CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS YISRO 5773 - BS"D
1) Ch. 18, v. 1: "Va'yishma Yisro" - And Yisro heard - Rashi comments that he heard of the splitting of Yam Suf and the war with Amo'leik. He obviously heard much more, but these two events prompted him to come (verse 5). Why specifically these two events?
2) Ch. 18, v. 7: "Va'yeitzei Moshe likras chose'no" - 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?
3) 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?
4) Ch. 18, v. 16: "Ki yi'h'yeh lo'hem dovor ba eilai" - When THEY will have a matter HE comes to me - This phrase begins in the plural form and changes to singular.
5) Ch. 20, v. 9: "Taavode v'osiso kol m'lachtecho" - You shall labour and do all your work - What is the difference between "avodoh" and "mlochoh?"
Perhaps this was because Yisro, the former priest of Midyon, was very reluctant to come, fearing rejection. However, when he heard of the splitting of Yam Suf, which did not take place until the archangel of Yam Suf saw Yoseif's casket being brought along, an indication of the great respect the bnei Yisroel had for their forbearers, and the war against Amo'leik, which, based on the medrash, was a war of "midor dor" (17:16), a war against the total intact transmission of the Torah from generation to generation, again a message of the great esteem the bnei Yisroel had for previous generations, he felt that as the father of Moshe's wife, he too, would not be rejected. (Nirreh li)
Alternatively, the bnei Yisroel were commanded to appoint a king, erect the Beis Hamikdosh, and then to eradicate Amo'leik. Yisro was aware that Moshe had the status of king over the bnei Yisroel (gemara Zvochim 101). Upon hearing that Hashem split Yam Suf for them and that they said "zeh Keili" (Shmos 15:2), as they had some visible level of recognition of Hashem, akin to the Beis Hamikdosh Rishon experience, where the Holy Spirit was palpable, and now finally the beginning of the eradication of Amo'leik, he felt that the bnei Yisroel had reached a spiritual pinnacle, so he then came to join them. (Nirreh li)
The Sforno answers that he did this to show his great appreciation of Yisro's kindness, taking him in his time of need, when he was a fugitive.
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.
1) To answer this seeming inconsistency we might say, based on the gemara Sanhedrin, that the judge is required to create a level playing field for disputants so that there is no real or even perceived favouritism. (This goes so far as requiring that the disputants wear somewhat similar qualities of clothing!) Moshe related to Yisro that he judged so fairly that when two disputants came to him he made sure that they felt so equal that it was as if not two people, i.e. people of unequal stature, appeared in front of him, but rather, they felt so equal that it was as if ONE person came to him. (Nirreh li)
2) Moshe explained to Yisro why there were long queues of people waiting to hear his judgment. Some of the people were disputants, hence "LO'HEM dovor." Others came alone, as they were not in dispute with anyone, only that they needed an answer to a halachic query. This is the singular "boh eilai." Moshe goes on to clarify what he does. When it is a matter between disputants, "v'shofat'ti bein ish u'vein rei'eihu." When it is a query then "v'hodati es chu'kei hoElokim v'es Torosov." (Nirreh li)
3) Tzror Hamor explains that when there is a matter between two disputants and "ba eilai," only one shows up to explain his position, then I do not listen to him, as the other party is not there to rebut his claims. I wait until the second person comes and "v'shofat'ti bein ish u'vein rei'eihu."
4) When two people come to me for a judgment, a spirit of wisdom descends upon me to help me come to a proper conclusion.
5) The verse in T'hilim 82:1 says, "Elokim nitzov baadas Keil," Elokim is present when there is a judgment. Elokim is "ba eilai."
The difference between "avodoh" and "m'lochoh" is that "avodoh" is done for no physical benefit, while "m'lochoh" is done for the body's benefit and pleasure. (Tur)
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