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Home » Yitro

Yitro: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on January 21, 2008 – 1:40 amNo Comment | 1,766 views

 Sunday: The Proof is in the Action

This Torah portion begins with the words, “And Jethro heard.” Our sages asked what did he hear that made him come? He heard of the miracle at the Reed Sea and of the Manna. When he heard about these miracles he felt compelled to come and join the Jewish camp.

Most commentators focus on the nature of the miracles that inspired Jethro to come. One rabbi focused on the simple fact that he came. Jethro didn’t marvel about these miracles from the comforts of home, he was moved, he was inspired and he did something about it. He cared enough to come. How often do we hear of the plight of an unfortunate family, or an elderly person in our community without offering much more than a word of sympathy? Jethro was different. When something inspired him he went and did something about it. What he actually heard is immaterial. What matters most is that when he heard about it he followed through. This is a model we must emulate. Reb Sholom Shvadron

Monday: The Bane of Knowledge

Jethro frowned on Moses for appointing himself the solitary judge of the nation. “You and the nation along with you, will wear out,” scolded Jethro. He advised Moses to establish a judicial hierarchy to ease his personal load. On a literal level Jethro was concerned that Moses would tire of sitting in judgment and the people would tire of waiting in line, but there is a deeper concept at work.

Despite the evidence or lack of it, Moses, a prophet, instinctively knew who was innocent and who was guilty. This put him in an unbearable bind. He could not rule in favor of the innocent because of a lack of evidence, but he could also not encourage a compromise knowing that the guilty would prosper. As such, Moses would grow weary of a judicial system that handicaps true justice by its dogged insistence on proper evidence and procedure. The nation would grow weary of a judge that discourages compromise and pursues absolute justice whenever possible. Tiferes Yonason

Tuesday: Converts to Judaism

After Moses accepted his advice, Jethro went to convert his family. Why did he wait till Moses accepted his advice? According to Tiferes Yonason he hesitated to convert his family for he thought G-d would frown upon the conversions. Seeing that G-d agreed with his advice, though he was a convert, he realized that his conversion was pleasing to G-d and thus went to convert his family.

The Talmud proclaims that converts are like Psoriases to the nation of Israel. At first glance it seems the Talmud is saying that converts, through their negative behavior, give Israel an appearance similar to that of Psoriases. This, however, is not true. The convert is no a less a Jew than the Jew from birth. On the contrary, Jews from birth pale in comparison to the convert. The Talmud is really saying that converts, through their incredible sacrifice and commitment make the Jew from birth look as bad as Psoriases because no Jew from birth can match the passion of a convert. Rabbi Yonah Reiss

Wednesday: Unity / Humility

Our ancestors arrived at Sinai in a state of perfect unity. At that moment there was not a single instance of discord amongst the entire nation; an unprecedented moment that has yet to be repeated. What was the secret behind the incredible unity of that moment?

They arrived on the first day of the month and there is a link between the unity and the day on which this occurred. The Hebrew calendar is lunar-based. Hebrew months begin when the moon emerges from concealment. At this moment of rebirth the moon is infinitesimally small. This is a sign of humility and it is the secret to unity. The more we recognize the radiance of those around us, the less we nurture our own ego. The less demanding our ego is, the easier it is to unite with others. Divrei Yisrael

Thursday: Equality

G-d told Moses that Jews would become a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation. Moses gathered the Jewish elders and relayed the message. The entire nation replied in unison, “We will do all that G-d commands.” Moses relayed this response to G-d, who replied that He would appear before Moses, but Moses reported the words of the nation to G-d. What were the words that Moses suddenly reported?

G-d’s promise that Israel would become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation implied a hierarchy within the nation. The scholarly and righteous would be a kingdom of priests, the others, through observing the commandments, would simply be holy.  In accordance with the hierarchy G-d designated, Moses relayed G-d’s message to the elders, but the response, that they would fulfill G-d’s command, came from the entire nation. This reply was promptly relayed by Moses back to G-d, but inherent in the reply was a hidden message. The fact that the nation responded directly rather than through the elders indicated that they all wanted equal access to G-d.

When G-d instructed Moses to prepare for a personal revelation, Moses reported the words of the nation. What were these words? That they had no appetite for receiving the commandments through Moses, they wanted to hear them directly from G-d. G-d approved this request and instructed the nation to prepare by sanctifying themselves. Indeed, we have scholars, the righteous, and laymen, but when it comes to access to G-d all Jews are equal. Malbim

Friday: I am G-d / Thou Shall Not Murder

The Ten Commandments include prohibitions against murder, theft and adultery. Do these prosaic prohibitions belong in the Ten Commandments? This was a momentous occasion of spiritual transcendence and inspiration, why waste it on prohibitions that are obvious to all morally upstanding people?

It is not sufficient to eschew murder because it is abhorrent to us, we must eschew it because it is abhorrent to G-d. Today, there are those who condone so called mercy killings, such as euthanasia. The Nazis used similar arguments to justify the extermination of “undesirables.” Only when the prohibition of murder is observed as a Divine code can we ensure our total commitment to the absolute value of life. Likutei Sichos

Saturday: Seeing G-d

Our sages taught that at Mount Sinai Jews saw that which is heard. What does this mean?

We do not need to be convinced of the physical world’s existence, we see it before our eyes. We require convincing that G-d exists because empirical proof for His existence is not available. In other words, we ordinarily see the physical object, but only hear about G-d. At Sinai, when Jews saw G-d as realistically as we observe the physical, they no longer required convincing to know that He exists. They saw him. In other words, they saw what is ordinarily only heard about. Likutei Sichos

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