egypt was a house of bondage, this would not have been appropriate. This is as read in the verse: "When the Supreme G-d handed out the inheritance of the various nations, He established boundaries for the peoples in relation to Israel's numbers" (Deut. 32:8). The Zohar (I:108) comments that G-d handed out certain places on earth to the guardian angels of the various nations, and that the only land He did not assign to such guardian angels was the land of Canaan (Israel). G-d had reserved the land of Canaan for Himself.

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


"Opposite the mountain" [19:2]

The Torah was given on a mountain, to teach that the learning of Torah and going in G-d's ways should give us a certain emotional elevation. At the same time one has to be careful not to fall prey to arrogance. That is the meaning of 'opposite the mountain': to be exceedingly careful to oppose the elevation that can come from Torah learning and knowledge.

Sefer HaMaarim Taf Shin Gimmel [translated from Sichat HaShavuah 214]


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:1666/Beshalach)

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:8)

Explains Rashi, the great Torah commentator: Take heed to remember the Sabbath at all times, so that if you happen to find something special, set it aside for Shabbat. Likewise, our Sages state that we are not to give special names to the weekdays, but to refer to them in the context of Shabbat ("first day to Shabbat, second day to Shabbat," etc.). Thus we are constantly conscious of the upcoming Shabbat and prepare for it every day. The same applies to the Messianic Era, the "day that is entirely Shabbat and rest for life everlasting." Throughout the present "weekday" of exile we must constantly remember and remain conscious of the "Shabbat day" that is coming, preparing ourselves and everything around us for the arrival of Moshiach.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)

[Adapted from Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion (by Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary of Montreal), as published on www.mashiach.org]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:1666/Beshalach)

"In the third month after the departure of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, on this day, they arrived in the desert of Sinai." (Ex. 20:13)
Rashi comments that the word "this" in the above verse teaches that the Torah should be new for us each day, as though given to us perpetually. Rabbi Hillel of Paritch asks how we can do this; he answers using the Rambam's question: "Why did Moses write the Torah in 3rd person: 'And G-d said to Moses'? Nor does the Torah say 'And I [G-d] said to Moses'." It appears that neither G-d nor Moses is relaying the Torah. So who is?

In truth, G-d is doing the telling, but at a level that supercedes any of His names. A name implies a relationship with someone else. The name "G-d" refers to His relationship with us and the world. Yet there is a level of G-d, His Essence, that is higher even than any name. This is the Source of all. It is a level that we know of but cannot describe. The Torah emanates from this lofty level of G-dliness. For this reason the Torah was written in 3rd person. From that perspective, the Divine Essence speaks about a lower divine level called "G-d". When we constantly remind ourselves that the ultimate source of the Torah is higher than the world, then it will always be fresh to us. When we are learning Torah or even choosing a teacher or a school for our children, our real question should be "'Will our children come out not only knowing Torah, but knowing Who gave it also?"

The Rebbe Rayatz wrote that the giving of the Torah is connected to fire as it says, "...G-d descended upon it with fire" (Ex. 19:18). This teaches us that we can and must imbue every aspect of Jewish life with warmth and enthusiasm.

Rebbe Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov explains this verse in a different way: The Hebrew word for "month" ("chodesh") can also be translated as "renewal" ("chadash"); the words "land of Egypt" ("Eretz Mitzrayim") can be translated as "narrow land" ("eretz metzarim") and refer to our evil inclination. The word "day" refers to a positive intellectual orientation as opposed to night, which is darkness and ignorance. Jews have three means of expressing their connection to G-d: thought, speech, and most importantly, deed. Now the verse can be read: "When we 'renew' our 'third' faculty, action, by fulfilling the commandments, we redeem ourselves out of a personal Egypt which is the Evil Inclination, and create a positive intellectual attitude to help us arrive at Sinai to receive the Torah." Just do it!

Today, people go on vacations all over the world. (One family vacationed in a space shuttle, but the mother-in-law complained the entire time that there was no atmosphere...). In Europe, a chasid customarily traveled to his Rebbe at holidays for extended periods of time to reinvigorate and revitalize his connection to Judaism. A famous chasid, RebbeYechiel Meir returned home after a long Shavuot sojourn in Kotzk at his Rebbe. His father-in-law, who was not of the Chasidic persuasion, critically asked him, "Did you chasidim receive the Torah in a different way then all the rest of us Jews?" Rebbe Yechiel Meir answered, "Of course. I will give you an example: How do you understand the 8th commandment, 'Do not steal' (Ex. 20:13)?" His father-in-law answered, "Don't steal from others." Rebbe Yechiel Meir responded that in Kotzk they explain it: "Do not steal from yourself" - meaning "Don't fool yourself by imagining you are on a level higher than you really are".

"And G-d came down onto Mt. Sinai." (Ex. 19:20)

The Midrash says that Mt. Sinai was the chosen location for giving the Torah because it was the smallest of all mountains. The Kotzker Rebbe says that, in this case, "small" refers to humility and not actual physical stature. But if being humble is so laudable, why not give the Torah in a valley? Yet a valley symbolizes someone with no good attributes, and therefore has nothing to admire or be haughty about. The real challenge is to be a mountain (i.e. have good characteristics) and despite this remain small (humble).

"Remember the day of Shabbat and sanctify it." (Ex. 20:8)
Rashi writes that "remember" means that when we obtain a special delicacy during the week, we should save it for Shabbat. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that every day we are obligated to remember Shabbat and to begin our Shabbat preparations even from Sunday. The era of Mashiach is also called "Shabbat", as it says, "An eternal day that is all Shabbat and rest." Just as we are prepare for Shabbat from Sunday, so too it is incumbent upon us during these last days of the exile to constantly remember and prepare for the Redemption. Start preparing for Mashiach's arrival by increasing good deeds and acts of kindness - today!

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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