Points to Ponder

Yisro 5777


And Yisro heard (18:1) – What did he hear? Rashi tells us that he heard about the Kriyas Yam Suf and the war with Amalek. The real question is what motivated Yisro to come when he heard. To that we ask, what DID motivate Yisro about the Kriyas Yam Suf and the war with Amalek? The Nesivos Shalom explains that a person like Yisro can achieve high heights in personal Emunah growth but to really enter a true stage of faith, he needs to be among the Jewish faith. This was most apparent after Kriyas Yam Suf where what the Shifcha saw Yechezkel did not see. However, it seemed that after Kriyas Yam Suf, the recognition of Hashem was obvious to everyone (Consider the reactions of the nations as described in the Shirah) but the battle with Amalek which seems to have been a direct assault on faith in Hashem, showed Yisro that the only way to come to truly be a Baal Emunah is to join up with the Jews – and so he came.

And Yisro said Baruch Hashem (18:9) The Gemara (Sanhedrin 94a) notes that it was an embarrassment that Yisro was the first to offer a Beracha. Why is the Shirah not counted? Rav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi Shlita explained that Shirah is a spontaneous response that is an outpouring at the experience of a miracle. Beracha is the same spontaneous outpouring but as a response to a recognition of Hakaras Hatov. Until this point no one was clear headed enough to recognize the Hakaras Hatov to spontaneously offer the necessary words Baruch Hashem.

And you will be unique to me from all nations (19:5) – There are 2 unique statuses in this week’s Parsha. On the one hand, we learn of the Jews receipt of the Torah. At the same time we read of the choice of the Jewish nation as unique. Was one a cause for the other? Rav Mordechai Greenberg Shlita pointed out that based on the Beracha of Asher Bachar Banu, we were chosen first and irrespective of the Torah, we are Hashem’s beloved. (This idea is found in the Kuzari Maamar Sheni II:50). It is this concept that allows us to know that Yisrael Af Al Pi Sh’Chata Yisrael hu and leads us to appreciate even the members of our nation who are mistaken in their beliefs (See Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 12:16).

And Moshe brought the words of the nation to Hashem (19:9) – Which words?  Rav Meir Shapiro ztl. explains by citing a Machlokes in regard to Hashem’s arrival in the thickness of the cloud: Abarbanel explains that this was Hashem’s plan – to appear to the people in the Levush – the imagery of the cloud despite the people’s request to see Hashem. The Baal Akaida explains that it was Moshe who would be in the thickness of the cloud so that the nation could hear directly and without distraction. Assuming the Abarbanel’s approach, Moshe carried the message of the people’s desire to see Hashem. Assuming the Akaida’s – it was the fact that the people didn’t want the agent – they wanted to see and hear on their own (the difference is whether Hashem acquiesced or not).

And they stood at the base of the mountain (19:17) -  The Talmud (Shabbos 88) notes that the Jews seem almost coerced into accepting the Torah or else Hashem would drop the Mountain on top of them (Sham Tehe Kevurascheim). The question needs to be asked: Why is the word Sham used? Why not Poh? Moreover, the Gemara seems to contradict the response of Naaseh V’Nishma? How are we to explain? Rav Aharon Soloveitchik  ztl. explained that in regard to the people who were at the base of the mountain – who had endured the slavery and experienced the exodus, their desire to accept the Torah did not involve coercion. However, since the Torah also needed a guarantor (See Shir HaShirim Rabba) and Hashem accepted the future generations as those guarantors, it was more of a challenge and a coercion. The generations that choose not to accept Sham Tehe Kevuraschem – will bury themselves at that point.

Aseres HaDibbros (20:1)- What is the significance of the Aseres HaDibbros? Rashi quotes the Geonim that the Aseres HaDibbros are the basic categories of the Mitzvos. Rav Schachter Shlita explained that Rashi held that this was the learning process since the Jews had already been Migayer and they were already Mikabel Mitzvos.  Ramban argues that this was the referring of the Miktzas Mitzvos Kalos and Miktzas Chamuros. He saw this as a smattering of the mitzvos – not an organizing pattern. This Parsha is a Mitzva of V’Hodata L’Baneicha U’L’Bnei Baneicha. Rav Schachter Shlita saw this as a Chizzuk to the Emunah in Hashem.  

And the nation saw and they trembled and they stood from afar (20:15) – Rav Binyamin Eisenberger Shlita cited the Sadigerer Rebbe ztl. who explained that when it comes to Emunah in Hashem, needing to see is a challenge that has to be overcome. For the ideal Emunah, is an internal one that is automatic and unchallenged. That is the intention here --- that the people needed to react to the sound and light show at Matan Torah in order to recognize their connection to Hashem – Vaamdu Meirachok and they realized that they were still far away from their goals in Emunah. Rav Eisenberger added from Rav Yisrael Salanter that when one is used to receiving credit and is suddenly asked for  a collateral, it is a cause for question. However, when one considers that there is a limit to a line of credit – that there is a limit to good trust,  a collateral needs to be found. The Alter of Kelm added that this is what we call the limits of “good faith.” We need to remember that in regard to our relationship with Hashem where our “Good faith” is.

Haftorah – And I said woe onto me for I was silent since I have lips that are Tamai (Yeshaya 6:5) – The Targum says he told himself that he was woeful for he needed to rebuke the people and didn’t. Rav Yaakov Kamenetzsky ztl. asked why this made him one who had Tamai lips? He answered that the intent of the Novi here is to explain why he was not offering the rebuke – that he felt unworthy since he himself was not solid but rather had Tamai lips.