Back to this week's parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
Can you believe it?! Me, the Orchards, and I let last week go by with out a mention of Tu b'Shvat!? I don't know what I was thinking! (Which explains many things.) Oh well. I wrote a few things but when I ended this edition with 8 pages I edited it out. Don’t say I never did nothin' for ya. This weeks
><><><><><><>> Parshas Yisro <<><><><><>< opens with (18:1) “Vayishma Yisro...”- And Yisro heard... Obvious question, what did he hear? It’s debated! The Torah Temima brings three opinions from the Gemorah. Rav Yehoshua says Milchemes Amaleik- the war with Amaleik. Rav Elazer Hamodai says Matan Torah- the revelation on Mt. Sinai. Rav Eliezer ben Yaakov says Krias Yam Suf- the splitting of the sea. Even though we have yet to get to the revelation, Rav Elazer holds the verses are not in chronological order.
Certainly news would travel the world over of the miracles brought against Egypt and their timely demise in the opening and closing of the sea. Eventually Yisro would have heard about it. But Chazal teach us that from Mt. Sinai, the revelation was literally heard the world over! And so Yisro was on his way! The Torah Temima adds that from verse 18:12 where it says Yisro brought a z’vachim offering, it must be after Mt. Sinai because before this z’vachim weren’t offered. The first opinions simply hold that there were z’vachim offered before Matan Torah. Rashi seems to agree with them since he answers that what Yisro heard was Krias Yam Suf and Milchemes Amaleik.
If you stop to think about it, this is quite a combination! Krias Yam Suf, where the laws of nature are put on hold or rather turned around while a nation is miraculously saved. And also Milchemes Amaleik which seemed like an everyday, run of the mill battle. Sometimes we were winning. Sometimes they were winning. And in the end Amaleik wasn’t even destroyed! These two things caused Yisro to come to convert? (In the next Rashi, he brings the seven names of Yisro and says his name was ‘Yeser’ and when he converted the letter ‘vav’ was added to make it ‘Yisro’. The Targum Yonasan also says straight out Yisro was coming to convert.)
The Bair Yoseph asks this question and adds the following. In verse 18:6 Yisro sends a messenger ahead to Moshe saying, “It’s me Yisro, your father-in-law! Here I come! With your wife and children!” Rashi explains, in not so many words, that Yisro is looking for the marching band, red carpet, grand welcoming and reception. “If not for me then for your wife and sons, but just make it big!” Don’t forget the molded chopped liver!
Way back, when Moshe had to run from Egypt for killing the Egyptian, he shows up in Midian by a well and the daughters of Yisro are having a hard time from the other shepherds. Why? Because Yisro just rejected idolatry. The commentaries explain that he was the high priest amongst the Goyim and he tried every idol on the planet. He was searching for the truth. Now that he hears about the Yam Suf and Amaleik he knows he’s finally found it and he wants in. He should be giving Moshe the grand reception! In addition to the above question, who’s Yisro impressed with, Hashem or himself?
Like we said, Krias Yam Suf is easy to hear what impressed Yisro. The Bair Yoseph explains Amaleik by jumping ahead to D’varim where the episode is mentioned again. 25;17> “Remember what Amaleik did to you on the way out of Egypt, how they happened upon you on the road...” The words “happened upon” are from the Hebrew word “karcha.” Rashi is probably wondering why the Torah uses “karcha” when Amaleik specifically came with intent to do battle? The root of “karcha” is “kar” which can mean “cold.” Rashi says, “It’s like a person who jumps into a boiling bath. He burns himself but cools the water for everyone else.” After everything Hashem has just done for Bnei Yisrael, they were hot. Red Hot! No one would challenge them. But Amaleik did. They got burned but in the eyes of the world, Bnei Yisrael is not so hot anymore.
Take the Torah codes, for example. Unbelievable! Avraham is encoded in a paragraph about Avraham. Rachel and Leah in a paragraph about Yaakov wanting a wife. All kinds of trees appear in the verses about Gan Eden. The Rambam, who lived in Egypt, shows up in a verse about Egypt. Everything is there, in it’s proper place! And I mean everything. The codes opened so many eyes which stayed open to see thousands of other wonders in the world which had always been there to see. Along comes a couple clowns and say, “We found a code about a dog eating a banana in Moby Dick!” Gibberish compared to what the Torah codes have to offer. Compared to the odds, the quantities, the qualities. But the damage has been done. The codes are no longer the hot item they used to be.
Imagine that the codes blew you away. Then someone comes along, and takes advantage of the fact that all the mathematical odds and information aren’t there in front of you, and makes it sound like the Torah codes are not so divine. It’s a big let down! You’ve lost a certain charge. How do you get it back? You pick up a Torah Codes book and say, “Let me see that again! You compare all this to a dog and a banana?” The Bair Yoseph says this is what Yisro did.
Yisro heard about Krias Yam Suf! Unbelievable! His life long search was over. He’s found the truth! He knows there is a G-d in the world. What a charge! What a high! Then, suddenly, along comes Amaleik and the Jews seem suddenly threatened. What happened?! Where did their G-d go?! But Yisro knows not to let the truth get away. And even more than that- he wants not to just get the high back but to “put” it back! Yisro knows he’s a world renowned figure. He knows the world knows of his search for G-d. If his conversion to Judaism is made big, if it has the red carpet and the marching band, then in the eyes of the world he might give back some of what Amaleik took. The mixed multitude joined the Jews when they were hot. Yisro joined when they were cold. What a kiddush Hashem that was! Easy to see why he was rewarded with a parsha named after him. Very nice, Bair Yoseph.
Rav Wolfson agrees that Yisro heard Krias Yam Suf and Milchemes Amaleik but he’s holding by the opinions that it was after Matan Torah!!
Again we have a look at Amaleik. What was their plan of attack? Back in Dvarim we see they attacked from behind! They struck at the stragglers, the weak and the faint. Those who did not fear Hashem. Rashi those weak from sin, whom the Ananay Hakavode- Clouds of Glory expelled. Oy!
Rav Wolfson explains that whenever Bnei Yisrael traveled, the tribe of Dan was the last in the procession. When G-d desired the camp to move He had the cloud out in front move. This signaled a trumpet blast which signaled all to pack up. Another blast was to begin moving. When the Tribe of Dan heard the first blast of the trumpets, some of them said, “Relax, man. There are 550,000 other people that have to move first. Throw another mon burger on the grill.” Needless to say, before they knew it they were outside of the Ananay Hakavode.
That trumpet blast they took so lightly was a command directly from Hashem. I’m sure we’ve all had people say to us a various times, “Get up”, “Get out of bed”, “Your in my chair”, “Do you mind if I get by?” or just plain, “Move!” If it were G-d doing the talking...you know what I mean? Who wouldn’t listen? Like Rashi said, those weak from sin. Like the verse said, “who did not fear G-d.” But not that the expulsion from the protection of the Ananay Hakavode was a punishment!!! No, no. It was the consequence of their own actions!
Chazal say that the reason we work is to build our belief in G-d. Wouldn’t it be easier to believe in G-d by sitting home and letting the money fall out of the sky? Would work for me. The intellectually honest recognize that the whole system is a joke. All the salesmen from New York fly to Chicago. All the Chicago salesmen fly to New York. Why not everyone stay home and sell? Cause they have to play the game! That’s the point of the game. The money? That’s something else. Non related! I like tinkering with my hands. I fix things. There is no end to how many things can go wrong while repairing. When things go right and I get paid for ‘doing a good job’ it’s a joke! The fixing was a miracle. The ‘good job’ part, that was the joke.
A Reform rabbi once opened a doctors symposium with a joke. The punch line was to the effect of, “G-d cures the patients and the doctors get paid!” The Reform rabbi is laughing cause he doesn’t believe in G-d so, of course, it’s a joke. But the doctor’s are all nodding their heads because they know it’s true! Hashem gives them the illusion of statistics so a patient comes in with symptoms a,b,c and the doctor can say “For a,b,c we do this. Works for most, not for all, we’ll see where you fit in. Hashem wants us to go through the motions. But we have to go through the right motions or Hashem can let us fall prey to the consequences of our own actions! Members of Dan had themselves ejected from the protection of the Ananay Hakavode, ejected from the procession, seemingly ejected from Bnei Yisrael! Along comes Amaleik and attacks them. Rememebr this.
This next thing may knock your socks off. We’ll pause so everyone can tighten their shoe laces.
Last week we had a little vort about the words of a verse which comes AFTER Bnei Yisrael left Egypt in which is written- hold on... Abra cadabra... "4:3> "And Pharaoh says to Bnei Yisrael..." That's a pretty good trick, Pharaoh, talking TO Bnei Yisrael after they've all left! Rashi says 'to' means regarding or about Israel. The Targum Yonasan ben Uziel...informs us, yes, Pharaoh IS talking TO sons of Israel. To 2 sons to be exact! Dasan and Aviram!!! Are these guys wacky or what?" (I didn’t even have to go on line!)
It was explained that the reason these two were not killed in the plague of darkness (with the other 4/5 of Bnei Yisrael who did not want to leave Egypt) was because they had tremendous merit for being the taskmasters... hold on again...alakazam.. "the decree went out that there was to be no more straw but the same number of bricks were expected....production...dropped off and babies were used for bricks. This heinous act did not stop the Egyptians from beating the Jewish taskmasters expecting them to pass this 'motivation' on to their enslaved brethren. The taskmasters, however, did NOT beat their fellow Jew. They took it all themselves."
I explained in the name of the Maharil Diskin that Dasan and Aviram were two of these taskmasters. They gained biiiiiig brownie points as mentioned last week. That wasn’t all they earned. When they finally decided to leave Egypt, the Yam Suf split a second time for them!!!! (Woa! Someone’s sock just knocked over a vase.) The Yam Suf split for Dasan and Aviram a second time! I heard once before, but without a source and then I saw it again in Rav Wolfson’s kuntress but it wasn’t sourced there either. Still, we now have all the pieces for his explanation.
Yisro heard the revelation at Har Sinai since it was heard the world over. Every Jewish soul who ever was, is or will be was there. And Yisro wasn’t! He figures it’s too late! He finally finds what he’s spent his life in search of and he can do nothing about it. Then he hears about Kriyas Yam Suf and Milchemes Amaleik. Not the first Kriyas Yam Suf. The second!!! Not Amaleik’s war on the ejected Jews. G-d’s declared war on Amaleik for attacking the ejected Jews!! Now Yisro says, “Wow! Look what G-d does for His people. Even for the ones who are late?! For the ones who fall behind?! How much does He love even those Jews who’s very own actions seem to deny His dominion?! There must still be a chance for me!!!” And so he came.
As Yisro approached, he began to feel the awesomeness of what it meant to be a Jew. The immensity of the yolk of heaven. So he sent a messenger on ahead, “Moshe. I’m coming to you. But come out to get me because I can turn back any second! Don’t let me lose this opportunity!” As we said before, the letter added to Yisro’s name was a ‘vav’. ‘Vav’ is a letter which means “and”. It denotes and connotes ‘attachment. ‘Mazal Tov, Yisro! You’re in!
Rav Wolfson closes saying that the message is clear in naming the parsha, Yisro. Hashem loves all His children and ‘longs,’ so to speak, for everyone to become attached to Him. He will split seas for you! He will make your enemies, His enemies! But that is up to you. Hashem will love you protected or love you ejected. That choice is yours. And sooooo...
18:7> “Vayaitsay Moshe...”- And Moshe went out to greet Yisro. Rashi says, “What great honor did Yisro receive at that time. Since Moshe went out, Aharon went out and Nadav and Avihu. And who would see these go out and not go out themselves?” Basically, everyone went out to greet Yisro. Rashi, that’s incredible! Because all the verse says is “Vayaitsay Moshe...” Where does he get the simple, contextual explanation of the verse to mean the entire camp emptied out?
The Vilna Gaon heard this question asked in his cheder. He said the answer is from Parshas Vayaitsay! By “Vayaitsay Yitschak” we learn that when a Tsaddik leaves the city, the glory and splendor of the city leaves too. Moshe left the camp. So did it’s splendor! But how? Aharon was still there. There are times the Torah puts Aharon’s name before Moshe’s to show that he was equal if not greater than Moshe in certain ways. He must have gone out too. Now the splendor was gone. But how? Nadav and Avihu were still in the camp. Moshe thought he and Aharon were going to die because Hashem told him the those dear to Him are going to be taken. Nadav and Avihu were taken! It seems the two of them were greater than Moshe and Aharon! They must have left too. And once these four walk out, everyone did! By the way, the Vilna Gaon wasn’t teaching the cheder when he said this. He was in it! He was 4 1/2 years old!
18:7> “And Moshe went to out greet his father-in-law and he bowed and he kissed him and man asked his fellow man how he was and he brought him to his tent.” The Shiras Dovid brings the Targum Yonasan who translates it, “...and he [Moshe] kissed him and he converted him and man asked his fellow man how he was...” The Pairush Yonasan, a commentary on the Targum says that the Targum is focusing on the word “rayayhu”- fellow man. Chazal say that any “rayayhu’ in the Torah refers only to another Jew! It must be that Moshe converted him on the spot!
The Shiras David focuses in on another word, “vayishalu”- asked. Moshe converted him and then asked how he was! He just bowed and kissed him. He couldn’t wait the five extra seconds to ask Yisro how he was?? NO! He couldn’t! The previous verse, (18:6) is one we’ve been talking about, “It’s me, Yisro, I’m coming to you and I’m with the wife and kids!” The Targum Yonasan translates it as , “..I’m coming to convert...” The Pairush says the words “coming to you” are extra! Once Yisro has come that far, you can agree, “It’s me, with the family” would have more sufficed to say which direction he was heading in. To get to the point- a Gemorah in Yevamos says that when a Goy accepts the yolk of Torah it is a mitsvah to convert him immediately. Do not wait! Moshe didn’t.
Accepting the yolk of Torah. That’s what makes a born Jew act Jewish or a non-Jew into a convert. There are Rabbis who associate themselves with Orthodox communities who are now saying the opposite, rachmana litslan! They are taking individual b’di’eved cases from the Shailos and T’shuvos of Rabbonim who have dedicated their lives to Torah and mitzvos and are twisting the sacred words of these Rabbonim into l’chatchila excuses to negate the commitment to Torah as a criteria for conversions! And it’s applicable to the masses! Talk about ejecting ones self from the Ananay Hakavode! We must pray for these Jews. Hashem yirachem!
Getting back to Yisro, the Shiras Dovid says the circumcision and the immersion are an obvious question. One can’t be immersed in a mikvah till the circumcision has healed. The verse in question may include a conversion but to include 5-7 days for healing is a little difficult. The Shiras Dovid offers an answer. Yisro was a descendant of Keturah. (Hagar’s knew name when she remarried Avraham after Sarah’s death.) It can be said that Yisro’s parents maintained the tradition of circumcision and so he just needed a drop of blood drawn to make it a bris- a covenant. This way he could have immersed immediately. Since all Bnei Yisrael immersed before Matan Torah, a mikvah was not a problem.
20:1> “And G-d spoke all these things saying.” This is the introduction to the 10 commandments. Rashi says from this verse we learn that G-d said ALL 10 commandments at once and then they were repeated individually. There is a law in the Tur Shulchan Aruch that if one says the response “Yehay Shmay Rabbah...” of kaddish with all his might then Hashem will tear up any evil decrees against him. The commentary on the Tur, the Beis Yoseph, says that “might”- “koach” has the gematria 28. “Yehay Shmay Rabbah...” is 28 letters long and this verse (20:1) is 28 letters long. (Bonus: The first verse of the Torah is also 28 letters long and all three are 7 words long.) The Beis Yoseph suggest that those who are a little too reserved to say “Yehay Shmay Rabbah...” with all their physical/vocal might can say it with the numeric might. While saying it, have in mind this verse which we learn all 10 commandments from and what the commandments are all about. Our belief and relationship with Hashem, with our parents, with Shabbos and with our fellow man. It might be easier to scream!
Have a screamin’ good Shabbot Shalom!
Back to Parsha Homepage| Previous Issues