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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 6: "Ani CHo'sencho Yisro" - The Holy Zohar says that Moshe was a reincarnation of Hevel. The Ari z"l points out that the first letters of these three words of our verse spell out the word OCHI - my brother. Yisro was the reincarnation of the positive component of Kayin.

The Pnei Dovid (Chid"o) adds that the last letters of these three words plus the last letter of the following word "boh" have the value of 37, equal to that of the name Hevel. By converting to Judaism and accepting Hashem, he rectified the sin of Kayin who said in a conversation with Hevel just prior to murdering him, that there is no Judge and no judgement for people's actions (See Targum Yonoson ben Uziel on Breishis 4:8).

Perhaps it can be added that the verse in Breishis 4:10 says that Hashem chastised Kayin for spilling the "bloodS" of his brother, and as explained by Rashi the plural form tells us that he was held responsible not just for killing Hevel, but also for causing further generations to not exist, hence "bloodS." When Yisro (Kayin) gave Moshe (Hevel) his daughter as a wife, he enabled him to produce further generations, thus this sin was also corrected. Perhaps an allusion to Yisro being the reincarnation of KAYIN can be found in Bmidbar 24:21 where the verse says "Va'yar es haKEINI." The gemara Sanhedrin 106a says that these words refer to Yisro. HaKEINI can be interpreted as the person who was once KAYIN.

Ch. 18. v. 9: "Va'yichad Yisro al kol hatovoh asher ossoh Hashem l'Yisroel asher hitzilo miyad Mitzrayim" - The gemara Sanhedrin 106a says that Yisro and Bilom were among Paroh's advisers. Bilom said to Yisro, "Eison mosho'vecho" (Bmidbar 24:21), which the gemara interprets as "I am surprised that you who are an advisor to Paroh will rise to have his seat among the strong ones, the leaders, of the bnei Yisroel."

We can thus explain our verse as follows: Yisro rejoiced for all the good that had befallen the bnei Yisroel. As well he also rejoiced for his being saved ("hitzilo" refers to Yisro) from the hand of Egypt, as he broke away from their schemes and joined the bnei Yisroel. (B'eir Mayim Chaim miTchernovitz)

Ch. 18, v. 21: "So'nei votza" - A most vital and as well hard to come by trait of a judge is that he hates money, meaning that he would not be swayed in any direction by the lure of money. The name for the Torah court's judicial body is SANHEDRIN. A tractate of the Talmud dealing with courts and judgements carries that name. This word is a ligature of "soneh doron," - hates presents. (Imrei Noam brought in Mei'am Lo'eiz) As just mentioned, this trait is hard to come by. How then can a person of such stature be found? My Chumash Rebbi shlit"a told our class that if you are willing to meet his price you can find a "sonei vetza."

Ch. 18, v. 22: "V'shoftu es ho'om B'CHOL EIS" - And they shall judge the nation at ALL TIMES. Two Yerushalmis struck up a conversation, extolling the greatness of Rabbi Shmuel Salant, who was the Rov of Yerusholayim in his last years. One said that Rabbi Shmuel took his responsibility of being an halachic judge very seriously. On the night of Pesach, when all bnei Yisroel must drink four goblets of wine during the Seder, he felt that the wine affected the clarity of his mind and rendered him unfit to give halachic rulings. Because he felt responsible to be available to render decisions, he quickly conducted the Seder, no doubt a great spiritual sacrifice for Rabbi Shmuel, and went to sleep immediately afterwards. This rest would clear his mind and if he was needed to give a ruling he could be awakened.

The second Yerushalmi was not very impressed. He even questioned the veracity of the story, saying that although there would be many many questions that would arise prior to the Yom Tov of Pesach, once the Yom Tov had begun and everyone sat down to the Seder, the likelihood of anyone having a "shaaloh," an halachic query, was quite remote.

The first Yerushalmi did not take this response sitting down. He shot back, "Don't think that a serious question could not arise on the night of the Seder! Let me tell you what transpired one Pesach night after Rabbi Shmuel had already completed his own Seder."

A newly married "yungerman" appeared at the doorstep of Rabbi Shmuel and asked to speak to the Rov. Rabbi Shmuel asked him to step inside and found a very pained young man entering with a bowl of soup in his hands. The "yungermen" pointed to the middle of the soup where a grain of barley was floating. Rabbi Shmuel gently took him by the hand and led him out of his home. When in the street the young fellow started sobbing, stating that he had just married, thinking that he had entered a very G-d fearing family, and now he felt cheated, since he surmised that his wife's family was not careful enough to rid itself of chometz to the point of being so careless as to even have overlooked chometz in their kitchen.

Rabbi Shmuel asked the newlywed to close his mouth tightly until being told to open it again. He complied, not knowing what to expect next. The venerable Rabbi lifted the young man's shtreimel off his head and began to shake it quite vigourously. The "yungerman" felt himself being pelted with light small objects. When the Rov told him that he may open his mouth the Rov said, "What you just felt where numerous barley grains that remained stuck in your shtreimel from the time of your "aufruf." (The custom in Yerusholayim was to throw roasted barley grains at the "chosson" on the occasion of his "aufruf," as is mentioned in the Mishneh K'subos.) Before you find fault in your mother-in-law's kitchen, find fault in your own shtreimel!"

So our Yerushalmi friend brought home the point that there is a need for a Rov to have a clear head even late on Seder night, "V'shoftu es ho'om B'CHOL EIS."

A second story related to this theme took place on the other side of the world, in the USA. A well known halachic authority made himself available, not only to the people of his community, but to all who called him from anywhere in the world. This meant that he would be available for halachic queries at any hour of the night as well. To make it convenient for himself, he placed the telephone on a night table next to his bed so that he would not have to leave his bed to lift the receiver. One night he heard the telephone ringing and he reached out for it but it was not there. It was surely in the bedroom as he heard it ringing loudly. Upon turning on the light in the room he saw that the phone was now on the opposite side of the room, beyond his wife's bed. He dutifully washed "negel vasser" and answered the call. He asked his wife why she has placed the telephone in such an inconvenient location. She responded (She is the daughter of a Rov who answers halachic queries as well.) that she noticed that sometimes he would respond to a question while he was not fully alert, as he had been awakened from a deep sleep. She was afraid that without his full faculties he might give incorrect information. If the telephone would be at the far end of the room, he would then wash "negel vasser" as well as having to take a short walk to the telephone. She also suggested that he should answer the phone and request that the caller wait for a short bit of time while he would wash his face with cold water to wake him up totally. Then he would be able to respond while completely alert. He accepted her suggestion and thanked her profusely. "V'shoftu es ho'om B'CHOL EIS."

Ch. 19, v. 4: Vo'esso es'chem al kanfei n'shorim" - The Rashbam says that this means that I, Hashem, have carried you as if on eagles' wings when you passed safely through Yam Suf.

Ch. 19, v. 8: "Va'yaanu chol ho'om yachdov va'yomru kole asher di'ber Hashem NAA'SEH" - How could each person say that WE will do? Without conferring with each other, each individual can only speak for himself. The Chidushei HoRi"m answers that if someone offered a gift of precious gems to a number of people and asked if they were willing to receive the gifts, it is understandable that they would all respond "WE accept," since it is obvious to each of them that everyone else would also surely want to accept such a tremendous gift. The same was true of accepting the Torah.

Ch. 19, v. 9: "Hi'nei Onochi bo ei'lecho b'av he'onon baavur ...... v'gam b'cho yaaminu l'olom" - R' Ben Zion Abba Sho'ul zt"l says in the name of Rabbi Ezra Atiah zt"l that Hashem's appearing in a vision of thick clouds means that He would reveal Himself in a less exalted manner than He normally would appear to Moshe. Would Hashem appear in a more elevated form, it would be beyond the grasp of many of the people who were not very spiritually elevated. This is the intention of the verse. Behold, I will appear in the form of a thick cloud, and not in a higher form, so that ALL the people will believe in you, not only the highly elevated people.

Ch. 19, v. 10: "V'kidashtem hayom umochor" - Many times when a person goes through a very spiritually uplifting experience, he believes that he has attained a higher level of spiritual commitment. To his great sorrow, the next day when that stimulant is gone, he falls back to his previous level. Our verse tells us that the people are exhorted to not only feel a spiritual uplift on the day of the receiving of the Torah, but to also take with them for the next day (the future) this new higher level of sanctity. (Pardes Yoseif)

Ch. 19, v. 11: "V'hoyu n'chonim layom hashlishi" - The well known custom of staying awake the night of Shovuos and reciting Tikun Leil Shovuos, or doing other learning is based upon the bnei Yisroel's being faulted for sleeping the night before receiving the Torah. We attempt to make up for this shortcoming y learning all night. The Kedushas Levi says that the intention of the bnei Yisroel was noble, as they wanted to be totally alert the next morning for the most important happening in the history of the world, the giving of the Torah, but they are faulted because their being able to sleep indicates a diminished level of anticipatory excitement for the great moment. I believe that the words of the Kedushas Levi in essence can be found in the Ibn Ezra on our verse. He says that "v'hoyu n'chonim," the command to be prepared, means that a person should not sleep on the night before the morning on which he will hear the voice of Hashem, similar to the Kohein Godol who does not sleep on the night of Yom Kippur.

Perhaps the voice on Yom Kippur refers to when the Name of Hashem emanates from the mouth of the Kohein Godol, as explained by the Ari z"l, that the Mishneh Yoma 6:2 does not say "when the Kohein Godol says the Name of Hashem," but rather "when it emanates," to indicate that the Kohein Godol only opened his mouth and Hashem spoke through it.

Ch. 19, v. 15: "He'yu n'chonim liSHLOSHES yomim" - Rashi on Shmos 10:22 says SHLOSHES means a "group of three," and not three, or else the verse would say "shloshoh." The gemara Shabbos 88b says that after hearing each of the Ten Commandments the souls of the bnei Yisroel departed and were distanced from Mount Sinai 12 "mil," or 3 "parsoh." Angels were sent to revive them and bring them back to Mount Sinai for the rest of the Commandments. This took place ten times, as even after the last Commandment they needed rescucitation as they were to stay at their encampment near Mount Sinai. This totals 30 "parsoh" of travelling. The gemara P'sochim 93b-94a says that an average person is able to walk 10 "parsoh" in one day. How did the bnei Yisroel walk 30 "parsoh" on the day of receiving the Torah? This might be what is meant by the verse when it says "Prepare yourselves for a TRIPLE day." The daylight hours were extended to be three times as long as usual to allow for the bnei Yisroel to walk 30 "parsoh" on that day.

Ch. 19, v. 19: "Va'y'hi kole hashofor" - Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chapter 31 says that this shofor was the left horn of the ram that Avrohom slaughtered in place of Yitzchok (Breishis 22:13) and was blown by Hashem. (Commentators raise the problem of how was any part of this ram allowed to be used, as it was a Korban Oloh, which is to be totally consumed by fire on the altar, and it is prohibited to derive any personal benefit from it.)

Ch. 20, v. 15: "Va'yaar ho'om va'yonu'u va'yaamdu meirochoke" - The Baal Haturim says that this verse is the source for our swaying (shoklen) when we study Torah, as the Torah was given in an atmosphere of awe, trembling, and sweating. The story is told of the Chasam Sofer telling one of his senior students to approach a younger student who was quite diligent in his Torah studies and tell him that the Chasam Sofer requested that he leave the Yeshiva. The senior student was quite surprised and asked why this was being done. The Chasam Sofer said that the student was not Jewish. The senior student was very surprised, but did the Chasam Sofer's bidding. When he pressed the young student about this, he admitted that he was not Jewish. At a later time the senior student asked the Chasam Sofer why he allowed him into the Yeshiva in the first place. The Chasam Sofer responded that he had assumed that the young man was Jewish, but after noticing for a while that he sat still as a block of wood while learning Torah, not even swaying slightly, he realized that the student was not Jewish. Anyone whose soul was present at Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah swayed, and this remains in our blood even today.

The Holy Baal Shem Tov interprets: "If you sway mightily to and fro so that everyone can see that you do a mitzvoh with much emotion, "va'yaar ho'om va'yonu'u," this is an indication that you are very distanced from Hashem, "va'yaamdu meirochoke."

The Holy Admor of Kotzk interprets: "Even if you sway mightily to and fro and delude yourself into thinking that you have reached a high spiritual level, remember that you are still quite distanced from Hashem, "va'yaamdu meirochoke."



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