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Torah Attitude: Parshas Yithro: A person is dependent on whoever he trusts

Summary

G'd elevated the entire nation to a one time prophetic experience so that everyone present could hear what G'd said to Moses. G'd responded immediately to their complaints and told Moses that He was going to let Manna fall down from Heaven every day, six days a week. In this way there would be plenty of food for everyone. "The Torah was only given to those who ate Manna." During the fourty year sojourn in the wilderness G'd provided the Jewish people with all their needs. A person is dependent on whoever he trusts. "G'd has many proxies to provide food for those who fear Him." Our ancestors merited to receive and be taught the laws of the Torah because they exhibited their trust in G'd. Only someone who puts His trust in G'd has the presence of mind and calmness necessary to allocate significant time to Torah study and Torah observance. This message relates to everyone in their unique situation. We must learn the lesson from our ancestors in the wilderness and remember that just like their Manna came down from Heaven so does our sustenance come from Heaven.

Public revelation

In this week's parasha, the Torah describes in great detail how the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai and were instructed how to prepare themselves to receive the Torah. The Torah relates how G'd elevated the entire nation to a one time prophetic experience so that everyone present could hear what G'd said to Moses. As it says (Shemos 19:9): "And G'd said to Moses, behold I will come to you in the thickness of a cloud, so that the nation will hear when I talk to you, and they will also believe in you forever." Never before, and never afterwards, has there been such a public revelation in front of millions of men, women and children. Everyone present heard for themselves how G'd told Moses the Ten Commandments.

Manna from Heaven

In last week's parasha, the Torah writes about how one month after the exodus from Egypt the Jewish people got nervous about how they would be able to provide food for themselves and their families. They complained to Moses and Aaron, why they had taken them out to the wilderness where there was no food available. G'd responded immediately to their complaints and told Moses that He was going to let Manna fall down from Heaven every day, six days a week. In this way there would be plenty of food for everyone.

Connection between Torah study and Manna

The Midrash Tanchuma (Beshalach 20) connects the two parshios and states that the Torah was only given to those who ate Manna. In order to understand the connection between Torah study and Torah observance with eating Manna, we must analyze some of the instructions the Jewish people received in connection with the Manna, and what happened when they collected this miraculous food. It says (Shemos 16:16-19): "This is what G'd has commanded, every man shall collect of it an omer per person you shall take, every man according to the number of your people in his tent And they gathered, those who took more and those who took less. And they measured in a [measuring cup of an] omer, and those who took more had nothing extra, and those who took less did not lack anything And Moses said to them, 'no man shall leave over from it till the morning.'"

G'd provided all their needs

The sojourn in the wilderness was fourty formative years, shaping the Jewish people to their role as G'd's chosen nation. It prepared them for their life after entering the land of Israel, and for whatever would happen to them later. One of the most important lessons that they had to learn was to trust G'd, not only in time of oppression and danger, but in their regular daily life. Throughout these years G'd provided them with all their needs, as it says (Devarim 2:7): "This fourty year period, HASHEM your G'd, was with you, you did not lack anything." They had constant protection from the elements, as well as their enemies and wild animals by the Clouds of Glory. Miriam's Well provided them with a constant source of water once it had been established. The garments that they took along when they left Egypt never wore out (see Shemos 12:35 and Devarim 8:4). Rashi quotes from the Midrash Rabbah (Shir Hashirim 4:11) that the children's clothes actually grew with them and were always clean and fresh.

Daily Manna

However, in regards to the Manna, it was a little different. As it says (Devarim 8:3): "And He [G'd] afflicted you and let you go hungry and He gave you the Manna to eat." The Daas Zekeinim points out that throughout the sojourn in the wilderness they never really went hungry but G'd only provided them with enough for one day at a time, so they were always a little nervous whether they would merit to get another portion the next day. In this way G'd wanted to train them not to rely on their own prowess and ability to produce but to put their trust in G'd. As it says a little later (Devarim 8:11-18): "Be careful lest you forget HASHEM your G'd Who leads you through the great and awesome wilderness Who feeds you Manna in order to afflict you and in order to test you to benefit you at the end And you shall remember HASHEM your G'd, that it is He that gives you strength to make wealth." With this insight we can understand why G'd instructed our ancestors in the wilderness just to gather enough portions for the number of people in the household, and made a miracle that whatever they collected always turned out to be exactly what they needed for that day. And they were not even allowed to save some of today's portion for tomorrow. All this educated and trained them to trust G'd. This was of great benefit to them later when they entered the land of Israel. For, as the Duties of the Heart (Introduction to the Gate of Trust) points out, a person is dependent on whoever he trusts. This is comparable to an insurance company. One is only insured by the company where one buys a policy. So obviously one is much better off putting one's trust in G'd rather than in one's own or a fellow human being's ability. This is the deeper significance of the above-mentioned verse hat G'd afflicted and tested the Jewish people in the wilderness in order to benefit us in the end. "The end" thus refers to after the sojourn in the Wilderness, when we entered the Land of Israel and ever since.

G'd has many proxies

Rashi in last week's parasha (Shemos 16:32) quotes the Mechilta that relates how the Prophet Jeremiah chastised his contemporaries questioning why they did not study Torah. When they answered that they had no time, for they were busy making a livelihood, he took out a bottle with Manna that G'd had instructed Moses to put aside for safekeeping for future generations. "Look", said Jeremiah, "your ancestors were sustained by this. G'd has many proxies to provide food for those who fear Him."

Our forefathers trusted G'd

In the blessing before Shema, we say every morning: "Our Father, our King, for the sake of our forefathers who trusted You, and You taught them the Laws of Life, so grant us and teach us for we have trusted in Your great and awesome holy Name." With this supplication we acknowledge that our ancestors merited to receive and be taught the laws of the Torah because they exhibited their trust in G'd. And we ask G'd to allow us as well to study Torah, in the merit that we trust Him.

Calmness to study Torah

Only someone who puts His trust in G'd has the presence of mind and calmness necessary to allocate significant time to Torah study and Torah observance. The Torah student, who is embarking upon a career and starts a family, will much easier be able to spend a good few hours daily studying, when he remembers Jeremiah's speech to the Jewish people.

Relates to everyone

However, in fact this message relates to everyone in their unique situation. Someone who is trying to become more observant may find it very difficult to stop working or closing his business on Shabbos. In a similar way, it may be difficult for an already observant person to take time off from his busy schedule to pray three times a day with a minyan. But if we internalize the words of Moses, that G'd is the One that gives us strength to succeed and become wealthy rather than our own prowess, we can much easier overcome our tests in life.

Sustenance from Heaven

This is what the Midrash Tanchuma teaches us. In order to become fully Torah-observant and committed to Torah study, we must learn the lesson from our ancestors in the wilderness and remember that just like their Manna came down from Heaven so does our sustenance come from Heaven.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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