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

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Vol. 22   No. 17

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Yonah ben Elchonon Moshe z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be on 20 Shevat
May he be a meilitz yosher
for his family and for all of K'lal Yisrael.

Parshas Yisro

The Ten Commandments
(Adapted from the Ramban)

"Do not murder! Do not commit adultery! Do not kidnap! Do not give false testimony against your friend! Do not covet your friend's house! Do not covet your friend's wife, his slave his maidservant or anything (else) that belongs to your friend" (20:2-14).


Commenting on the sequence of the first set of five Commandments, the Ramban explains that G-d commanded us both in thought and in deed (i.e. via the Mitzvah of Shabbos) to acknowledge that He created everything, and to honour our parents who are His partners in the creation.

The second set of five commandments, he says, enhances the first set, inasmuch as it warns us not to destroy the work of His Hands - a) by spilling the blood of the people that He created in order to honour Him (See end of Pirkei Avos); b) by committing adultery, thereby causing children to be born who do not recognize their parents (See previous paragraph); c) by achieving the same results, by stealing children from their parents); d) by testifying falsely and causing punishment or death to a person who does not deserve it.

Moreover, he adds, having incorporated the first five Commandments into the sin of idolatry, the Ten Commandments appear in order of stringency: idolatry, murder, adultery, kidnapping (theft), false testimony and not coveting, and he concludes with the thought that someone who does not covet what others have will never damage their property.

And the Torah continues with Mishpatim, he adds, because someone who does not covet or desire what is not his, will always pay whatever he is obligated to.


Five Plus Five Equals Ten

We can assume, says the Ramban, that the first set of five Commandments, which are Mitzvos between man and G-d (even that of Kibud Av va'Eim, as we explained earlier), were written on the one Lu'ach, and the second set (Mitzvos between man and man), on the second, so the two sets corresponded to one another. These in turn corresponded to the ten Sefiros, and to the ten fingers of man, five on each hand with the B'ris ha'Loshon (the covenant of the tongue) which connects them and the ten toes, five on each foot, which are connected by the B'ris Milah. See following paragraph).


Based on distinction between the Mitzvos between man and G-d and those between man and man to which we referred earlier, says the Ramban, we can better understand why there were two Luchos - the former, representing the written Torah, the latter, the oral Torah. And he concludes with the following statement: 'And that, it would seem, is what Chazal were referring to when they said that the two Luchos correspond to heaven and earth, Chasan and Kalah, the two groomsmen, and the two worlds.


Reward and Punishment

The Ramban explains why it is that in some of the Aseres ha'Dibros, the Torah specifies a reward or a punishment, and in others, it does not. To begin with, he says, the Torah does not deem it necessary to specify reward or punishment for the last five commandments, since they are for the good of mankind, and the benefits of observing them are self-evident.

Of the first five commandments, the Torah mentions reward for the first two ("He performs loving-kindness "), which comprise the Mitzvah of Emunah, and by Kibud Av va'Eim, and punishment by that of the prohibition of swearing falsely by the Name of Hashem ("He will not forgive "), but mentions neither with regard to Shabbos.

The author explains that the Torah specifies the reward by Mitzvos Asei - Emunah and Kibud Av va'Eim, and punishment by Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh (not to swear falsely). It does not mention either by Shabbos, he says, because Shabbos is synonymous with Emunah -'Anyone who observes Shabbos confirms that G-d created the world, and believes in the Mitzvah of "Onochi", and anyone who does not, denies the creation and believes in evolution'.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

When did Yisro Return to Midyan?

" Moshe sent his father-in-law away, and he (his father-in-law) went back to his land." (18:27).

Rashi explains in Pasuk 13 that irrespective of whether Yisro arrived at Har Sinai before Matan Torah or after it, his departure, as well as the Parshah of the judges, can only have taken place after it, and that, when the Torah writes that Moshe sat down to judge "on the morrow", it means the day after he descended Har Sinai for the third time on Yom Kipur.

And he proves it from the fact that, when Yisrael left Har Sinai (in Parshas Beha'aloscho), Moshe asked Yisro to remain with them and to accompany them into Eretz Yisrael. Now, if he sent Yisro away before that, where do we find that he returned? Consequently, Rashi learns that Yisro returned to his land only later, and did not return to the desert.


The Ramban disagrees with Rashi; Firstly, he concurs with the opinion that Yisro arrived at Har Sinai before Matan Torah, and he maintains that Yisro returned to his land some time during the first year to convert his family, and even though the Torah does not mention it, he came back to join Yisrael at Har Sinai. Midyan was, after all, close to Har Sinai so that traveling from one to the other was no big deal. What's more, he explains, when, in the second year, Yisro initially insisted on returning to his land and family, Moshe pleaded with him to stay. The fact that Yisro did not reply suggests that he convinced him to remain and accompany Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael.

This is borne out by the Sifri (cited by Rashi in Beha'aloscha, 10:32), who state that, in keeping with Moshe's promise to Yisro, they gave him Doshnah of Yericho, where he and his descendants lived for four hundred and forty years, until they built the Beis-Hamikdash. At this point it was given to the previous owners of the territory on which the Beis-Hamikdash was then built.

The Mechilta too, based on the Pasuk in Shoftim (1:16), which refers to the sons of Keini, (Yisro) going from Yericho, proves that Yisro returned to the desert after converting his family.


A Different Miracle

"Blessed be Hashem who saved you (plural) from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Par'oh " (18:10).

When the Pasuk continues "who saved Yisrael from under the 'thumb' of Egypt", it is easy to understand to which salvation it is referring. But to what and to whom is the above quotation referring? See Rashi.

The Ramban explains that it is referring to Moshe and the people, who spent the best part of a year warning and threatening Par'oh, and who were responsible for bringing one disastrous plague upon the Egyptians after another, to the point where the country found itself on the brink of ruin. One would normally have expected Par'oh and even the Egyptian people to have reacted violently against the perpetrator and to have assassinated Moshe and given vent to their anger against the people on whose behalf he was acting. Yet 'inexplicably', they did nothing! This was the miraculous salvation to which Yisro was referring.


It seems to me that one can expand this miracle one stage further, inasmuch as, not only did Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu prevent Paroh from seeking revenge from Moshe and Yisrael, he also put it in their hearts to be favourably inclined towards them and to treat them with dignity, as the Pasuk testifies in Parshas Vo'eiro (11:3).


Hashem Your G-d

"I am Hashem your G-d, who took you out of the Land of Egypt from the House of Slaves" (20:2).

Conforming to the Zohar, the Ramban describes this Pasuk as one of the two hundred and forty-eight Mitzvos Asei. It comprises a Mitzvah to believe first of all, that 'Hashem' (the Name 'Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey') took us out of Egypt. That in turn, proves His Omnipotence (Master of the world), that, He created the world, exists and is the cause of all existence and that He governs it, knows everything that occurs and, that He alone supervises it - which the author describes in four words (Existence [Metzi'us], His will [Cheifetz], Creator [Chidush], Ability [Yechols] and Yichud [He alone]). And second of all, by virtue of the fact that He rescued us from "the House of slaves", He is our G-d and we are obligated to accept His Dominion (Kabolas Ol Malchus Shamayim). This is similar to the first Pasuk of the Sh'ma.


To illustrate the significance of the last statement, the author cites the following Moshol, taken from the Mechilta:

A king once entered a certain country, when he was approached by a delegation, who asked him to issue them with decrees (to form a constitution). To which he replied 'Only if you will accept me as your king, for if you decline to accept my sovereignty, how can I expect you to accept my decrees'.


That is why the Mitzvah of "Onochi" precedes the Ten Commandments (which are in fact, a microcosm of all the Taryag Mitzvos) - first Kabolas Ol Malchus Shamayim, and then Kabolas Ol Mitzvos,

And this is precisely what the Gemara in Megilah means when it describes the sequence of the first two paragraphs of the Sh'ma as 'Kabolas Ol Malchus Shamayim' and 'Kabolas Ol Mitzvos'. respectively.


Those who Love G-d & Those who Fear G-d

"And I do loving-kindness up to two thousand generations to those who love Me and to those who observe My commandments" (20:6).


This Pasuk, written primarilly with reference to someone who observes the first two Mitzvos of the Aseres ha'Dibros, is a promise that G-d will reward with kindness up to thousands of generations those who love Him and those who observe His Mitzvos, says the Ramban.

In defining these two categories, he explains the former with respect to Tzadikim who will acknowledge the Omnipotence of G-d exclusively, denying that of any other deity, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives to uphold that principle - as expressed in the Pasuk in the Sh'ma "ve'Ohavto es Hashem Elokecha u've'chol nafsh'cho" (to love G-d even at the expense of one's life).

And he adds that that is why the Pasuk in Yeshayah (41:8) defines Avraham as "Avraham ohavi", bearing in mind that Avraham Avinu was the first person to display this characteristic, when he allowed himself to be thrown into the fire of Ur Kasdim for his beliefs.

All other Tzadikim are included in the title "Shomrei Mitzvosov". Although the author cites others who define the two categories as those who serve G-d out of love, without any thoughts of reward, and those who serve Him in order to receive reward (the commentaries cite Rashi and Rambam who interpret them in this way), he cites a Mechilta which bears out his initial explanation.

The Mechilta, citing Rebbi Nasan, writes that this Pasuk refers to those who live in Eretz Yisrael and who give up their lives for the sake of the Mitzvos. Rebbi Nasan elaborates:

'Why are you being taken out to be killed?' 'Because I circumcised my son!'

'Why are you being taken to be burned at the stake?' 'Because I studied Torah!'

'Why are you being taken to be hanged?' 'Because I ate Matzah!'

'Why are you being beaten with a strap?' 'Because I shook Lulav!'

Moreover, the Pasuk writes in Zecharyah (13:6) "And if someone will say to him, What are those scars between your arms?, he will say 'It is from when I was beaten in the house of those who loved me (i.e. Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu)" - Those strokes caused me to love My Father in Heaven!" '.

Although the current Pasuk is speaking about idolatry, for which one is obligated to give up one's life (presumably incorporating those who sacrifice their lives in order to avoid transgressing adultery and murder), Rebbi Nasan includes all Mitzvos, which in the time of Sh'mad (forced conversion) also requires self-sacrifice.

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