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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 5: "Uvonov v'ishto" - And his sons and his wife - The simple meaning is Moshe's sons and Moshe's wife. Why then does this verse change from verse 3, where it says "uvo'nehoh," and HER sons? Tosfos Hasho'leim on verse 3 asks why the verse there calls the sons hers, without his making any reference to our verse. He answers that since she was involved in their upbringing (during the time Moshe was away) they are called HER sons. Perhaps in our verse, where they are being brought to Moshe, they are called HIS because they are now coming under his tutelage and influence again.

However, the Holy Zohar says that "uvonov v'ishto" refers to Yisro's sons and wife, so the change from verse is simply understood. Pirush Yonoson ben Uziel explains that although yisro had seven sons and no daughters, this was only up to the time Moshe came into their lives. Once he joined Yisro's family he was blessed with sons, similar to Lovon. However, the verses in parshas Shmos do not say that Yisro had no sons. They only state that he had seven daughters. If you are wondering why Yisro would send his daughters to shepherd when he had sons, perhaps his sons were the youngest children in the family and too young to tend to the sheep at the time Moshe came upon the scene.

Why in the next verse Yisro sends a message to Moshe that he has come with "your wife and HER children," reverting back to the terminology of verse 3, is explained by the Abarbanel. Yisro is stressing that he came to meet with Moshe, and not only to bring Moshe's wife and his children to him. Thus he says "HER children," the mother and Her children have also been brought, but his main stress is, "Ani chosencho Yisro bo eilecho."

Ch. 18, v. 17: "Lo tov adovor asher atoh o'seh" - What you are doing is not good - We find the expression "lo tov" in Breishis 2:18, "Lo tov heyos ho'odom l'vado." In essence this was Yisro's message to Moshe. It is not good for you to be one judge alone. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 18, v. 21: "V'atoh sechezeh" - And you should see - Literally, these words are translated as "And you shall have a vision." This choice of wording is used because it alludes to the importance of a properly functioning court system. "Sechezeh" has the numerical number of 420. The number of years the second Beis Hamikdosh stood. Its destruction came about in the main because of monetary corruption. (Rabbeinu Efrayim)

A second reason for the use of "sechezeh," a term equated to prophetic vision, as "machazeh, chazone," is that it would be insufficient for Moshe to search out proper judges only by what meets the eye, as "Ho'odom yireh l'einoyim vaShem yireh l'leivov" (Shmuel), a human can be fooled by external appearance and behaviour. Thus Moshe was required to use prophetic vision to pick proper judges. (Minchoh V'luloh)

Ch. 18, v. 21: "Mikol ho'om" - From anyone in the nation - This was a message to not look for someone from an exalted tribe. Anyone from any tribe who meets the criteria should be appointed. (Rabbi Avrohom ben hoRambam)

Ch. 18, v. 21: "Y'rei Elokim anshei emes" - G-d fearing people of truth - If they are G-d fearing what need is there to add "people of truth" since this trait is included in "y'rei Elokim?" Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid (#1,384) says that even if a person is G-d fearing there is a need to have as a judge someone who knows halacha so well that he comes to the proper - emes - conclusion.

Ch. 18, v. 21: "Sonei votza" - Haters of monetary gain - What is this characteristic?

1) They are hated by those who are avid money accumulating enthusiasts. (Rabbeinu Yonoh ibn G`anach)

2) They hate bribery. (Tur, Rashbam)

3) They hate the idea of becoming rich. (Tur)

4) They hate to take advantage of someone for their own monetary gain even where it is permitted. For example, if a person had an object that was rightfully valued at a dollar, and this was a proper price right now because the same object is not available anywhere else. The prospective purchaser is ready to pay, but before the transaction was completed the seller became aware of the arrival of many more of the same objects, and thus its proper price is now cut in half. Rather than completing the deal on the spot before the purchaser is aware of this, the seller advises him and admits that it is now worth half as much. (Rabbi Yehudoh chosid #1,204)

Rashi explains "shesonim m'monom badin." What does this mean?

1) If they would be threatened to judge in the favour of one side or else their property will be destroyed, they will still not budge and judge the case on its merits, no matter who comes out winning. This is an application of "Lo soguru mipnei ish." (Baa'lei Tosfos)

2) They are so involved in judging that they neglect their own properties and possessions to the point that they deteriorate. (Rabbi Yehudoh Chosid)

Ch. 19, v. 2: "Va'yichan shom Yisroel - And Yisroel camped there - Rashi says that the singular form "va'yichan" indicates that the bnei Yisroel camped there united as one man with one heart. Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorke explains that they were united because each person found favour in the other's eyes, "va'yichan" sourced from the word "chein."

Perhaps we can say that their unity was based on their being modest. The verse says that they encamped there "k'neged hohor," which can be interpreted as "corresponding to the mountain. Har Sinai is the symbol of unassuming modesty, as it is a small mountain. Strife is almost always triggered by one feeling greater than another.

The bnei Yisroel learned a lesson from Har Sinai and by imbuing the trait of modesty they were able to encamp in unity. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 19, v. 3: "U'Moshe oloh" - And Moshe ascended - On Simchas Torah before Musof we sing "Hiskabtzu." One of the stanzas contains the words, Mi oloh lamorome, Moshe oloh lamorome." We repeat "mi oloh lamorome" numerous times. Why? One could ask this question. Why is the answer to "mi oloh lamorome" limited to Moshe? Eliyohu, Chanoch, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi also ascended to heaven alive. The answer is that once they were so spiritually elevated that they were able to ascend to the heavens they never came back down again. Moshe was on such a unique level that he went up, came down, and went up again, possibly even a third time according to some Rishonim. This is the unique power of Moshe, as he bridged the spiritual with the physical. This is why we repeat "mi oloh lamorome," to indicate that Moshe was special in that he ascended numerous times. (Preface of the Haflo'oh)

Ch. 19, v. 17: "B'sachtis hohor" - At the base of the mountain - Translated literally, these words are saying that the bnei Yisroel stood under the mountain. The gemara Shabbos 88a derives from this that the mountain was lifted over the bnei Yisroel and they were as if under a barrel. They were threatened that they must accept the Torah or else the mountain would drop upon them. Tosfos and many other commentators ask why coercion was necessary, given that they willingly accepted the Torah, as testified by their saying "naa'seh v'nishmo." Medrash Tanchuma on parshas Noach #3 answers that they readily accepted the written Torah but were reluctant to accept the oral Torah.

The gemara A.Z. 2b relates that the nations of the world will complain that if they had likewise been coerced to accept the Torah they would have done so and then followed its teachings. However, given the words of the Medrash Tanchuma their words ring hollow. This can be explained by way of a parable. A man hired a teacher for his son. After a while the father had his son tested by the local Rabbi. The son knew absolutely nothing. The father angrily complained to the teacher, saying, "Even if my son paid no attention you are to be held responsible for his lack of knowledge. I know that you have other students as well. One of them is known to be a dreamer, paying no attention. Yet, I heard that you applied the "board of education" to his "seat" and achieved good results. You should have done the same with my son."

The teacher responded, "The other student at least was in the study room and when he daydreamed I gave him his deserved coercion. Your son skipped right out of class immediately after you left." There was no son to coerce."

Similarly, the bnei Yisroel at least readily accepted the written Torah. When it came to the oral Torah they were at least there to be able to be coerced. The nations of the world, when asked if they would accept the Torah, each heard but one sampling and said NO, and left. There was no one to coerce. (Pardes Yoseif)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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