Point to Ponder – Yisro 5774
Yisro’s advice (18:1) – Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh notes that the decision to have Yisro teach the lessons of setting up a government was to highlight to all future generations that among the nations of the world there are many who are Gedolim B’Havana. Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that the role of this message is to highlight to us that there is Chochma BaGoyim – there are facts that exist in the world but a Torah to teach law? Not until Matan Torah. (Rabbi Sacks uses this principle to highlight why he doesn’t like the term Limmudei Chol as opposed to the preferred – Chochma).
And they exchanged greetings to one another for peace and they came into the tent – Rav Efraim Greenblatt ztl. notes that the proper way to bring one closer to the tent of Torah is by beginning with Shalom – with greeting one another in good spirit and good meaning and at the same time, with Emunah in He whose name is Shalom. He also notes that this is fundamental even for those who are not “far” from the tent of Torah.
You should be for the nation in front of Hashem (18:19) – Rav Sabato Shlita points out that there was a fundamental misunderstanding between Yisro and Moshe about Torah leadership. Yisro assumed that Torah leaders need to be images, who do not dwell on the day to day activities of the people. Moshe understood that to be a good leader, one must be able to judge an honest judgment – whether the cost was a dollar or a million. According to Moshe, Judaism is about using the day to day operations of life for Jewish betterment. Judgment allows Tzedek to reign tall and proud and be Mikadeish Shem Shomayim. It is no less important than prophesy whose goal, too, is to bring the people closer to Hashem.
And they stood underneath the mountain (19:17) – Rashi cites the Talmud’s famous comment that Hashem raised the mountain over the heads of the Bnei Yisroel and told them that if they accepted the Torah, great. If not, Sham Teheh Kevurashcheim – you will be buried there. The commentaries abound as to why the word “Sham” referring to there, was used and not “Poh” – right here? Rav Chaim Shmuellevitz ztl. used to note that people wait to undertake certain opportunities until they get “Sham” to a more distant place. The trick to recall is that the very declaration of Sham – is a burial to worthy opportunities that one should not wait to undertake.
Maamad Har Sinai – Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita often pointed out that Korbanos, Tefillah and Talmud Torah are the most unique means of interacting with Hakadosh Baruch Hu for during those times the person is purely interacting with Hashem like an Eved serving his master.
I am Hashem your God who has taken you out of Mitzrayim – A famous midrash replayed many times at Chumash plays throughout the Torah world reminds us that prior to the Jews receiving the Torah, Hashem went to each nation to see if they would accept the Torah. Edom refused because they couldn’t accept the prohibition against murder, Yishmael couldn’t accept the prohibition against stealing. What was the point if Hashem came to the Jews and didn’t challenge them? Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski Shlita quotes Rav Yitzchak Meir of Gur who noted that the commandments selected for each of the nations were directed to challenge their very natures – to see if the nation would be willing to subvert its very psychological drive in order to follow the word of Hashem. For Edomites, it is savagery, for Yishmaelim it is theft. For Jews it is skepticism -- hence their challenge came in the first declaration, Anochee Hashem.
You shall have no other gods “on my Face” - Rav Yitzchak Koppleman ztl. of Lucerene noted that the use of the phrase “in front of my face “ is a reminder to us that man always stands in front of Hashem. Thus, when man sins, he sins “Lifaneicha” and it is precisely that lack of awareness that allows him/her to sin. We are required to recall Shivisee Hashem L’Negdee Tamid.
Haftorah: Woe onto me for I have been impure and I have impure lips (Yeshiyahu 6:5) – Rav Avraham Rivlin Shlita asks what the tale of woe was about and why would the Malach’s use of coal on Yeshiyahu’s lips heal him? He answers that Yeshiyahu was punished for speaking badly about Am Yisroel. He was cleansed through a Ritzpa because unlike other coals, a Ritzpa continues to glow on the inside long after the outside of the coal has burned out. Lashon HaRa too, continues to burn long after the outside act has been done.