by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS YISRO 5773 BS"D
Ch. 18, v. 1: "Va'yishma Yisro" - And Yisro heard - On the words "Tov shochein korove mei'ach rochoke" (Mishlei 27:10) the medrash says that the "shochein korove" is Yisro and the "ach rochoke" is Eisov. To explain this the Chemdoh G'nuzoh cites the Mechilta quoted by Rashi, that one of Yisro's other names was Yesser, alluding to his causing a parsha to be added to the Torah. Commentators point out that the 175 parshios of the Torah correspond to Avrohom's 175 years of life. He was actually allotted 180 years but to avoid his suffering the great discomfort of seeing Eisov going on a very bad path, his years were reduced by five. This is the meaning of the medrash. Yisro brought an additional parsha to the Torah while Eisov caused five parshios to be deducted. Had Avrohom actually lived for 180 years there would have been five more parshios.
Ch. 18, v. 1: "Kohein Midyon" - Priest of Midyon - Why does the Torah tell us his occupation? This is very well documented in parshas Shmos, where Moshe found safe harbour in Yisro's home and married his daughter.
The gemara Y'vomos 24b says that in the days of Kings Dovid and Shlomo converts were not accepted since the bnei Yisroel were the most powerful nation so we are concerned with an insincere conversion. Here too, when the bnei Yisroel had finally exited Egypt and experienced the miraculous splitting of Yam Suf, why was Yisro accepted as a convert? The verse therefore tells us that he likewise was "on top of the world," having the prestigious position of top clergyman in Midyon. There was no fear that he might have been insincere. (Sh'eiris Yaakov)
Ch. 18, v. 3: "Geir hoyisi b'eretz nochrioh" - I was a sojourner in a foreign land - Moshe was born in Egypt and although he was in Midyon when his sons were born he nevertheless should not have felt that he was a sojourner given that this was his life's experience from the day he was born. There seems to be no difference from his years in Egypt to his years in Midyon.
Rashi comments on Breishis 47:21 that the verse's telling us that Yoseif moved all the people in Egypt from one location to another is really of no consequence, save that it tells us that he was sensitive to the bnei Yisroel's feelings. By moving everyone from place to place the bnei Yisroel were no worse than anyone else. Now no one would call them foreigners, as all were foreigners. Moshe, during his years in Egypt therefore did not feel like an alien. It was only when he lived in Midyon that this was felt. (Yaalas Chein)
Ch. 18, v. 5: "El Moshe el hamidbor" - To Moshe to the desert - These words seem out of order as Yisro first entered the desert and then eventually reached Moshe. According to the opinion that he came now to convert this is well understood. Our Rabbis derive from the verses stating that the Torah was given in the desert that one must equate himself to the desert to truly accept the Torah to its fullest. Just as a desert is bereft of the niceties that make a person comfortable, so too, if a person wants to truly connect to the Torah he must accept upon himself to forgo comforts. This is the message in Yisro's first coming to Moshe to convert, and then accepting the Torah upon himself on the "desert" level. (n.l.)
Ch. 19, v. 20: "Va'yei'red Hashem al Har Sinai" - And Hashem descended onto Har Sinai - For Hashem to communicate to a whole nation in such a manifest manner was indeed a descent, "va'yei'red." This is why this word has the cantillation of "darga," which is translated as a step. Here Hashem was, so to say, entering into marriage with the Jewish nation. The gemara Y'vomos 63a advises, "N'chos darga unsiv itsa," descend a step and then marry a woman. (Rabbi Shlomo haLevi Karliner in Sheima Shlomo)
Ch. 20, v. 12: "Kabeid es ovicho v'es i'mecho l'maan yaarichun yo'mecho" - Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be lengthened - This is one of the veryb few places where the Torah specifies an exact reward for fulfilling the mitzvoh. This is because there are times when a person can be caught in a conundrum. The medrash on parshas Lech L'cho says that with Hashem's commanding Avrohom to leave his land and go to the land Hashem will indicate t him he had to leave behind his father who was not willing to go along. Hashem gave him an exemption from the mitzvoh of honouring one's parents. We see that otherwise one must honour them and not move away, even when wanting to go to live in Eretz Yisroel, as was the case with Avrohom. Living in Eretz Yisroel carries with it the blessing of a long life, "L'maan yirbu y'meichem vimei bneichem al ho'adomoh ……" staying in chutz lo'oretz would seem to deprive one of this blessing. This is why our verse spells out that for honouring one's parents he does not lose out. He likewise is blessed with a long life. (Nachalas Yaakov of Lisa)
Ch. 20, v. 12: "L'maan yaarichun yo'mecho" - So that your days may be lengthened - The pristine translation of these words is "so that they may lengthen your days," referring back to your parents whom you honour. How do they lengthen your days? A Satmar Chosid came to the Holy Rabbi Yoel zt"l and asked for his advice. He bemoaned the fact that his wife without asking him gave vast sums of money to charity, fasted when any child was ill, and spent endless hours in prayer while the household was unattended, with the home disheveled, laundry, dishes, etc. piling up. The Holy Rebbe responded that he should tell his wife in the Rebbe's name that she should stop giving charity, and praying for lengthy periods of time. The petitioner left and only a short while later realized that the Rebbe made no mention of her fasting. He thought it might have been an oversight and this practice was also to be stopped. Nevertheless, to make sure he made mention of this to the gabbai. The gabbai said that he would inquire and get back to him. Imagine the surprise of the petitioner when the gabbai called him and told him that when the Rebbe was asked about this he said that she was doing the correct thing. In the "yotzros" for the second day of Shovuos, where there is a lengthy section for each of the Ten Commandments, by the mitzvoh of honouring one's parents it says that the parents fast for the well being of an ill child. He could not in good conscience advise that she stop. Parents indeed expend great effort so that their children should live a long life.
Ch. 20, v. 22: "Vatchal'leho" - And you will have desecrated her - This is a prohibition to cut stones for use in the altar. As Rashi explains, "It is totally inappropriate to use metal, which shortens people's lives (instruments of warfare), for creating the altar, which serves to lengthen people's lives."
With the whole Mikdosh compound destroyed our prayers are a substitute for the offerings that used to be brought on the altar (gemara Brochos 26b). If we ch"v misuse our mouths by speaking loshon hora and other destructive speech, in turn making them verbal swords and spears, how can we in good conscience then use this same mouth for prayer, the replacement of offerings? We would be using an instrument that shortens people's lives in an attempt to lengthen them. (Rabbi Eliyohu Lapian in Lev Eliyohu)
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