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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 1: "Va'yishma Yisro chohein Midyon chose'in Moshe" - And Yisro the priest of Midyon the father-in-law of Moshe heard - Yisro had the title of "kohein Midyon" and also that of "the father-in- law of Moshe," quite diametrically opposed appellations. What allowed for him to go from one extreme to the other was "va'yishma." When one hears and takes note of Hashem's actively participating in world events, he can go from the nadir to the zenith. (n.l.)

Ch. 18, v. 11: "Ki vadovor asher zodu a'leihem" - Because in the same manner as they conspired against them - Yisro was very taken by Hashem's characteristic of responding in kind. He was one of Paroh's advisors, and knew not only what they carried out, but also what they originally planned and did not come to fruition. Whateverit was that they planned, Hashem responded with the ten plagues, "D'tzach Adash B'achav," whose numerical value is the same as "asher," 501. (n.l.)

Ch. 18, v. 23: "V'yocholta amode" - And you will be able to stand - This is the literal translation. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 1:13 writes that the word "amidoh" has three connotations. The first is simply standing. The second is stopping, as in "Vataamode mi'leddes." The third is sustaining and continuing something, as here.

Ch. 19, v. 12: "V'higbalto es ho'om" - And oyu shall cordon off the nation - Although this is the literal translation of these words, the Ibn ezra says that the intention is that the mountain be cordoned off. We see this clearly from verse 23, where it says, "Hagbeil es hohor v'kidashto," cordon off the mountain and sanctify it. He adds that he has elaborated on this point because the "insane" person has inverted the intention of the words of our "Elokim Chaim." He says that Moshe accidentally said "hohor" in verse 23, and meant to say "ho'om."

Ch. 19, v. 12: "V'higbalto es ho'om" - And oyu shall cordon off the nation - The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh writes that the prohibition only began three days later, as it is illogical that before Hashem's Sanctity visited the mountain it was so sanctified that one deserves death for stepping on terra sancta. The command was given three days early so that the bnei Yisroel simply train during this time to distance themselves.

Ch. 19, v. 13: "Im b'heimoh im ish lo yichyeh" - Whether an animal whether a person he will not live - The Ibn Ezra writes that this is to the exclusion of a bird, because it will simply fly away. It seems that he posits that a bird likewise should be killed, but on a pragmatic level, it will not happen. This would seem to fit well with the exact wordage of our verse, that either an animal or a person will not live, i.e. will be put to death. This is an unusual way of expressing that they be put to death, by saying the negative of the reverse. But, as per the Ibn Ezra, the verse is also including a bird in theory, but not pragmatically, it is well understood.

Ch. 19, v. 17: "Va'yisyatzvu b'sachtis hohor" - And they placed themselves at the bottom of the mountain - Rashi explains that they were at the foot of the mountain, and according to the medrashic explanation (gemara Shabbos 88a) Hashem lifted the mountain above them as if it were a barrel. The gemara goes on to say that this was a threat. Either the bnei Yisroel accept the Torah or ch"v the mountain will come down upon them and this would be their burial site.

This deserves an explanation. Since they surely did not transgress the command to not alight upon the mountain, to the point that a physical mark was made to delineate the prohibited area, they were all surely beyond the ground footprint of the mountain. If so, even if it were to be dropped upon them, they would all be beyond its perimeter. Although one could say that the powerful impact could finish them all off, a better explanation would be appreciated.

Ch. 19, v. 17: "Va'yisyatzvu b'sachtis hohor" - And they placed themselves at the bottom of the mountain - The Ibn Ezra writes that the people stood at the foot of the mountain in a manner similar to that forty years later, when their children stood in front of Moshe, as is recorded in Dvorim 5:5. The order from closest to the mountain to the farthest is: Bchorim, heads of the tribes (nsi'im), elders, officers (shotrim), all the adult men, the young children, the women, the converts. (Perhaps in the fortieth year the Kohanim replaced the first-born.)

Rashi on 19:24 says that there was a separate area for the Kohanim. Perhaps this is the same as the Ibn Ezra, as the firstborn were Kohanim at the time.

Ch. 20, v. 2: "Onochi" - I - The Ten Commandments are expressed in the singular form throughout. Some thoughts on this:

1) Complying with Hashem's mitzvos is not only a national obligation, but is also incumbent on each individual. (Sha"ch)

2) The verse says, "Va'yichan shom Yisroel neged hohor" (19:2). The Mechilta derives from this that the bnei Yisroel were totally united, as if they were one person with one heart. This was a prerequisite for receiving the Torah. It therefore follows that the commandments being given also be in the singular.

3) Each person with his unique talents fulfills the Torah's commandments with his personal flare.

4) Even if you will see that ch"v most people around you are not doing as the Torah dictates, you must be strong and do what is right. (Holy Chozeh of Lublin)

5) The recognition and awareness of Hashem and the depth in fulfilling mitzvos differs from person to person. (Sfas Emes)

Ch. 20, v. 2: "Onochi" - I - Musaf Rashi writes that based upon the medrash that both Mount Tovor and Mount Carmel came to Hashem, requesting that the Torah be given upon them, Hashem responded that their efforts would not go unrewarded. Not only not unrewarded, but that that they would receive a sort of doubling of what took place at Mount Sinai. In the Ten Commandments "Onochi" is mentioned once, while Dvorah's song of praise, which included that which happened at Mount Tovor, we have "Onochi laShem onochi oshiroh." In the Ten Commandments "Onochi" is mentioned once and at Mount Carmel the people gave praise to Hashem by saying, "Hashem hu hoElokim Hashem hu hoElokim."

Ch. 20, v. 2: "Onochi Hashem Elokecho asher hotzeisicho mei'eretz Mitzrayim" -I am Hashem your G-d Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt - Ramban, Rabbeinu Bachyei, and others explain why Hashem has not said that He is our G-d who has created the world. The Slonimer Rebbe, the Nesivos Sholo-m, explains that by saying that He has taken us out of Egypt, even though we were on the 49th rung of impurity, nary a hair's breadth away from the point of no spiritual return, and nevertheless Hashem has redeemed us and built us into a great nation, everyone will come to realize that he is connected to Hashem, and that Hashem has not forsaken him, no matter how low he has sunk.



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

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