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Vol. 4 No. 17
Undoubtedly, the most important event in the history of the world was the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, nor has the world ever witnessed an event which made a greater impact or that had further reaching consequences. Indeed, it was the only occasion in history that Hashem presented Himself to any nation or communicated with them directly. Consider also, the tremendous build-up to Matan-Torah, played out against a background of pomp and ceremony so awesome that it almost defies the imagination; the gradually increasing tone of the Shofar, the thick clouds covering Har Sinai, continual thunder and lightning (although there was no rain), the three day separation of the men from their wives, the fencing off of Har Sinai and the mounting excitement as Moshe Rabeinu ascended the Mountain daily, carrying Divine instructions to the people and their replies to Hashem. The Torah can hardly be describing the impending enactment of anything other than a world-shattering event of unique proportions.
Ma'amad Har Sinai deeply affected not only Klal Yisroel, but also all the world's nations. The accompanying thunder and lightning (like the crossing of the Reed-Sea that had only recently taken place), were experienced throughout the world. Indeed the Medrash relates, and when the various nations, fearing another flood, sent delegates to the renowned statesman and leader, Bil'om, asking him for advice, he replied simply: "Hashem is giving strength (Torah) to His people", whereupon they proclaimed: "Hashem should bless His people with peace". Yet Ma'amad Har Sinai went much further than just to create a profound momentary impact on the people of the time. It changed drastically the future destiny of Klal Yisrael as the "Am Segulah" (Hashem's treasured nation) and by virtue of the other nations' reaction to that choice and of the subsequent new triple relationship - Hashem, Yisroel and Torah - the destiny of the other nations was irrevocably changed too.
For the first time in history, a nation forged direct links with the Creator of the world, who provided them with a strong means of communication with Him through prophecy and through prayer. For the first time the concept of Divine Supervision (Hashgochoh Klolis) over a whole nation was introduced. This in turn, was triggered off by the presentation of a Divine constitution, and was governed by its implementation on the part of Klal Yisroel themselves.
And this direct communication, made possible by introducing two new functional institutions - prophecy and Torah - was to cause our life-style to undergo a complete transformation; from now on, we became bound to do His will, and He became our Supreme Master, undertaking to provide for all our needs and to protect us with a homeland, a homeland which would fall directly under His own personal supervision. The strength or weakness of this personal relationship would lie in our hands and would be governed by our own loyalty to our new Master, (or by our lack of it) - but it would never be broken.
Perhaps the most striking fact of all is that the Revelation of Hashem to Klal Yisroel took place before the very eyes of a few million people and, as we mentioned earlier, the entire world was aware of it. Nobody denied Ma'amad Har Sinai, indeed nobody could deny Ma'amad Har Sinai, because assuming Ma'amad Har Sinai was false, how could one possibly introduce such a fact into the annals of history. The fact is that Ma'amad Har Sinai has no challengers. It did take place and it must have taken place. Whatever the claims of the other nations, we continue to be the treasured nation of Hashem. If anything, our continued existence as a nation in the face of the numerous attempts at genocide, by a variety of nations, is clear proof that our status has not changed. All that is required to revert to our close relationship with Hashem is that we strengthen our ties with Him. Then, in accordance with the covenant made at Har Sinai, He will strengthen His ties with us, and peace and prosperity will be ours for ever.
And this is the meaning of our new title - the "Am Segulah".
GEMS FROM THE PARSHAH (Yisro)
Adapted from the Gro
Remember the Shabbos!
"Remember the Shabbos day... Six days you shall serve and do all your work. But the seventh day is Shabbos for Hashem ... Do not perform any work " etc.
The possuk of "Six days you shall work" appears to be redundant - since when is it a mitzvah, asks the Gro, to work on the six days, and besides, how do we understand "all your work" in that possuk and "any work", at the end of the quotation?
In answer to these questions, the Gro quotes a Gemoro in Shabbos (69b). The Gemoro says that a traveller who loses his sense of time and forgets when Shabbos is, should count six days from the time he realises his doubts, and keep the seventh day as Shabbos (to make Kiddush, etc.). However, he is only permitted to do whatever he needs to keep alive - both during the six days and on his Shabbos - no more than that. And it is this halochoh to which the Torah is hinting here. "Remember the Shabbos day!" the Torah is warning. Don't forget which day is Shabbos, because then you will be able to do all your work. (And what is more, the seventh day will be Shabbos for Hashem not just an arbitrary one for you - added to the Gro's explanation). And then, you will also be able to observe Shabbos properly, to ensure that you do not perform any work.
Do Not Murder
"Lo tirzoch!" (with a "komatz") That is the way the word is written in the Ta'am Ho'elyon - the way we read it on Shevu'os, whereas on Shabbos Parshas Yisro we read "Lo tirzach" (with a "patach").
The Gro points out that "komatz" means "closed" and "patach" means "open", and he explains the significance of this change (by way of a hint) with a Gemoro in Avodoh Zoroh (19b), which, explaining a possuk in Mishlei, comments that there are two types of murderers among talmidei-chachomim: the one who issues rulings when he is not competent to do so (he opens his mouth when he should not), and the other who refrains from issuing rulings when he does have the competence to do so (he keeps his mouth closed when he should not).
History of the World ( Part 29)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)
Amrom has died by this time (according to Chazal). Moshe, aged 24. remains in the camp of Kukyonus, King of Kush. He is extremely popular because of his exceptional character, his fine looks and outstanding strength. He is appointed advisor to the king.
Kukyonus dies and Moshe is crowned King of Kush. In his wisdom, he counters Bil'om's magic and recaptures the capital city. Bil'om, together with his three sons and eight brothers, flees to Par'oh, King of Egypt. Par'oh is 55 and the Jews have been in Egypt for 157 years, when Moshe is crowned King of Kush. He is given the ex-queen as a wife, though he neither touches her nor even looks at her. He will rule for forty years. There is a major earthquake in Bovel and many die.
Yehoshua bin Nun is born.
Kolev ben Yefuneh is born. He will marry Miriam, and they will give birth to Chur. He will also marry Bisyoh, the daughter of Par'oh, whose name he will change to Yehudis.
After the death of Amrom, Elitzofon ben Parnoch (who will be the Prince of Zevulun when they enter Eretz Yisroel) marries her (according to some opinions), and they have two sons called Eldod and Meidod (see Targum Yonoson, Ba'midbor 11:26).
Shaul King of Edom dies. He is succeeded by Ba'al Chonon ben Achbor, who rules for 38 years. In his days Mo'av, which has been under the rule of Edom since the days of Hadad ben Bedad, rebels and gains its independence.
Angiyas King of Africa dies and Azdrubel his son succeeds him.
Yaniyus, King of the B'nei Kittim, dies and Ti'anus his son rules in his stead, for 45 years.
Thirty thousand strong men from the tribe of Ephrayim (others say 200,000) leave Egypt, thirty years before the Exodus. Relying on their strength, they take with them no provisions, only silver and gold. Arriving in Gas (one of the major Plishti towns on the west coast of Eretz Yisroel) they try to force the shepherds that they meet there, to sell them the animals under their care. The shepherds call out for help. The men of Gas come to their aid, and a battle ensues. They send messengers throughout the land of P'lishtim and the following day 40,000 Plishti warriors arrive. Although they kill 24,000 men, the starving men of Ephrayim, who have not eaten for three days, are no match for the Plishtim, and they are annihilated, all except for ten men who escape, and make their way back to Egypt. This is their punishment for forcing their way out of golus prematurely. Their bones are left scattered around the valley of Gas (according to some, they are the dry bones that Yechezkel will later bring back to life).
The ten survivors tell their brothers in Egypt all that transpired. Ephrayim their father mourns for them for a long time. The following year, his wife bears him a son called Briy'oh.
Chur (son of Kolev and Miriam) is born..
In the fortieth year of Moshe's reign of Kush, the queen complains to the leaders of Kush about Moshe's abstinence and how he does not worship their gods. It would be far more suitable, she suggests, for Mankerim her eldest son to rule over Kush. The leaders agree, so they crown Mankerim, son of Kukyonus. Out of respect for Moshe, they give him many gifts and send him away with great honour.
Moshe is 67 when he leaves Kush. He goes to Midyon. When Yisro hears that Moshe is a fugitive, he imprisons him for ten years. Unknown to her father, Tziporah, Yisro's daughter, feeds him during that time. When he is set free, Moshe marries her.
Par'oh is stricken with tzora'as. They slaughter one Jewish child per day, for Par'oh to bathe in his blood and become cured. But the plague only gets worse. He suffers for ten years, and Hashem adds a terrible plague of boils and stomach pains.
Two servants return from Goshen and report that the Jews are not working properly. Par'oh ascribes their "laziness" to his illness, so in spite of his suffering, he decies to travel to Goshen. However on the way, his chariot overturns and falls on him. He is carried back to Egypt with torn flesh and broken bones.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HAFTORAH(Yisro)
(Yeshayoh 6: 1-7:6 & 9:5-6)
This week's Haftorah, chronologically speaking, opens the book of Yeshayoh. It describes the Novi's vision of G-d's throne and the angels which surrounded it, and it took place in Yeshayoh's first year of prophecy, the same year in fact, as King Uziyah was stricken with tzora'as for assuming the role of Cohen Godol and entering the Kodesh Kodoshim. Indeed, some commentaries explain that the Heavenly Court convened for the purpose of judging Uziyah, and they found him guilty.
When we lein the Aseres Ha'dibros on Shevu'os, we read another Haftorah of a similar nature - namely, that of the Ma'aseh ha'Merkovoh of Yechezkel. There too, Yechezkel describes his vision of G-d's throne and the angels that surrounded it. The contrast however, between the two descriptions is striking. Yechezkel's description is far more vivid and detailed than Yeshayoh's, which appears almost casual in contrast. One may well at first, be led to believe that Yechezkel's prophecy was far more intense than that of Yeshayoh. Perhaps he was even a greater Novi than his colleague. Yet the exact opposite is true. Chazal write that Yeshayoh can be compared to a city-dweller, for whom magnificent buildings are a common sight. He does not get excited whenever he sees a tall sky-scraper, whereas Yechezkel resembles a villager, who has never seen a sky-scraper. Naturally, the first time he comes across such a tall building, he cannot stop telling his friends about his amazing experience. Yechezkel Ha'novi was simply not used to such visions. Consequently, when he was shown one, he became overwhelmed by it, and needed to record it in all its detail. For Yeshayoh, however, such visions were a daily occurrence, so he felt no urge to describe it in detail.
At Har Sinai, the Shechinah came to rest on the mountain, together with twenty-two thousand chariots (some say groups) of angels (Tehillim 68:18). After the Chet ho'Eigel, this Hashro'as Ha'Shechinah moved to the confined and enclosed space of the Mishkon (Ramban). Incidentally, the Medrash Tehillim writes how the number twenty-two thousand corresponds to the tribe of Levi, who did not sin at the Chet ho'Eigel.
The Haftorah also speaks of the trembling of the doorposts of the Heychal, due to the voices of the angels, as well as the House filling with smoke. Similar expressions are used at Har Sinai, due to the appearance of the Shechinah. And perhaps Yeshayoh's fear that he would die because he had beheld the Shechinah (6:5 - Rashi) can be compared to a similar expression of fear on the part of Yisroel at Har Sinai (20:16). Indeed, according to Chazal, their Neshomos actually left their bodies and Hashem had to perform an act of Techiyas ha'Meisim in order to revive them.
G-d also sent Yeshayoh to tell the people that they had "hardened their hearts, closed their ears and shut their eyes" from listening to Him, and that if they would only "see with their eyes, listen with their ears and understand with their hearts, then they would do teshuvah and be healed." Now this is really one aspect of Kabbolas Ha'Torah. The Gro explains it like this: the "seeing of the eyes" refers to the written Torah, the "listening of the ears" to the oral Torah and the" understanding of the heart" to the secrets of Torah.
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