Febuary 15th, 2020

20th of Shevat 5780


Seeing the Voice

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"The entire people saw the thunder and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the smoking mountain; the people saw and trembled and stood from afar" (Shemot 20:15)

"The entire people saw the thunder". This expression seems most unusual.  Is it not the way of the world to hear noises and not see them? Why does the Torah use the expression of 'sight' instead of 'the sense of hearing'? With difficulty, one can explain that the verse can also be read, 'וייראו מן הקולות', 'they were afraid of the thunder'. The extra 'yud' changes the meaning of the word from 'they saw' to 'they were afraid', and implies that they were afraid of the sound of the shofar which continued growing louder over the mountain since as we know, the sound of the shofar signifies either war or the Day of Judgement. But it is still important to understand the plain meaning of the verse.

One can explain this verse in a way that contains a lesson for us: The word 'רואים', 'saw', can be taken from the context (Tamid 32a), "איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד", "Who is wise? One who considers the outcome of a deed". Bnei Yisrael were considered as wise people who foresee the consequences of their actions. The meaning of this saying is that wisdom is dependent on being able to foresee the consequences of one's mitzvot. Was one's mitzvah performed with perfection, for the sake of Heaven, or chalila, was there any slight combination of defect or impure motives? If yes, the result is that performing this mitzvah is considered as 'a mitzvah that comes about as a result of an aveirah', and it would have been better had it not been performed in the first place.

The more a person invests deep thought in creating an image of the matter, he can then truly imagine, as if he is actually seeing with his eyes, what future outcome this mitzvah will bring about. If indeed a person fulfills the mitzvah out of a true desire to fulfill Hashem's will and glorify Heavens' Name in this world, then he merits special Divine assistance not to be the cause of any mishap.

On the verse (Mishlei 10:8) "The wise of heart will seize good deeds", Chazal explain that this verse was said about Moshe Rabbeinu. For when Am Yisrael were occupied with collecting possessions from the Egyptians, Moshe Rabbeinu concerned himself with retrieving Yosef's bones. One can ask why this verse was said particularly about Moshe Rabbeinu since when Am Yisrael took the spoil, they too were occupied with fulfilling a Heavenly command since Avraham Avinu was told (Bereishit 15:14), "And afterwards they will leave with great wealth". It was a mitzvah for Am Yisrael to take the Egyptian's possessions so that Hashem's promise to Avraham should be fulfilled in its entirety. Had they not taken the spoil, it would have been considered as if they disregarded a Heavenly command.

The answer could be that indeed Bnei Yisrael were commanded to take the spoil, but while they were busy gathering possessions, they were not thinking about fulfilling G-d's command, rather they were driven by a lust for money and possessions. Since it was considered as a mitzvah that was devoid of any real preparation to fulfill this Heavenly command of taking the spoil, therefore the verse "The wise of heart will seize good deeds" is not applied to them. But Moshe Rabbeinu possessed the aspect of "Who is wise? One who considers the outcome of a deed", for with his greatness and strength of spirit he was able to reckon the far-reaching result of taking this money. Therefore, he preferred to busy himself with Yosef's bones, which would exempt him from performing this mitzvah since he was occupied with a different mitzvah. (It would seem that Moshe Rabbeinu did take some small amount from the Egyptians, to fulfill Hashem's command.)

Since Am Yisrael did not try to picture the outcome of their hurried taking of the Egyptians' possessions, the foreign consideration of lust for money was intertwined in taking the spoil, and this is why later on these possessions caused them to sin, for it was from these possessions that they brought gold to Ahron in order to create the Golden Calf.

Hashem blesses a person with wealth not so that he should squander his money on vanities, but because He wants to give him the opportunity to give charity and support the deprived and oppressed. But sometimes a person tampers with reality and considers his money as a goal in itself, and not as a means to achieve a goal. This is a mitzvah that comes about through an aveirah; it stems from a blemish in the ability to consider the outcome of a deed.

But once they left Egypt, Am Yisrael purified themselves for fifty days, to the extent that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, they declared, "We will do and we will hear", they preceded 'we will do' to 'we will hear'. This implies that they had achieved the level of the angels who accept upon themselves to carry out any role that they are given by Hashem, even before knowing what it involves. By Am Yisrael preceding 'we will do' to 'we will hear', it shows that they considered the future, for in their elevated state like that of angels, they could perceive the future outcome of receiving the Torah. This, then, explains the meaning of the verse, "The entire people saw the thunder". Through saying "We will do and we will hear", they were elevated to the level of angels and could perceive the consequences and blessed results of accepting the yoke of Torah and mitzvot.

Words of the Sages

Instilling Jewish Tradition from a Tender Age

In a speech given by Maran Rabbi Gershon Edelstein shlita, he pointed out that every person who is blessed with a family, when occupied with matters concerning his family, is in fact occupied with mitzvot. He is performing the mitzvah of chesed alongside the mitzvah of loving others, for he is taking care of his family and exerting himself on their behalf, by supporting and satisfying them with all their needs. All of which affords him many merits of chesed. More than that, every person in his own home merits amassing spiritual merits, both for himself and also for the merits he causes others to acquire. The father and mother educate their children providing the children with spiritual merits.

For example, as soon as a child starts to speak, they immediately teach him to say, "תורה צוה לנו משה", "the Torah that Moshe commanded us", the first verse of the Shema, and also "Modeh ani" as well as other holy verses. Even though he is still a young child who has only just begun to speak and certainly does not understand what he is saying, he only repeats the words that he is told to say, they already teach him these holy words, so that in the morning he should know to say "Modeh ani", and fall asleep at night with "Shema Yisrael". Through this, when he grows up he will possess emunah, which was instilled in him from his youth. This emunah can be impressed upon the child from a very young age when he is not yet capable of understanding, yet the parents already gain and give merits!

As the child grows older, he picks up the way his family speaks. He hears how they always say, "Im yirtzeh Hashem", "if it is G-d's will", and "be'ezrat Hashem", "with Hashem's help". This is the way they talk and this is the way that it should be. Instead of saying, "I will do" and "I will go", everything is only "if Hashem so wishes" and "With Hashem's help". With this, the parents influence the child already from a very tender age and instill in him the emunah that everything that happens is directed by Hashem and in accordance with His will.

I still remember from my childhood how my mother a"h would talk to us about Akeidat Yitzchak. There was a song that described the Akeidah and she would sing us these words with a special tune, telling about the mesirat nefesh of the Akeidah, and also about Avraham Avinu being saved from the burning furnace, and about the trials of Avraham Avinu. It was the facet of emunah that shone strongly throughout.

We also used to speak about Gehinom, how there is reward and punishment, in those days they spoke about this even to young children. As soon as a child was able to understand in some way, he already knew that there is Gan Eden and Gehinom. He knew that there are mitzvot and aveirot, for mitzvot one receives Gan Eden and for aveirot one goes to Gehinom. This knowledge of retribution only served to increase our yirat shamayim and did not cause us to become depressed.

It is evident that each person, right in his own home, is occupied with 'zikuy harabim', bringing merit to the public, through the education that he instills in his children.

Similarly, a kindergarten teacher, besides the chesed that she performs by taking care of the children, which is a kindness for the parents and the children in itself, also recites "Modeh ani" with them, verses of "Shema Yisrael" and the blessings recited after eating bread and even speaks to them about concepts of emunah. Through all of this, she is 'bringing merit to the public', by instilling them with emunah.

In truth, it is a good thing to speak to the children in kindergarten about emunah, about the creation of the world, to explain that there is a Creator and that the world was created in six days. She should tell them about the Receiving of the Torah and about what occurred at Har Sinai. Even young children should know and hear this. At home too, one should speak about Har Sinai where we received the Ten Commandments, from the Almighty Himself!

On Shabbat too, one should speak to the children about the sanctity and greatness of Shabbat. They should not think it is a day when we suffer, a day when so many things are forbidden. On the contrary, Shabbat is a day of happiness! One makes Kiddush, sings zemirot, eats a Shabbat se'uda and enjoys special Shabbat delights. There are also the special Shabbat prayers and the joy in studying Torah on Shabbat! We delight in Shabbat to the extent that even one’s face changes on Shabbat, as the Tosefot brings in Kesubot (7b) in the name of the Midrash, that on Shabbat, "A new face arrives".

Guard Your Tongue

Zealous for the Truth

It is the way of a relative that when telling over something that his relative did, he does not intend to speak negatively about him, his intention is simply out of zealousness for the truth, for in his opinion, his relative acted incorrectly.

A person must know that this is also included under the prohibition of speaking lashon hara.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "In the year of King Uzziah's death" (Yeshaya 6)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah describes the revelation of the Holy Shechina in the Chosen House in Yerushalayim, while the Parsha describes the revelation of the Shechina to all of Israel which took place at Har Sinai, with the Giving of the Torah.

Walking in Their Ways

Sage Advice

One year, a good friend of mine once found himself enmeshed in a complicated judicial case. He hired the very best lawyers to extricate him from his troubles, but due to the complexity of the case, they were at a loss as to how to help him out. Therefore, he turned to me for advice. I thought about his situation long and hard. Afterwards, I offered him effective, sound advice.

My friend relayed my advice to his lawyers, asking for their professional opinion. The lawyers were dumbstruck by its clarity and were surprised that they had not come up with such a brilliant solution, despite their being experienced and sharp lawyers. They asked my friend to find out in which famous university I had studied, for it was this university, they assumed, that gave me the tools and ability to come up with this brilliant idea.

 I explained that the Torah is the Ivy League College of the world. His legal problem showed the fulfillment of the verse, (Devarim 4:5), “See, I have taught you decrees and ordinances.” When a Jew cleaves to Torah, he is granted a special measure of siyata di’Shemaya to offer wise counsel, on the level of decrees and ordinances.

As Torah is the source of all wisdom, it, therefore, confers wisdom upon those who learn it and grants them understanding in all areas of life.

Pearls of the Parsha

Taking is the Sacrifice

"Yitro, the father-in-law of Moshe, took a burnt-offering and feast offerings for Hashem" (Shemot 18:12)

In Parshat Korach too, it says, "And Korach took" and Rashi clarifies those words as meaning that Korach took himself. If so, the Shevet Mussar zt"l says, here too we can explain "And Yitro took", by saying that he took himself, meaning that he took himself on a new path. He left behind the honor that he was accorded and his important position in Midian and went after Moshe to the barren desert.

This taking of Yitro is something very precious. This taking of himself and setting out on a new path, was "a burnt-offering and feast-offerings for Hashem", this was the biggest offering that he brought for Hashem.

The Segula of the Segol

"You shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples" (Shemot 19:5)

The word 'segula', translated as 'the most beloved treasure', comes from the term 'segol', one of the Hebrew vowels that is made up of three dots in an upside-down equilateral triangle. Turning it around, it still remains a 'segol'.

This is the essence of Bnei Yisrael, as the tzaddik Rabbi David of Lelov zt"l explains. No matter where we live and no matter what we experience as a nation, we remain eternal. "The Eternal One of Israel does not lie".

In Peace, In the World That is Only Good

"And this entire people, as well, shall arrive at its destination in peace" (Shemot 18:23)

The Gemara (Berachot 64a) brings in the name of Rabbi Avin HaLevi: One who takes leave of his friend should not say to him, "Go in peace" but, "Go to peace". When Yitro said to Moshe, "Go to peace" (Shemot 4:18), Moshe went and rose up. When David told Avshalom "Go in peace", (Shmuel II 15:9) he went and was hung.

This Gemara makes it is difficult to understand why Yitro said, "And this entire people, as well, shall arrive at its destination in peace"?

Rabbi Chaim ben Attar zya"a, in his sefer 'Chefetz Hashem', explains that when saying this, Yitro was referring to the period of time when the entire generation will have already passed away. He said to Moshe that if he establishes suitable judges, who will be men of accomplishment, G-d fearing people, men of truth who despise money, if these will be the kind of people who will judge the people with integrity, this will save Am Yisrael from the sin of theft and then automatically, "this entire people", after leaving the world, will arrive at its destination in peace", meaning that they will not have to return to this world as transmigrated souls.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Special Power of Hearing

The first verse in Parshat Yitro is an introduction to the entire Parsha which talks about the Giving of the Torah. Just as every book contains an introduction which describes the book's content, so too, the fact that Yitro heard and came, is an introduction to the Giving of the Torah. This incident contains the ability to prove to Bnei Yisrael how great is the power of Torah and to endear it to them, since even Yitro who was the minister of Midian and from a material standpoint did not lack anything, left behind his honor and authority and came to take shelter under the wings of the Shechina, after hearing about the deeds of Hashem.

Yitro did not witness all these miracles that Hashem performed for Bnei Yisrael. What gave him the ability to repent just from hearing about the miracles? There were many people throughout the world who heard about Hashem's wonders and might, and despite this did not seek to attach themselves to Hashem. What quality did Yitro possess that the others did not have?

One can answer that Yitro used his power of imagination and pictured to himself the miracles of the Exodus, to the extent that he felt as if he himself had participated in those miracles. Therefore, even though he only heard about them, he felt the same degree of elation as those who actually witnessed the miracles.

When Yitro accepted the yoke of heaven, the Torah broadened his heart, filling his entire being, to the extent that he no longer felt a need for money and possessions of which, being a Midianite minister, he had vast amounts. Yitro was steeped in love for Hashem and followed Him to the desert, an unsown land, placing his trust in Hashem that He will show him the way and grant him understanding on this new path. The Torah stresses Yitro's words, "Yitro said, Blessed is Hashem" (Shemot 18:10) which means that Yitro was the first one who blessed Hashem's Name, and he was the one who instilled this blessing in all future generations.

From Yitro's behavior, which is brought as an introduction to receiving the Torah, we learn of the great power of hearing, how it is capable of changing worlds and redeeming a person from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

This week is the Shabbat of the Giving of the Torah, where we elatedly read about the Ten Commandments that were given to us at Har Sinai. The middle Fifth Commandment was presented to us as a gift of love: The commandment to observe the Shabbat. There is no Jew, who when reminded about Shabbat in the middle of the week, does not feel a surge of inner joy. It could be a tune from one of the zemirot that is playing in the background, a section of the Shabbat prayers that suddenly comes to mind, or a pleasant memory of successfully observing the Shabbat with all its intricate laws, that surfaces. Either way, every Jew, the world-over, grows excited when thinking about Shabbat and aspires to once again taste from its delights, to once again recharge his batteries from its sanctified atmosphere. The heart bursts out in song and rejoicing: "Shabbat Kodesh, Shabbat Kodesh, my soul pines for Your love!"

In addition to this special gift of Shabbat, we received another gift which is called 'tosefet Shabbat', adding on to the obligatory time of observing the Shabbat. It is actually a halachic ruling, that one must add to the length of this holy day from the weekday. This ruling is flexible and we may decide for ourselves how much to extend the Shabbat, meriting another hour of sheltering under the wings of the Shechina. Those who merit welcoming the Shabbat before the required time, tell of a surprising, sublime pleasure they experience during this period. The enchanted atmosphere, the emotional tranquility and composure, the excitement of welcoming the Shabbat queen, this is only a partial list of the benefits that await those who usher in the Shabbat early. But it turns out, that alongside these main benefits, 'tosefet Shabbat' also provides us with several other additional benefits…

One who welcomes the Shabbat early merits an exceptional 'opening of the gates'. Over the last few years, the thousands who have joined the revolution of welcoming the Shabbat early, tell of extraordinary miracles and salvations that they experienced: Childless couples who were blessed, health problems that simply disappeared, financial distress that was resolved in a miraculous fashion, older single boys and girls who surprisingly found their match, and many more…

This is, in fact, what Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim zya"a, the 'Ben Ish Chai', writes in his sefer 'Ben Yehoyada': He explains the Chazal that tells us: Anyone who delights in the Shabbat, is given a portion without limits". One who welcomes the Shabbat early, opens up the borders of Shabbat which are seemingly limited to one day and night, but one who welcomes the Shabbat early, opens its borders and widens them. The Shabbat then repays him in like terms, and opens all 'limitations' for him, expanding his portion in all areas.

If so, 'tosefet Shabbat' is an exceptional gift that we can give ourselves. Whoever has merited tasting from the sweet nectar of welcoming the Shabbat early, whoever merited the spiritual uplift and serenity that it bestows, can never give up this pleasure, and recommends it warmly… Even if it demands effort, it is definitely worth trying and worth tasting! "Come my Beloved to greet the bride, The Shabbat presence let us welcome"!


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