by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS YISRO 5764 BS"D
Ch. 18, v. 4: "Va'yatzi'leini mei'cherev Paroh" - And He saved me from the sword of Paroh - After Moshe brought about the death of an Egyptian Paroh had him arrested and condemned to death by decapitation. When the executioner swung the sword to Moshe's neck, his neck hardened, as if it were marble. The gemara Yerushalmi Brochos 9:1 says that the sword bounced back and severed the neck of the executioner. The gemara Brochos 10a and Yerushalmi A.Z. 3:1 says that we can derive from this incident that even if a sharp sword is pressed against one's neck, he should not despair from being saved by Hashem.
It seems that after one is dead that there is no hope. However, the Shitoh M'ku'betzes on the gemara K'subos 104a writes that when Rabbeinu Hakodosh, Rabbi Yehudoh Hanosi, was close to death, he requested that his death not be immediately publicized. This is because he knew that many people were already praying for his recovery. Once they would hear that he died they would stop praying. Even if he had passed away but people would be unaware of this, their prayers for his welfare could possibly bring him back from the dead. (Medrash Halacha) This might explain why Ishoh Hashunamis did not tell her husband that their child had died, and hurried off to the prophet for help.
Ch. 18, v. 7: "Va'yeitzei Moshe likras chosno" - And Moshe went out towards his father-in-law - How could Moshe, the leader of a nation, lower his esteem and go out to greet Yisro? He did this to show his great appreciation of Yisro's kindness, taking him in his time of need, when he was a fugitive. (Sforno)
Ch. 18, v. 7: "Va'yishtachu .. lo" - And he bowed down .. to him - Is bowing down to a person have any tinge of sin connected to it, perhaps as a service of deifying the person? Rabbi Avrohom ben hoRambam says that this is totally permitted when the intention is only to honour the other person. Note that if the other person has claimed to be a god, or if people call him a god, then it is not permitted. This is dealt with in the gemara Sanhedrin perek "Arba Misose." If the person is not deified, but is wearing either an object that is deified, or a symbol of a false god, is it permitted to bow down? Mahara"m Alshakir writes in his responsa #76 that it is permitted, provided that one has in mind that he is only bowing down to the other person as a sign of homage, and has no intention of giving honour to the idol or symbol.
Ch. 18, v. 16: "Ki y'h'yeh lo'hem dovor boh ei'lai" - When they have a matter it comes to me - The Ramban in the previous verse writes that Moshe told Yisro that people came to him to pray on behalf of their sick. In our verse Moshe explains why his prayers were potent. "Ki y'h'yeh lo'hem dovor," when they have a concern, a health problem, "boh ei'lai," the matter reaches me, the pain they suffer enters my heart and I suffer along with them. With total empathy I pray to Hashem and therefore my prayers are potent. (Chasan Sofer)
Ch. 18, v. 16: "Ki y'h'yeh lo'hem dovor boh ei'lai" - When they have a matter it comes to me - This is the common translation. The Chemdas Shlomo says "boh ei'lai" refers to Hashem, as per the verse "Elokim nitzov baadas eil" (T'hilim 82:1).
Ch. 18, v. 20: "Asher yaasun" - That they shall do - The gemara B.K. 99b derives from these words that one should go beyond the letter of the law to fulfill Hashem's wishes. The Shalo"h asks, "If the Torah commanded us to go beyond the letter of the law, then this is the law itself." Possibly, we can say that going beyond the letter of the law is not a requirement to the point that it is either a sin or a merit. For example, commentators explain the rationale of the prohibition to not slaughter two generations of animals in one day. They say that we should put in effort to not destroy species, even if there are millions of cows in the world, slaughtering a cow and its calf brings closer to extinction of that species. Technically, one could round up thousands of cows and slaughter them one day, and the next day slaughter their thousands of calves. He will not have transgressed any sin. Nevertheless, since in a very short period of time he would be destroying two generations, it is possible that this goes into the ruling of "lifnim mishuras hadin."
Going beyond the letter of the law might be derived from these words because the word "yaasuN" has a final Nun. This additional letter indicates dimunition, as mentioned in an earlier edition in the name of the Rada"k in his Sefer Shoroshim on the entry "ish." There is the main "asioh," the required letter of the law, and there is a lesser "asioh," that which is not required, but is requested, "lifnim mishuras hadin." (Nirreh li)
Another aspect of "lifnim mishuras hadin" is safeguards, "s'yog laTorah." (Rabbeinu Menachem)
The gemara also derives from the earlier word of our verse "yeilchu" that one should visit the sick, tending to their needs. This seems to simply be derived from the command to go. There is in general no specific need to go to someone to do him kindness, as the recipient could just as easily come to the benefactor. Only when one is sick does it require that the healthy person visit the sick one.
Ch. 20, v. 2: "Onochi" - I am - The gemara Shabbos 88b says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that each time a Commandment emanated from Hashem the bnei Yisroel distanced themselves from Har Sinai 12 mil. Angels came and prodded them back, as per the verse in T'hilim 68:13, "Malchei tzvokose yidodun yidodun." The Paa'nei'ach Rozo asks that the verse does not says "angels," "malAchei," but rather, KINGS, "malchei." He answers in the name of Rabbi Yitzchok Habochur that the medrash (M.R. Bmidbar 11:3 Rabbi Yudin in the name of Rabbi Ivo, M.R. Shir Hashirim 3:18 Rabbi Ivo, 8:15 Rabbi Yudin in the name of Rabbi Idi) says that the angels who prompted the bnei Yisroel back were Micho'el and Gavriel who are the kings of the angels, as there is rank among them as well. Thus they are both kings and angels. This seems to fit well with Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer chapter #41, which derives from the words, "u'Moshe nigash" (Shmos 20:18) that Moshe did not enter the Cloud of Glory on the peak of Har Sinai willingly, but rather was brought there by the angels Micho'el and Gavriel. Hashem would not unnecessarily send extra angels, and using these angels for both bringing Moshe into the Clouds of Glory and prodding the bnei Yisroel back to the mountain does not contravene the rule that an angel is not sent for two purposes (M.R. Breishis 50:2), as Moshe's entry and the bnei Yisroel's returning to Har Sinai are both for one purpose, to transmit the Torah to the bnei Yisroel. If we say that there is an hierarchy among the angels and there are ministers over different levels, we might have an understanding of the prayer we sing when we come home on the night of Shabbos Kodesh. We sing "Sholo-m a'leichem malachei hasho'reis malachei elyone, miMelech malchei hamlochim, haKodosh boruch Hu." The literal translation of the last few words is "from the King of kings of kings, the Holy One blessed be He."
The gemara Shabbos 119b says that there are two angels who escort a person to his home on the night of Shabbos Kodesh, one good and one bad. Perhaps we can say that the "good" angel is Micho'el, the protagonist and defendant of bnei Yisroel (see Chanukas haTorah on parshas T'tza'veh), while Gavriel, whose name is sourced from the word "gvuroh," the trait of strict judgment, is the other angel. Having just come from the house of prayer, we are bringing greetings from Hashem, the King over all kings, to the angels who are called kings, who reign over lower angels, who in turn are kings over lower-level angels. (Nirreh li)
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