Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 11   No. 17

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Soroh Miriam bas R'Moshe Pinchas z.l. (10th Sh'vat)
Pesel Feigel bas R'Chayim Elisha z.l. (14th Shvat)
Moshe Ya'akov b'R'Moshe Shlomoh z.l. (24th Sh'vat)

Parshas Yisro

Yisro's Arrival and Departure

The Medrash Tanchuma assumes that Yisro arrived only after Matan Torah, and he bases this on the Pasuk in Mishlei (14:19) "The heart knows its own bitterness, and when it rejoices, no stranger will participate". In other words, when Yisrael, who suffered so terribly in Egypt, rejoiced at Har Sinai, no stranger has the right to rejoice with them.

Others however, maintain that Yisro arrived before Matan Torah, which, from a chronological point of view, is more accurate. Rashi comments that irrespective of when Yisro arrived, he did not leave until the second year, as the Torah records in Beha'aloscha (10:30), because, he argues, if he left before Matan Torah, where do we find that he returned? The Rosh, citing Rashi, based on a Pasuk in Mishlei, queries those who learn that Yisro arrived before Matan Torah. If he did not suffer with Yisrael in Egypt, he asks, what justification did he have to be present at their moment of glory at Har Sinai?


The question (like the Medrash Tanchuma) is puzzling, because if only those who suffered in Egypt were entitled to be at Har Sinai, what was the tribe of Levi doing there? And even assuming that Levi were different, seeing as they were, after all, an integral part of Yisrael, most of whom did suffer in Egypt, the question nevertheless remains with regard to the Eirev Rav (the mixed multitude of Egyptians who joined Yisrael before they left Egypt). They certainly did not suffer with Yisrael in Egypt, yet they stood at Har Sinai together with them. And what's more, they soon proved to be a source of immense embarrassment to K'lal Yisrael, whereas Yisro would turn out to be a source of blessing?

On the other hand, it is incredible that, according to the Medrash Tanchuma, Moshe's wife and children, Tziporah, Gershom and Eliezer, who were no less an integral part of K'lal Yisrael as the rest of the tribe of Levi, were not present at Har Sinai?


But let us return to the Rosh's problem with Yisro, which he eliminates by first of all suggesting that Yisro actually arrived quite some time before Matan Torah, when Yisrael were in Marah. That was where among other things, Yisrael were given 'Dinim' (i.e. the basic Mitzvah encompassing civil law), and it explains why Yisro found Moshe judging the people from morning until evening. That was when he advised Moshe that judging the entire nation virtually on his own was more than one man (even if his name was Moshe Rabeinu) could possibly handle. And it explains why he said to Moshe (in Pasuk 18) "Novol Tibol", gam atoh ...", which, according ro Rashi's commentary, means that he, together with Aharon and Chur (his sole assistants) would wither away under the burden. Had Yisro arrived after Matan Torah, which, as Rashi explains, would really have meant after Yom Kipur (some three months after the episode with the Golden Calf), Chur would have no longer been alive.

In contrast to Rashi's opinion (that Yisro's departure [in Pasuk 27] really took place in the second year, as recorded in Beha'aloscha), the Rosh concludes that not only did Yisro arrive before Matan Torah, but Moshe also sent Yisro home before Matan Torah, exactly where it is written (in 18:27), to prevent "the stranger from participating in their rejoicing". If he intends to remain, Moshe figured, let him return after Matan Torah. And that is precisely what Yisro did. He returned to Yisrael in the desert, and never went back to Midyan.

This explanation has the added advantage of dispensing with the problem that we discussed earlier, regarding Tziporah, Gershom and Eliezer. According to the Rosh, they were present at Matan Torah, even though Yisro was not.


What now emerges is, that according to Rashi the sending away of Yisro mentioned here is synonymous with the Pasuk in Beha'aloscha (10:29).

The Rosh on the other hand, maintains that he left before Matan Torah, as the Torah records here. As for the Pasuk in Beha'aloscha, Yisro did indeed inform Moshe of his decision to return to Midyan. However, aware that his father-in-law's decision to leave was based on his not receiving a portion in Eretz Yisrael, Moshe pleaded with him to remain (see Rashi 10:30/31), promising him Doshnah of Yericho as a temporary residence of his own.

And Yisro in fact, accepted Moshe's offer. He remained with Yisrael in the desert throughout the forty years, and entered Eretz Yisrael together with them.

And as for Rashi's assertion that if Yisro left before the second year, where do we find that he returned? The Rosh dismisses this proof outright. It is not uncommon, he counters, for the Torah to take for granted one stage in a series of episodes, when it is evident from the context (sometimes even from a different Parshah) that it did take place. And one of the examples he gives is from this very Parshah, where the Torah writes that Yisro took with him Tziporah, Moshe's wife ... whom Moshe had sent away", even though the Torah did not inform us that he did.

In any event, the Rosh goes on to prove, it is clear that Yisro together with his family, were residing in Machaneh Yisrael, from the fact that Elazar, the son of Aharon, married one of Yisro's daughters (or grand-daughters), as Rashi himself explained earlier (6:21). And a further proof lies in the Pasuk in Shoftim (4:11), which refers to Chever, the son of Chovav, father-in-law of Moshe, who was living in Eretz Yisrael. Rashi is non-committal on these points, offering no explanation as to how or when Yisro's family appeared on the scene. According to the Rosh, it is abundantly clear. Yisro went home to fetch his family, before Matan Torah, and returned with them after Matan Torah.


Parshah Pearls

Who Was Yisro?

"And Yisro heard all that G-d had done ... " (18:1).

Yisro had seven names, Rashi informs us, Reu'el, Yeser, Yisro, Chovav, Chever, Keini and Puti'el, though there are those who maintain that Reu'el was Yisro's father.

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos queries the first opinion cited by Rashi on two scores. Firstly, he asks, how could Chovav possibly be synonymous with Reu'el, in light of the Pasuk in Beha'aloscha, where the Torah specifically refers to "Chovav ben Reu'el"? And what's more, the Pasuk in Shoftim (4:11) calls Chovav "the father-in-law of Moshe", forcing us to conclude that Reu'el was Yisro's father (which is indeed the opinion of the Targum Yonasan, in Parshas Sh'mos).

And secondly, how can we possibly equate Chovav with Keini, when the same Pasuk in Shoftim writes that "Chever the Keini separated from Kayin", clearly indicating that Chever was Keini (alias Yisro)'s son?

According to these Pesukim, it would seem that Reu'el's son Yisro (alias Yeser, Yisro, Chovav, Keini and Puti'el) had a son called Chever. (See also Sifsei Chachamim).


Partial Salvation

"And the name of the second one was Eliezer, because the G-d of my father helped me, and saved me from the sword of Paroh" (18:4).

The Rosh asks that, seeing as Moshe was first saved from the sword of Paroh, and only then did he become a fugitive, he ought to have called his first son Eliezer, and the second, Gershom?

Not so, he replies. As long as Dasan and Aviram posed a threat to Moshe's life, he was not really safe from the sword of Paroh. It was only after they became poor, as Rashi explains, that his life became secure, as Rashi explains in Sh'mos (4:19). And by that time, Gershom had already been born.


It seems to me however, that one can answer the question differently. The Rosh assumes that when Moshe spoke of being a stranger in a foreign land, he was referring to his forced sojourn in Midyan. It is possible however, that he was actually referring to Yisrael's sojourn outside Eretz Yisrael. In Moshe's eyes, whether he was living in Egypt or in Midyan was immaterial. He was not in the land of his fathers, and so (like Ya'akov Avinu), he considered himself a stranger, even before he killed the Egyptian and became a fugutive


Ten Generations

"And Yisro rejoiced over all the good that Hashem had done for Yisrael" (18:9).

Rashi cites Chazal, who interpret this Pasuk to mean that Yisro became full of goose-pimples, an outward sign of the distress that he felt at the downfall of Egypt. Hence the mantra, says Rashi, that one should not speak derogatively of a gentile in the presence of a Ger of up to ten generations.

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. supports Rashi with a Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim (1 2:34/35), where the Pasuk reckons thirteen generations from Yarcha, the slave of Sheishan (whom he set free to marry his daughter) until Elishama (alias Yishmael ben Nesanya, who murdered Gedalyah ben Achikam).

Bearing in mind that Yarcha was an Egyptian, and it takes three generations before an Egyptian becomes a true Ger, we are left with ten generations between Yarcha's grandson, and Yishmael ben Nesanyah.

So here we have a practical example of a tenth generation Ger who reverted to his evil ways, to murder and behave like a Nochri.


Hating One's Own Money

"And you shall appoint from among the people men who ... hate gain" (18:21).

People who hate their own money in Din (Rashi), as the Gemara states in Bava Basra (58b) 'Any judge from whom one extracts money in Din, is not a judge'.

Some commentaries attribute this Rashi to Reuven, who considers himself a Dayan (a judge), yet when Shimon claims money from him in Beis-Din, he loses his case. If he was a Dayan, Chazal maintain, he ought to have been sufficiently conversant with the Halachah to know in advance that he will lose his case.

But that is not what Rashi means, says the Rosh, because the money involved there, is not 'their own money'( to which Rashi refers), but that of the claimant.

What Rashi therefore means, he says, is that even if one of the litigants threatens to cut down the Dayan's tree, or to destroy his vineyard, unless he rules in his favor, he bluntly refuses to deviate from the truth.

In other words, a true judge is one who places the law above all else, even personal loss.

Now imagine what would happen, the Rosh continues, were the Dayan to succumb to the threat. Eventually, the second litigant, having unjustly lost his case, would take him to court and charge him with perversion of justice, and the Beis-Din would force him to pay damages. That is what Chazal were referring to when they added 'Any judge from whom one can extract money in Beis-Din, is not a judge'.


Hands (and Feet) Off!

"Whoever touches the mountain will surely be killed. Do not touch it ... " (19:12/13).

Having just said "Whoever touches the mountain will surely be killed", why did the Torah find it necessary to add "Do not touch it", asks the Rosh? Surely that is inherent in the first Pasuk?

And he replies that since the Torah sentenced whoever touches the mountain to death, one may have thought that one is permitted to climb the mountain in order to carry out the death-sentence on the sinner.

Therefore the Torah needed to add 'Do not touch (not 'it', but) him. As the Torah continues, "stone him or shoot him" (with arrows, with sling-shot, or with spears (from a distance), but keep away from the mountain.


Moshe the Diplomat

"And G-d said to Moshe, go down and warn the people ...and Moshe said to Hashem, the people cannot ascend Har Sinai, because You warned us ... " (19:21/23).

Was this not a little presumptuous of Moshe, asks the Rosh? Surely, if it had not been necessary, he asserts, then G-d would not have commanded him to do it!

Not at all, he replies. Moshe was merely drawing information from Hashem.'Ribono shel Olam', he said. 'Now that You warned us (Moshe and Aharon) to fence the mountain, why do You need to warn Yisrael too. Surely, if anybody tries to ascend the mountain, we will be there to stop them'. To which Hashem replied 'You go down, and ascend the mountain together with Aharon. Neither of you will be there with the people at the time, because you will be within a Mechitzah of your own'. That is precisely what Moshe was trying to find out.


Answering 'Amen, Yehei Sh'mei Rabo ...'

"And G-d spoke all these words saying" (20:1).

This Pasuk (which introduces the Aseres ha'Dibros) contains seven words and twenty-eight letters. So does the Pasuk "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth", and the Pasuk 'Yehei Sh'mei rabah ... ' (that we recite in Kaddish). This supports Chazal, who have said that whoever answers 'Amen (Yehei Sh'mei Rabah ... ') with all his strength, it is as if he became a partner with Hashem in the creation and in Matan Torah.



(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

We are presenting a summary of the Taryag Mitzvos, adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch (which he in turn, bases first and foremost, on the opinion of the Rambam, as he himself stresses a number of times). We are using his brief summary of the Mitzvos and their reasons (without going into the details of the Mitzvos, which he does in his own unique way). We hope to cover one or two Mitzvos (sometimes more) in most issues.

Mitzvah 1: P'ru u'Revu

The only Mitzvah in Parshas Bereishis is that of 'Piryoh ve'Rivyoh' (having children), as the Torah writes "And G-d blessed them and ... said to them 'Be fruitful and multiply' " (1:28).


The reason for the Mitzvah is to inhabit the world, as the Pasuk writes in Yeshayah (45:18) "He did not create it to remain empty, He formed it so that it should be inhabited".


This Mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, and one is obligated to fulfill it as soon as he is ready to do so, from the age of eighteen, as Chazal have prescribed, and at latest, by the time he turns twenty (or twenty-four according to some opinions).

This Mitzvah does not pertain to women, though some maintain that women are obligated to fulfill the Mitzvah of 'lasheves yetzarah' (inhabiting the world [which is mi'de'Rabbanan]). Someone who negates it (deliberately), has nullified a Mitzvas Asei. He will be severely punished because he demonstrates his lack of interest in carrying out the will of G-d, who wants the world to be inhabited.


Mitzvah 2: B'ris Milah

The only Mitzvah in Lech-Lecho is that of 'B'ris Milah', as the Torah writes "This is the covenant that you shall observe between Me and you, and your children after you - Circumcise all your males" (17:10). And it is repeated in the Parshah of Tazri'a. where the Torah writes (12:3) "And on the third day, he (the father) shall circumcise the flesh of his foreskin". Many Mitzvos are repeated in the Torah, though the repetition always comes to teach us something new, as Chazal have explained.

The aim of the Mitzvah is to cut away the Orlah (the foreskin that covers the Milah), and to remove the thin membrane that still covers it, thereby uncovering the crown of the head of the limb. For it is well-known to those with a deeper understanding, that the removal of the Orlah (which is redundant) completes man's shape.


The reason for the Mitzvah is because G-d wants the nation that He called after His Name to have a fixed sign on their bodies, to distinguish them from the other nations, physically, just as they are distinguished spiritually (by means of a Nishmas Yisrael). And he fixed that sign on the 'golden well', since it is the limb which perpetuates mankind, besides the fact that it represents man's completion (as we explained earlier).

And He left the people that He chose, to effect their own completion, rather than create them physically complete, to hint to man that, just as his physical perfection lies in his hands, so too, does his spiritual perfection, which he can achieve by virtue of his good deeds.


This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. Women are not obligated to circumcise their sons. The obligation is incumbent upon the father, or upon the Beis-Din (as representatives of K'lal Yisrael) where there is no father. An Oreil who reaches the age of bar-Mitzvah and does not circumcise himself, transgresses an Asei each day that he fails to do so. Should he die an Oreil, then, if he was Meizid, he receives Kareis (excision from the World to Come). A father however, who does not circumcise his son, transgresses an Asei each day (until the son becomes bar-Mitzvah), but is not Chayav Kareis. Besides the Mitzvah of bringing the Korban Pesach, there is no Mitzvas Asei other than B'ris Milah, that is punishable by Kareis.


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