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Parshas Yisro - Vol. 12, Issue 17
Compiled by Oizer Alport
The Arizal writes that Moshe was a gilgul (reincarnation) of Hevel and Yisro was a gilgul of Kayin. His student Rav Chaim Vital notes that this is hinted to by the first letters of the words "Ani chosencha Yisro" - I am your father-in-law Yisro - which spell the word "achi" - my brother.
Part of Yisro's mission in this world was to atone for Kayin's sin of killing Hevel, which he did in several ways. He gave his daughter in marriage to a gilgul of Hevel, Moshe, which gave Hevel the descendants that were denied him through his murder (Bereishis 4:10). The sacrifice offered by Kayin did not find favor in Hashem's eyes (Bereishis 4:5), so Yisro corrected this by bringing proper sacrifices to Hashem (18:12), which were enjoyed not just by him, but also by Aharon and the elders of the generation.
Finally, the Chida writes that while the Torah doesn't recount the final conversation between Kayin and Hevel prior to the murder, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel (Bereishis 4:8) records that part of it was Kayin's blasphemous claim that there is no Divine judge or system of justice regarding our actions in this world. His gilgul Yisro rectified this by suggesting to Moshe (18:19-23) the concept of establishing a proper system of courts and judges.
V'shaftu es ha'am b'kol eis es hadavar hakashe y'viun el Moshe (18:26)
When Yisro observed Moshe sitting in judgment from the morning until the evening, he commented that the current arrangement was problematic and would wear Moshe out over time. He advised Moshe to appoint judges to assist him so that he wouldn't have to spend his entire day sitting in judgment.
Recognizing that these judges wouldn't be as capable as Moshe and would inevitably need his assistance, Yisro added that these judges should bring for Moshe's judgment any davar gadol - major matter. However, the Torah relates that Moshe instituted a system in which the judges brought to him any davar kashe - difficult matter. Why did Moshe deviate from Yisro's instructions, and what is the difference between their two approaches?
Rav Chaim Berlin explains that Yisro judged the value and importance of a court case by the amount of money at stake. As such, he advised Moshe that only cases involving large sums of money were worthy of his time and consideration. Moshe, however, understood that the Torah's goal is to promote justice and therefore assigns the same significance to a case involving millions of dollars as it does to one involving only a few cents. In his eyes, the primary determinant of a case deserving of his valuable time and expertise was one which was difficult for the lower judges to resolve.
The seminal event in Parshas Yisro is the giving of the Torah and the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments). The reason for the selection of most of the commandments in the Aseres HaDibros is self-evident, as the obligations to believe in Hashem and observe Shabbos and the prohibitions against idolatry, murder, and adultery all represent fundamental principles in Judaism. However, there is one apparent exception: It is unclear why the prohibition against coveting other people's possessions is considered so central to Jewish belief and practice that it warranted such lofty status. While not being jealous of others is certainly an important and quality to inculcate within oneself, it seems to pale in cosmic significance relative to the other nine commandments. Even more astonishingly, Rav Chaim Vital writes that as the tenth and final commandment in the Aseres HaDibros, the prohibition against coveting is a culmination of the nine commandments that precede it, and it is equal in weight to all of them combined. What is so fundamental and religiously significant about not being jealous of others?
Rav Menachem Recanati explains that a person who covets someone else's possessions is in essence admitting that he does not really believe in Hashem, because a person who truly believes in the existence of an omniscient and all-powerful G-d Who cares about each of His creations and wants to benefit them will automatically understand that Hashem gave him the spouse, job, and house that he needs at this point in his life, and if he does not have something, it is because Hashem knows that it is ultimately not in his best interest.
Rav Eliyahu Dessler gives a beautiful mashal (parable) to illustrate this concept. He notes that while there are countless objects of which a person could be jealous, there is one item that nobody would ever covet: another person's glasses. As attractive as they may appear on another person's face, we intuitively recognize that the prescription in the lenses is uniquely tailored to that person's eyes, and even if the glasses would enhance our appearance, they would distort our vision because they are not compatible with our eyes. Similarly, everything that a person receives as his lot in life is Hashem's custom "prescription" for his neshama (soul), and just as we understand that somebody else's glasses would not fit our eyes, so too we should strive to internalize the belief that anything that belongs to somebody else, as appealing and enticing as it may appear, would not "fit" our neshama.
From this perspective, we can now appreciate that a person who is jealous of others is lacking in emunah and bitachon (faith and trust in Hashem). The belief that every component of our lives is governed by Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence) is so fundamental that the mitzvah that most embodies it was placed at the conclusion of the Aseres HaDibros to encapsulate the first nine commandments. Rav Zev Smith remarked that the Aseres HaDibros begin, "I am Hashem, your G-d," which is emunah b'machshavah - mental belief in Hashem, and it concludes, "Thou shall not covet," which is emunah l'ma'aseh - faith in Hashem in practice. The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) made it easier for us to work on strengthening ourselves in this area, as one of the morning blessings they coined is she'asa li kol tzarki - in which we thank Hashem daily for fulfilling all of our needs.
For those who find themselves struggling with feelings of jealousy and unable to uproot them by working on their emunah, the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, offers another suggestion. In commanding us not to covet other people's possessions, the Torah says, "You shall not covet your friend's house; you shall not covet your friend's wife, his servant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, and all that belongs to your friend." After enumerating his house, his family, and his possessions, the final expression - "all that belongs to your friend" - seems somewhat superfluous. What is coming to add? The Satmar Rebbe suggests this this phrase was appended to allude to a technique that can enable us to overcome feelings of jealousy. If we find ourselves coveting some tantalizing aspect of another person's life, be it his family, his job, his house and car, or his vacations, we should focus on the fact that it is part of a package deal. Nobody enjoys a perfect life, and together with the areas of that person's life that we wish we could have for ourselves, there are also many other less desirable facets that would cause us extreme pain and agony.
Human nature is to flaunt the areas in which we excel, while attempting to conceal the parts that are undesirable, a trend which has been exacerbated in the era of Facebook and Instagram. Rav Dessler suggests that if every person in the world placed his entire peckel (package) and lot in life on a table, warts and all, and we were given permission to examine each package and select any one we like for ourselves, after discovering what lies behind the fa?ade of the glamour and wealth that we see around us, every person would ultimately place them all back on the table and happily choose to return to his own peckel. This is because each person's lot in life is tailor-made for him by Hashem, Who knows what his life mission is and what tools and abilities he needs to successfully fulfill it, as well as what challenges and struggles. The Satmar Rebbe explains that the Torah adds the expression "all that belongs to your friend" to teach us that if we find ourselves feeling jealous, we should focus on the big picture, on "all that belongs to your friend," and remember that there are many other aspects of his life that are far inferior to ours, and in this way, we will be able to feel gratitude and appreciation to Hashem for all of our blessings.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) 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)
2) In the Pesach Haggadah, we say that if Hashem had brought us before Mount Sinai, but not given us the Torah, it would have been enough for us. What would have been the benefit of coming to Mount Sinai if Hashem did not give us the Torah? (HaSeder HaAruch pg. 414-415, Nesivos Rabboseinu, Mishmeres Ariel)
3) 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 ّهمَ - pursuer - whom one is permitted to kill if necessary in order to save Reuven's life? (Minchas Chinuch 34:13)
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