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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 6:1-13

FEBRUARY 9-10. 2006 22 SHEBAT 5767

Pop Quiz: Who went with Yitro to meet up with Bnei Yisrael?


And Yitro rejoiced over the goodness that Hashem had done for Israel." (Shemot 18:9)

Yitro was the father-in-law of Moshe. They parted company when Moshe went down to Egypt to be Hashem's agent to redeem the Jews from Egypt. When they were reunited, Moshe told Yitro in detail the wonderful miracles that Hashem had done. Yitro's response to this was, "Vayihad Yitro." Rashi gives two explanations of this word. One is that Yitro rejoiced; the other is that Yitro was pained. These two explanations not only differ, but they are contradictory. Why didn't the Torah use a word that was clearer in its meaning?

The answer is that both explanations are true. Yitro had both feelings. He rejoiced over the glory of Israel and he felt pain over the loss of the Egyptians. From here we learn that a person is capable of having two completely different emotions at the same time. This is what is popularly called having "mixed emotions." Such is the nature of man.

We can apply this to ourselves. When something sad happens to us, we feel justified in walking around with a public display of grief on our faces. But we learn from the Torah that just because we are sad about one thing, it doesn't mean we have to cancel any feelings of happiness we may have. We are perfectly capable of having two emotions at one time. We must always remember that our face is one part of our body that is not our own. If we are confronted with something sad, it is not necessary for others to have to share the misery reflected in our depression. Joy belongs on the outside for others to share with us. Sadness and misery belong inside to spare others from picking it up.

In a deeper sense, when we have a problem, no matter how little we tend to let it dominate our whole mood (see "Tehillim Insights" in this week's bulletin), feelings of grief and sadness are part of life and cannot be ignored. But that does not justify letting all the wonderful things that happen to us each day to go unfelt, as it says in Pirke Abot, "Receive every man with a beautiful sunny face." No matter who you are or what day it is, Hashem helps us find strength to keep on smiling. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And Yitro heard." (Shemot 18:1)

This is the perashah which tells us about the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, perhaps the greatest event that ever took place in the world. Wouldn't it be proper to have the entire perashah devoted to that special occurrence, rather than begin with Yitro joining the Jewish? What was so important about Yitro that this had to precede Matan Torah?

The answer is the first word - ????????? - and he heard! The Torah is teaching us that if we don't hear, we will not be able to receive the Torah. Hearing means being able to concentrate and focus on someone else and not only on ourselves. It means to accept that we're not perfect and we can hear advice and criticism. The whole world was aware that the Jews came out of Egypt with great miracles but did nothing about it. Yitro, however, heard and came. Because he was willing to truly hear and understand, he changed his own life and ultimately gave some very useful advice to Moshe. That is why the giving of the Torah must be preceded by the story of Yitro, to teach us what hearing can bring.

We often ask others how they are, but do we really hear their answers? Our kids are constantly talking to us, but are we truly listening? Even if we do allow the words of others to enter our ears, do we hear "between the lines"? Let us learn from Yitro to truly hear and listen to what's around us and this will make our lives a little bit better. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"Anyone who touches the mountain will surely die" (Shemot 19:12)

The Hafess Hayim commented that from this warning forbidding the touching of Mount Sinai because of its sanctity when the Torah was given, we can learn a lesson not to do anything that would be disrespectful to a Torah scholar. The mountain does not have an intellect or any feelings, nevertheless since it became sanctified through the giving of the Torah, it was forbidden for anyone to do anything that would desecrate it. All the more so must we be careful with the honor of a person who has mastered Torah knowledge. People have feelings and feel pain when verbally attacked. Someone who slights the honor of a Torah scholar is committing a worse offense than anyone who would have touched the mountain.

When a person agrees with a Torah scholar, there is no need for a warning not to desecrate his honor. This warning is needed when you disagree with him for some reason or are displeased with some statement or action of his. The honor of the Torah scholar is the honor of the Torah. Therefore it is incumbent upon everyone to refrain from any words or behaviors that could be taken as a slight to a Torah scholar even if he is not the scholar you have designated as your authority in Torah matters. (Growth through Torah)


"Do not kill" (Shemot 20:13)

One may wonder why the prohibition against murder is included in the Aseret Hadibrot, Ten Commandments. An obvious explanation is that we should not tamper with human life. Certain forms of "murder" committed because of our lack of sensitivity to others are ignored. The Ibn Ezra writes, "Do not kill with your hand or with your tongue by perjuring your testimony against another fellow through blatant or even innocuous forms of slander, or by giving someone harmful advice, knowing fully well the tragic consequences that will occur. One who is privy to a secret which can save another Jew's life, and does not reveal it to him, is viewed as a murderer." One can murder with words!

Indeed, justice cannot be meted out in this world for these types of crime since an actual murder has not been committed. Hashem, however, reserves retribution for such a selfish wrongdoer. The Ibn Ezra's remarks are piercing. If one has the opportunity to save another Jew from death and refrains from doing so, he is considered as a participant in an act of homicide. How are we to know what connotes a lifesaving act? Imagine someone alone in a hospital bedridden with a chronic illness. One who visits him to offer him words of encouragement or just to keep him company is actually participating in saving his life! Do we think about the ramifications of not visiting someone who is ill? Would we find the same excuses for not going out if there were personal gain involved? Unfortunately, by the time we come to our senses and act as Torah Jews, it may be too late! (Peninim on the Torah)


"There was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain…and the people trembled" (Shemot 19:16)

Why didn't Hashem give the Torah on a calm and serene day?

When Hashem offered the Torah to the Jewish people, they immediately accepted it without hesitation. Some Jews responded eagerly, thinking that Torah would make life pleasant and effortless.

To dispel this theory, Hashem brought thunder and lightning, alluding that in the years ahead, there would be difficult periods. Jews would suffer and be tortured for their adherence to Torah. However, the perpetual existence of the Jewish people would not be through forsaking the Torah, G-d forbid. Keeping the Torah tenaciously would help the Jewish people endure the most difficult times and be the source of salvation. (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Moshe's wife, Siporah, and their two sons.

A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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