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Parshat Yitro

PARSHA ON PARADE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY
OF MY DEAR FATHER AND REBBI:
HARAV HAGAON RAV YESHAYA SHIMANOWITZ Z'TZL ,
ROSH YESHIVA
IN
YESHIVAS RABAINU YAAKOV YOSEF
(RABBI JACOB JOSEPH YESHIVA - RJJ)
IN NYC FOR OVER 23 YEARS.
NIFTAR ON 20 ADAR 5758 - MARCH 18, 1998.
MAY HE BE A MAYLITZ YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL

AND

MY DEAR MOTHER
REBITZEN BRACHA ETEL SHIMANOWITZ A'H
WHO DEVOTED HER ENTIRE LIFE TO MY FATHER AND HIS TORAH,
NIFTERA ON 21 TEVET 5770 - WED EVE. JANUARY 6, 2010.
MAY SHE BE A MAYLITZA YOSHER FOR ALL OF KLAL YISROEL
.

Menachim Z. Shimanowitz

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For further info, click here.

PARSHA
FACTS

NUMBER OF MITZVOT: 17
(14 of 17 are within the Aseret HaDibrot)
3 MITZVOT ASEH (POSITIVE COMMANDMENT)
14 MITZVOT LO TAASEH (NEGATIVE COMMANDMENT - PROHIBITION)

NUMBER OF PESUKIM (SENTENCES): 75
Many Chumashim print the number of pesukim at the end of the Sidra. In Yitro's case, the number is AYIN-BET or 72 pesukim. The discrepancy is due to different ways of counting the Aseret HaDibrot. The Aseret HaDibrot consists of 13 pesukim. However, when they are read as Statements, rather than pesukim, there are only 10. Similarly, the Aseret HaDibrot is comprised of 10 parshiot. That's probably where the other 3 pesukim went.

NUMBER OF WORDS: 1104

NUMBER OF LETTERS: 4022

HAFTORA: (Additional portion, from Prophets, which is read after the Parsha)
Yeshaya
/ Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6
(Ashkenazim);
Yeshaya / Isaiah 6:1-13 (Sepharadim)

פרשת יתרו
THE
PARSHA
In our last episode Hashem took the Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim with great miracles and marvels. He also finished off the Egyptian army once and for all, drowning the soldiers and their horses in the Yam Suf. The Eirev Rav (remember those troublemakers?), who instigated a protest on the edge of the sea did teshuva (repent). But it only took three days for them to lose faith again. First over water, then over food and meat, and finally when Amalek attacked. Hashem took care of all these problems by introducing "the well of Miriam," the "Mann," the "Slav" birds, and "arming" Bnei Yisroel against Amalek.

THE
IN-LAWS
ARE
COMING

As our Parsha opens, word of the miraculous exodus and Bnei Yisroel's victory over Amalek has reached Midyan and fallen on the ears of Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law. For the past year, while Moshe was in Egypt, freeing the Jewish slaves, his wife, Tziporah and their two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, have lived safely in Yitro's house. Now that the Bnei Yisroel are closing in on Sinai, near the Midyanite territory, Yitro takes Moshe's family for a reunion with the "shepherd gone national leader."

When they reach the Cloud of glory they discover it is as hard as a rock. Yitro is not able to penetrate the mist because he is not yet a part of Bnei Yisroel, (he has not yet converted). So he sends a letter with an arrow into the Cloud of glory telling Moshe that his family has arrived. Hashem allows this arrow to go thru and get to Moshe. Moshe, Aharon and all the Seventy Zekainim, followed by all of Bnei Yisroel leave the Cloud of glory to greet Yitro.

Moshe tells Yitro all the details of the miracles that Hashem has brought about for Bnei Yisroel: the makot (plagues), the splitting of the Yam Suf, the "well of Miriam," the Mann, the slav and the victory over Amalek. Yitro is so ecstatic that he insists upon having a brit milah (circumcision) right then and there, becoming a ger (convert) and accepting Hashem's mitzvot upon himself. He offers Karbanot (sacrifices) to Hashem, and sits down with Aharon and the Zekainim to have a meal, with humble Moshe serving the guests.


MAY I
MAKE A
SUGGESTION?

As Moshe's father-in-law, Yitro is able to observe up close the day-in-day-out work of Bnei Yisroel's great leader. Every morning, Moshe wakes up to a line that extends around the block of people who need to speak with him. They've got questions about how to fulfill mitzvot, requests for a bracha (blessing), they need a judge to settle a dispute, and all kinds of trivial questions. (Apparently Moshe's never heard of delegating authority).

Along comes Yitro with some excellent advice: "You got your 70 Zekainim (Elders) sitting silently on the sidelines all day while the lines get longer and longer! Let's put those 70 smart men to work." What an idea! The Zekainim can be judges for the highest courts and then there can be judges appointed for lower courts. The people can go to the regular courts for all their basic problems. Then, if the case gets too complicated, it will be sent to a higher court judged by one of the Zekainim. If the Zekainim still can't come up with a ruling, then Moshe finally deals with the case.

Moshe likes what he hears. But he asks Hashem for permission before he implements the plan. Hashem gives the okay and Yitro's plan of action goes into effect, and immediately clears the bait-din pipeline.


HIS
PRESCENCE
WILL BE
COMIN
AROUND
THE
MOUNTAIN

Matan Torah On the first of Sivan, two and a half months after Yetziat Mitzrayim, Bnei Yisroel arrives at the foot of Har (Mt.) Sinai. For the next five days they will prepare for the most awesome and defining moment in Jewish history. The air is filled with excitement. It's got a far reaching effect. (You might say that the next four days were probably the only time in Jewish history that Jews stopped fighting amongst each other!)

Moshe goes up to the summit of Har Sinai the next morning. He returns with an important message from Hashem. The Bnei Yisroel have been chosen to be Hashem's special people from among all the nations of the earth. But the catch is that Bnei Yisroel must accept Hashem's commandments. If Bnei Yisroel ever abandon those mitzvot, they will be punished.

Moshe turns to the Zekainim and asks, "Do you want to accept Hashem's mitzvot?" Before the Elders can give a response, the entire Bnei Yisroel responds together "Na'aseh V'Nishma" ("We will do and we will hear") meaning "whatever Hashem brings on, we will accept."

Moshe plans to be the middleman between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. Hashem will give the laws to Moshe and Moshe will repeat them to Bnei Yisroel. But Bnei Yisroel isn't happy with these plans. They are longing to hear the voice of Hashem.

So Moshe makes his way back up to the mountain and tells Hashem (like he didn't already know) that the Bnei Yisroel will accept His mitzvot, and he requests direct contact between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. Hashem agrees.

On the fourth day of Sivan, Moshe is commanded to make a border around Har Sinai. The Bnei Yisroel are instructed not to cross the line once the Shechina (His presence) rests on its summit. From then on, the mountain will be holy ground. The Jews are instructed to immerse themselves and their clothes in a mikveh. Three days later Hashem will speak to Bnei Yisroel.

On the sixth day of Sivan, (a Shabbat,) Bnei Yisroel wakes to the loud claps of thunder. They are instructed not to go past the border on Har Sinai because today the mountain will become holy ground. Streaks of lightning and smoky fire add to the awesome atmosphere. Then the sound of a shofar grows louder and louder and terror grips the hearts of the people. Forget about getting too close to the mountain - the people inch back further and further from Har Sinai.

Moshe senses the fear and calls out calmly for Bnei Yisroel to move closer. Suddenly the entire mountain is uprooted and Hashem holds the mountain over the heads of Klal Yisroel. The dirt and rock turn to crystal and Bnei Yisroel look up through the transparent terrain. The Heavens are ripped open and it is plain to see that there is none other than Hashem, ruler of all creation.

The voice of Hashem calls out to the entire Bnei Yisroel, "Either you accept the Torah from Me or else you will be buried here!" So frightened are the Bnei Yisroel that each person does teshuva for every sin he has ever committed. Then in one voice the entire Klal cries out "Na'aseh V'Nishma" - we will do (whatever mitzvah) we will hear." With this Hashem dispatches an army of malachim (angels) to heal the wounds that have crippled many of the Bnei Yisroel wounded during the years of slavery.


AN OUT
OF BODY
EXPERIENCE

Aseret Hadibrot And now the moment of truth - the very voice of Hashem Yisborach is to be encountered by His servants, Klal Yisroel ... In a single utterance Hashem gives Bnei Yisroel all ten commandments at once. The heavens and earth tremble, trees fall over and rivers reverse their course.

Once the people regain some composure, Hashem backtracks and slowly repeats the first of the "Aseret HaDibrot" (ten commandments): "I am Hashem, your G-d, who took you out of Mitzrayim." The words of Hashem fill the souls of Bnei Yisroel with such joy that their neshamot (souls) leave their bodies and the bodies fall to the ground dead. Hashem directs these elated neshamot back to their bodies and at once the corpses come back to life.

The voice of Hashem speaks the second commandment, "You shall have no other gods but me." Like the effect of the first commandment, it's as if Hashem has kissed the neshamot of Bnei Yisroel. Again the neshamot of the people depart and ascend to shamayim (heaven). Again Hashem restores the neshamot of Bnei Yisroel and the corpses awaken beneath the crystal terrain of Har Sinai.

Although their neshamot yearn for the voice of Hashem to reach out once again, their bodies are of the opinion that "twice is nice, but three strikes and we may be out." They beg Moshe to be the middleman once again. Hashem goes along with the plan. He gives over to Moshe the other eight commandments and Moshe repeats them to the Bnei Yisroel.


THE TOP TEN


  1. I am the L-rd, your G-d who took you out from the land of Mitzrayim (Egypt).

Anochi
  1. The first of the Aseret HaDibrot is to recognize with all your heart and mind that Hashem is the one who created the entire universe. He knows everything and controls everything. When Hashem took the Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim he showed His great power and His love for the Jewish people. To be a servant to Hashem is a great privilege.


  2. You shall have no other gods before me.

    Since the times before the flood people made a mistake by believing in Hashem as the Creator but praying to other forces of nature like the sun or planets or angels. This eventually led to a wicked world where Hashem was forgotten. Here, Hashem makes it clear that one may not serve any god or force of nature. One must only serve Hashem.


  3. You shall not take the name of the L-rd, your G-d in vain.

    Even the name "Hashem" or "G-d" should be used sparingly. And you certainly mustn't swear in Hashem's name falsely.


  4. Remember the Shabbat day and keep it holy.

    Shabbat Shabbat is a special gift given to the Jewish people. Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. On Shabbat we are not permitted to work.

    During the week we count down to Shabbat. Did you ever notice that in the Hebrew language there are no names for the days of the week, (Sunday, Monday, etc...). Instead, the week is split up into six days leading up to Shabbat. The first day (Sunday) is called "the first day of the week leading up to Shabbat." The second day (Monday) is called "the second day of the week leading up to Shabbat." etc.. etc.. Because it is a Mitzva to prepare all week for the upcoming Shabbat. There are many examples in the Talmud of sages who would prepare for Shabbat every day of the week, choosing the finest foods, silver and clothing and saving them for the Shabbat.


  5. Honor your Father and your Mother.

    HonorHonor your parents - that makes good sense, doesn't it? Our parents give us everything. They worry about us 24 hours a day. Who else would buy you clothes, feed you, let you hang around on their property. It is important that we treat our parents with great respect. We must do whatever our parents ask us to. The Torah tells us that whoever honors his or her parents will be rewarded with long life.


  6. You shall not murder.

    It is forbidden for a Jew to commit murder. Our sages warned that the Bait Hamikdash would be destroyed and Hashem's Shechina would leave Eretz Yisroel if Jews commit murder.


  7. You shall not commit adultery.

    A Jew must remember that marriage is a special bracha from Hashem. When a Jewish man and woman get married they are bonded with Hashem. If, chas v'shalom, (heaven forbid) anyone comes between a man and woman who are married they will be cursed.


  8. You shall not steal.

    The very foundation of community depends on whether or not you can trust your neighbor not to ride off with your bike or pick tomatoes from your garden without your permission. Someone who steals is saying they don't want to be a trusted part of the community.


  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

    Truth is another building block. Especially in court. You've got to be able to count on witnesses to tell the truth. Even among friends, those little lies that we think of as good fun are really wrong.The Torah warns us not to let false witnesses get away with lying, otherwise Hashem will turn away from Eretz Yisroel. No rain will fall and drought will result in a terrible famine.


  10. You shall not want what your neighbor has.

    The Aseret HaDibrot wrap up with a warning against wanting things that belong to other people. If your friend owes a bike or a baseball card that you really like you're not allowed to push him to give it to you. You've got to learn to be satisfied with that which Hashem has given to you. Jealousy leads to all kinds of terrible averot (sins). Once you learn to be happy with what you've got, you can truly keep the first commandment - understanding that everything belongs to Hashem. Only then will you know with all your heart and soul that Hashem rules all creation.

These are the Aseret Hadibrot - the 10 Commandments that are the basis of all the laws of the Torah!

TWO MORE
MITZVOT
TAG ALONG

Right after Moshe finishes off the Aseret HaDibrot, Hashem adds in two more mitzvot. The first is an add-on to the second of the Aseret Hadibrot: Not only may you not worship any gods in addition to Hashem, but even making images of people, angels, the sun and other potential "ungodly" candidates are forbidden. That way a Jew won't fall into the idolatry trap.

The second mitzvah has to do with building a mizbayach (altar). Here are the details: First and foremost, a mizbayach must always be built on the ground, for you can't put it on pillars or on top of a building. You also can't make stairs leading up to the mizbayach.


Tune in next week when the laws and mitzvot of Hashem continue to pour out of the Summit of Har Sinai in the next exciting episode of:
Parsha on Parade

Midrash Maven
See the Midrash Mavin on Yitro


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