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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 1: "Va'yishma Yisro" - And Yisro heard - Rashi comments that he heard of the splitting of Yam Suf and the war with Amo'leik. He obviously heard much more, but these two events prompted him to come (verse 5). Perhaps this was because Yisro, the former priest of Midyon, was very reluctant to come, fearing rejection. However, when he heard of the splitting of Yam Suf, which did not take place until the archangel of Yam Suf saw Yoseif's casket being brought along, an indication of the great respect the bnei Yisroel had for their forbearers, and the war against Amo'leik, which, based on the medrash, was a war of "midor dor" (17:16), a war against the total intact transmission of the Torah from generation to generation, again a message of the great esteem the bnei Yisroel had for previous generations, he felt that as the father of Moshe's wife, he too, would not be rejected. (Nirreh li)

Alternatively, the bnei Yisroel were commanded to appoint a king, erect the Beis Hamikdosh, and then to eradicate Amo'leik. Yisro was aware that Moshe had the status of king over the bnei Yisroel (gemara Zvochim 101). Upon hearing that Hashem split Yam Suf for them and that they said "zeh Keili" (Shmos 15:2), as they had some visible level of recognition of Hashem, akin to the Beis Hamikdosh Rishon experience, where the Holy Spirit was palpable, and now finally the beginning of the eradication of Amo'leik, he felt that the bnei Yisroel had reached a spiritual pinnacle, so he then came to join them. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 18, v. 9: "Va'yichad Yisro" - And Yisro rejoiced - This translation follows Rashi's first explanation. Rav, in the gemara Sanhedrin 94a translates these words as, "and Yisro used a sharp implement," he passed a sharp blade over himself, i.e. he had himself circumcised. The Iyun Yaakov in his commentary on this gemara asks according to Rav, "Why didn't the verse in a straightforward manner say "va'yomol Yisro"? The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh asks on Rashi's first explanation, "Why didn't the verse express itself in Loshon Hakodesh, 'va'yismach Yisro,' rather than 'va'yichad,' in Aramaic?"

These two questions resolve each other. The gemara Shabbos 130a says that the mitzvoh of circumcision was accepted by the bnei Yisroel in joy and is still being done with joy, as per the verse in T'hilim, "Sos onochi al imrosecho" (119:162). Had the verse said "va'yomol," although we would have known that Yisro had himself circumcised, we would not know that he had it done with great joy. Had the verse expressed joy in Loshon Hakodesh, although we would have known that Yisro was rejoicing, we would not have known what brought about his joy. By using the Aramaic word we would conclude that the Torah wanted to give us both messages, that Yisro had himself circumcised and that he did it happily. (Rabbi Shlomo Admor of Bobov)

Ch. 18, v. 16: "Ki yi'h'yeh lohem dovor bo eilai" - When there is a matter of dispute between them he comes to me - According to this literal translation of these words we have two disputants, "lohem," and yet, the verse ends in the singular, "bo." To answer this seeming inconsistency we might answer, based on the gemara Sanhedrin, that the judge is required to create a level playing field for disputants so that there is no real or even perceived favouritism. (This goes so far as requiring that the disputants wear somewhat similar qualities of clothing!) Moshe related to Yisro that he judged so fairly that when two disputants came to him he made sure that they felt so equal that it was as if not two people, i.e. people of unequal stature, appeared in front of him, but rather, they felt so equal that it was as if ONE person came to him. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 19, v. 5: "Vi'h'yi'sem li s'guloh mikol ho'amim ki li kol ho'oretz" - And you will be unto Me a treasure because all the land is Mine - And you will be unto Me a treasure WHEN (ki = kaasher) "li kol ho'oretz," when you devote all things physical unto Me. (Birkas Avrohom of Grossvardein)

Ch. 20, v. 2: "Onochi Hashem Elokecho asher hotzeisicho mei'eretz Mitzrayim" - I am your G-d Who has taken you out of the land Egypt - The medrash says that when Moshe heard this Command he responded with the blessing "shelo osani goy." The Holy Admor of Satmar explains this medrash based on the gemara Shabbos 88b, which says that the bnei Yisroel's souls departed when they heard this and the next Commandment. The Mogein Avrohom on Sh.O. O.Ch. 46:10 deals with the question of a convert reciting the blessing "shelo osani goy." Some posit that he not recite it since he was created a goy. However, the Mogein Avrohom says that he may recite it because the blessing encompasses the thanks given for having a renewed spirit every morning. During our sleep when our soul partially departs there is the fear of negative forces of "goyishe" souls cleaving to our soul. The convert likewise should give thanks for this. (How indeed do we know that no negative forces have invaded?)

Surely when one's soul totally departs and is returned to him, says the Holy Admor, it is in place to recite this blessing. Since Moshe himself needed no revival, why did he recite the blessing? He said it for the whole nation, which responded "omein."

On a simple level we might say that the first Commandment could logically have been "Onochi Hashem Elokecho asher borosi es kol ho'olam," as indeed many commentators raise this point. However, this would not be a message limited to the bnei Yisroel, as when Hashem created the world, He put into existence every future human being, Jew and l'havdil goy alike. By giving a message of taking the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt there was a unique direct message for the bnei Yisroel experience. This is why Moshe recited the blessing "shelo osani goy." (Nirreh li)

Ch. 20, v. 14: "Asher l'rei'echo" - That belongs to your friend - The Sma"g in his preface to his listing of the mitzvos writes that the 620 letters of the Ten Commandments correspond to the 613 Torah-level mitzvos plus the 7 Rabbinic-level mitzvos. The 7 Rabbinic-level mitzvos are alluded to in these last two words of the Ten Commandments. Alef = "aveilus," to mourn a death, Shin = "simchoh," to rejoice with a groom and bride for 7 days, Reish = "r'chitzoh," washing one's hands before partaking of bread, Lamed = "lechem," the prohibition against eating "pas aku'm" (and "bishu'lei aku'm"), Reish = "r'shuyos," domains, the requirement to create "eiruvei chatzeiros" and "shtufei m'vu'os" for Shabbos, Ayin = Amo'leik, to read Megilas Esther on Purim, a remembrance to blot out Amo'leik (some posit that only the day reading is Rabbinic, a complicated issue), Kof = Kohanim, the institution of Chanukah lighting, based on the actions of the Kohanim. (Chasam Sofer)

Ch. 20, v. 21: "Mizbach adomoh taa'seh li" - Make for me an altar of earth - The Ramban at the beginning of Vayikra explains that an atonement sacrifice should be offered by the sinner with the attitude that all that is done to the animal should have been done to him because of his sin. We can read this into these words of our verse by changing the vowels of the word "adomoh" so that it reads "ada'meh," I will liken myself (to the offering). Build an altar upon which your sacrifices will be offered with this emotion. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 20, v. 21: "Ovo" - I will come - This word is spelled with a Vov, giving it the numeric value of 10. This alludes to the required quorum of 10 people to be able to say "dovor shebikdushoh." (Rabbi Shlomo Ashtruk, Imrei Noam)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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