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 Parshas Yisro - Vol. 5, Issue 17
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayavo Yisro chosen Moshe u’banav v’ishto el Moshe (18:5)

After hearing about the miracles that Hashem performed for the Jewish people at the Red Sea and in the battle against Amalek, Yisro came to convert and join the Jewish people, bringing Moshe’s wife Tzipporah and two children together with him. Why did Moshe wait for Yisro and his family to come on their own to rejoin him instead of sending a messenger inviting and encouraging them to come?

The Alter of Novhardok explains that when it comes to “kiruv” (Jewish outreach), a person will only be successful if the other party is open and prepared to hearing what he has to say. Before miraculously humiliating the false prophets of the Baal at Har HaCarmel, Eliyahu HaNavi first rebuked the Jews (Melochim 1 18:21), “How much longer will you continue straddling both sides of the fence?”

The Alter explains that even though Eliyahu was about to perform open miracles which would result in a tremendous Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem’s name), he understood that if the people weren’t in the right mindset, his efforts would be in vain. He therefore prepared the people to be swayed and influenced by delivering words of chastisement and rebuke.

Similarly, Moshe was aware that the entire world heard of the miraculous events surrounding the Exodus from Egypt. He recognized that if Yisro wasn’t inspired to come on his own, that would be an indication that he wasn’t open and prepared to be influenced, and there would unfortunately be no purpose in sending for him.


Vayichan sham Yisroel neged ha’har (19:2)

Rashi notes that when the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai, they encamped k’ish echad b’lev echad – like one person with one heart in a beautiful demonstration of national achdus (unity). The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh adds that this was a necessary prerequisite for receiving the Torah. However, it is difficult to understand what makes this so unique, as Rashi himself writes (Shemos 14:10) that the Egyptians pursued the Jews to the Red Sea with a similar display of harmony – b’lev echad k’ish echad.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner explains that there is a fundamental difference between the achdus of the Jews and that of other nations, which is subtly hinted to by Rashi. The Jewish people are intrinsically connected as part of one large entity, whereas the members of other nations are fundamentally disassociated and out for their own personal interests. Only when their individual desires coincide do they team up in pursuit of a common goal, but not because of any deep bond. As soon as their goals inevitably diverge, they will go their separate ways.

A close reading of Rashi reveals that while he used the same expression to describe the Jews at Mount Sinai and the Egyptians at the Red Sea, he carefully reversed the order to make this very point. The Egyptians didn’t have any true unity. For a brief moment, they were united with one heart (b’lev echad) in a common desire to recapture their fleeing slaves, and they therefore pursued them as one (k’ish echad). The Jewish people, on the other hand, are intrinsically bound together as one person (k’ish echad), and one person automatically has only one heart (b’lev echad).


Vayikra elav Hashem min hahar lemor ko somar l’Beis Yaakov v’saged livnei Yisroel (19:3)

Sarah Schenirer immortalized our verse in coining the name “Bais Yaakov” for schools for girls. In referring to the men, the Torah uses the phrase the “sons” of Israel. Why when discussing the women does it use the phrase the “house” of Yaakov when “daughters” would seem to be the appropriate parallel?

Rav Meir Shapiro explains that when a person becomes ill, there are hypothetically two ways for a doctor to treat him. The standard procedure is to prescribe medication, although another theoretical option would be to design a room in which the air is saturated with the appropriate antibiotic. The first option has the drawbacks that it only helps one patient and requires active administration, whereas the latter could benefit many people without any effort on their parts.

Similarly, in fighting the universal illness known as the yetzer hara (evil inclination), men follow the prescription of the Gemora (Kiddushin 30b) to repel it through Torah study. Although the latter option isn’t currently feasible for medical purposes, Jewish women nevertheless use it to ward off spiritual illness. As the backbones of the family, they imbue the entire home with an atmosphere of holiness and spirituality. This automatically benefits not only themselves, but also their husbands, children, and all who are fortunate to enter their homes.

This is alluded to in a well-known verse (Mishlei 1:8) “Shema b’ni mussar avicha v’al titosh toras imecha” – Listen my son to the rebuke of your father, and don’t forsake the teachings of your mother. Shlomo HaMelech found it necessary to instruct a person to listen to the lessons of his father, while a mother’s wisdom permeates the very air of her house and is absorbed without any effort. It is to teach and emphasize this idea that the Torah refers to the women not as the daughters of Yaakov but as the house of Yaakov.


Lo sa’asun iti elohei chesef veilohei zahav lo sa’asu lachem (20:20)

On a literal level, our verse prohibits the creation of idols or celestial images from gold and silver. However, Rabbeinu Bechaye suggests an alternative, and rather original, reading which is all too relevant for our generation. The word “iti” – with me – in the verse seems to be superfluous, as Hashem is everywhere and this prohibition is applicable in all places and at all times.

Our verse can also be understood as referring to the time when a person is “with Me,” which is when he is standing before Hashem in prayer. It is regarding the times that a person is praying that the Torah warns him against thinking about his gold and silver or the modern-day equivalent – his business and financial affairs – as whoever does so is considered to have actually made idolatrous gods of gold and silver


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Rashi writes (18:1) that upon hearing of the splitting of the Red Sea and the battle against Amalek, Yisro came to join Moshe and the Jewish people in the wilderness. Why did he wait to hear about the war with Amalek instead of coming immediately after the miracles at the Red Sea, and why did a war impress him more than all of the miracles at the Red Sea? (Yirah V’Daas)

2)     When Yisro observed Moshe judging the Jewish people the entire day, he questioned why Moshe needed to do so. Moshe responded that the people come to him to rule on their disputes (18:13-16). How was Moshe able to judge the people when his speech impediment was considered a disfigurement (4:10), and the Gemora in Sanhedrin (36b) rules that a person with a disfigurement is ineligible to serve as a judge? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 12, Chavatzeles HaSharon)

3)     The Jewish people told Moshe (19:8) that everything that Hashem has spoken, “na’aseh” – we will do. How could any individual Jew respond that he will do all of the mitzvos when there are numerous mitzvos which can only be performed by specific subsections of the population and no single person is capable of doing all of the mitzvos himself? (Genuzos HaGra)

4)     If Reuven asks Shimon to kill him, it is forbidden for Shimon to do so, and if he does so in the presence of witnesses who give him proper warning, he is put to death for violating the prohibition against murder (20:13). Although prohibited, if Shimon is preparing to kill Reuven at Reuven’s request, is he legally considered a rodef (pursuer) whom one is permitted to kill if necessary in order to save Reuven’s life? (Minchas Chinuch 34:13)

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