February 6th, 2021

24th of Shvat 5781


Yitro Fulfilled All Expectations of Him

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"He said to Moshe, 'I, your father-in-law Yitro, have come to you, with your wife and her two sons with her'" (Shemot 18:6)

The Midrash explains that when Yitro heard about the miracles of the Splitting of the Sea and the War of Amalek, he left behind all the honor and wealth that was his lot due to his position as minister of Midian, and came to ask Moshe to allow him to join the Jewish people and shelter under the Wings of the Shechina. The Midrash tells us (see Mechilta Yitro 1) that at first, Moshe did not want to accept his father-in-law since he did not know if his intentions were sincere. Yitro, who recognized Moshe's hesitation, therefore said to him, if you do not wish to accept me into the fold of the Jewish nation in my own merit, at least accept me in the merit of your wife, for I am her father. And if you do not wish to accept me either in my own merit or in your wife's, at least accept me in the merit of your sons who are my grandchildren. The Midrash continues and says that even after these supplications, Moshe did not want to accept Yitro as part of the Jewish people, until Hashem turned to him and said, "I, your father-in-law". This implies that the word "I" refers to Hashem Himself. He was commanding Moshe to accept his father-in-law even though he does not wish to do so.

I saw a question brought in the sefer 'Histakel B'Oraitah': Why did Moshe refuse to accept his father-in-law despite his pleading? Yitro was even prepared to forgo his honor by asking to be accepted not in his own merit but in the merit of his daughter and grandchildren.

One can say that Moshe was afraid to accept his father-in-law because of the Erev Rav (mixed-multitudes) that joined Am Yisrael, as it says, "Also a mixed multitude went up with them" (Shemot 12:38). This means that when Am Yisrael left Egypt, many of the non-Jews were impressed by the awesome miracles that had been performed for the Jewish people and wished to convert and join the Chosen Nation who merited this miraculous conduct. But that Mixed Multitude joined the Jewish People out of momentary admiration and in fact were not prepared to demonstrate self-sacrifice for the sake of fulfilling Hashem's will.

The Torah tells us, "They encamped in Rephidim" (Shemot 17:1). Chazal tell us (Berachot 5b) that there is no place in the entire Wilderness called Rephidim (רפידים), but the Torah uses this name to teach us that they loosened their grip (רפו ידיהם) on the Torah, meaning that they were no longer diligent in their Torah study. How do we understand that this generation who were called the 'Dor De'ah' and tangibly saw G-d's miracles, came to be lax about Torah study? The explanation is that Am Yisrael were negatively influenced by the Mixed Multitude who joined them when they left Egypt. These people sabotaged the sanctity of Bnei Yisrael and cooled off the fear of G-d that was implanted in them as a result of all the miraculous happenings that accompanied them.

Loosening their grip on the Torah as a result of the negative influence of the Mixed Multitude, brought them to make the Golden Calf and was also the reason why Amalek rose against them wishing to annihilate them. Moshe Rabbeinu, who observed the deadly result of those nations joining Am Yisrael, was afraid to accept his father-in-law Yitro, who was formerly the priest of Midian and had tried out every form of avodah zarah in the world and was also one of Pharaoh's advisors. Moshe therefore, did not know if this was a momentary enthusiasm as a result of the miracles of the Yam Suf and War of Amalek, an excitement that could dissipate after a short time, or maybe this was indeed sincere enthusiasm that would only grow and develop the more Yitro would deepen his Jewish identity and strengthen his connection to the Jewish people. So great was Moshe's fear of the bad influence of the converts who at times were seriously troublesome for the Jewish people, that he was prepared to forgo the proximity of his wife and children just so that Am Yisrael would not be harmed by the negative influence of his father-in-law.

Only after Hashem intervened on behalf of Yitro and informed Moshe that his father-in-law indeed sincerely wished to join the Jewish people, and not only would he not be a negative influence but on the contrary, his joining would be invaluably beneficial for Bnei Yisrael, did Moshe agree to accept his father-in-law's conversion. Indeed, Yitro was faithful to all expectations of him and benefitted Am Yisrael by suggesting the idea to appoint leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds etc., to improve the present situation since Moshe was unable to cope on his own with all the petitions of the public.

When Moshe Rabbeinu saw that Hashem was testifying that Yitro's intentions were pure and that he could not be compared to the Mixed Multitudes who hindered and damaged Am Yisrael, he hurried out to greet him and welcomed him warmly and pleasantly as the verse says (Shemot 18:7), "Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law, and he prostrated himself and kissed him, and each inquired about the other's well-being".

This explains why the Torah repeats the names of Moshe's children and the reason for calling these names, despite mentioning this previously. Gershom (גרשום) was called so "for he had said, 'I was a sojourner (גר) in a strange land'…and Eliezer (אליעזר), for 'the G-d of my father came to my aid (בעזרי), and He saved me from the sword of Pharaoh'" (18:3-4). Yitro mentioned the names of his grandsons to prove to his son-in-law that he was particular about the untainted education of his grandsons and did not try to negatively influence them, the proof being that they retained their Jewish names. Had the grandfather tried to persuade them to worship idols, they would not have been able to stand up to the priest of Midian and would have also given up their Jewish names. Yitro wished to hint with this that just as when he was a gentile he did not seek to have a negative influence on his grandsons, all the more so when joining the Jewish people his intention is certainly not to blemish their spirituality and remove them from the straight path.

Indeed, Yitro's words stemmed from his heart and testified like a thousand witnesses that he was speaking the truth. Due to this, Hashem came to his aid and told Moshe to accept him since he was a sincere convert with pure intentions, unlike the Mixed Multitudes who only brought harm to the Jewish people by joining them.

Guard Your Tongue

Speaking about Children

It is forbidden to speak lashon hara about children. One who speaks about a child in a way that either he or the listener considers as derogatory, transgresses the prohibition of lashon hara.

Similarly, it is forbidden to say or write something about a child that could cause him harm.

A teacher who is about to write a negative comment in a child's report card, should stop for a moment and consider the effect of this comment on the child's future. Similarily, teachers must behave with fairness and great caution when relating their opinion on the students to the next year's teacher.

Walking in Their Ways

Seeing Salvation

On the 5th of Elul 2006, the day of Father’s hilula, zya”a, I received the following letter from Mr. Nissim Brown who lives in Netanya:

Dear Rabbi David Pinto, shlita,

I write you this letter upon the recommendation of Rabbi Eliyahu Sitbon.

I recently experienced a most amazing incident which will remain with me as long as I live and I would like to share it with the Rav. One Friday, as I was setting the Shabbat table, the Kiddush cup fell and broke. I had to find another one to replace it and remembered that Rabbi Eliyahu Sitbon had once presented me with a Kiddush cup which has the pictures of your forefathers, zya”a, engraved on it. That was the cup I used that Shabbat.

After the Friday night meal, I went to sleep for the night. I dreamt that I was unpacking merchandise near the beautiful building which houses the Yeshiva in Ashdod. The honorable Rav stood nearby and told me, “When you finish the job, have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist because you don’t see well.”

I awoke in the morning, the dream fresh in my mind. Throughout the day, it gave me no rest. Suddenly, I remembered the unique Kiddush cup I had used the night before. That was probably what prompted me to dream about the Rav. This helped me calm down but despite this, I decided that after Shabbat I would have my eyes checked.

I made an appointment with an eye doctor and went for a check-up. To my utter surprise, the results indicated a hidden illness nesting in my body. When I showed the results to a specialist, he recommended that I undergo surgery to remove the growth. He pointed out that I had come just in time, when the tumor was still relatively small and easy to remove. I underwent surgery and am now in the recovery stages. I want to thank the Rav for the good advice, which came at just the right time, as well as for his prayers for my complete recovery.

This letter moved me greatly. I have no doubt that it was the merit of my ancestors, who sacrificed their lives for Hashem’s will, which stood by my side to save this man through a dream. The Gemara states (Yoma 87a), “Fortunate are the righteous. Not only are they meritorious, but they confer merit upon their children and grandchildren until the end of all generations.”

Words of the Sages

Abba, Do you Need Something?

We find something interesting in the Ten Commandments, for the section that commands about matters 'between man and G-d' includes the mitzvah of "honor your father and your mother". It would seem more appropriate to include this mitzvah in the section of commandments 'between man and his fellow'?

The holy sefarim write that this command was specially written in the section of commandments between man and G-d to teach us that the honor of parents is comparable to the honor of G-d, meaning that we must honor our parents exactly as we honor the Creator. Just like the other four commandments, this mitzvah is also regarded as 'between man and G-d'.

HaGaon Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman shlita, Av Beit Din and Rav of K’hal Zichron Elazar Santov, Lakewood, related:

When I was young I was a steady visitor at the home of my esteemed mentor, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Tirnauer zt"l, Av Beit Din and Rav of 'Shomrei Shabbos Shul in Boro Park'. There I was treated to a wonderful example of what honoring one's father is all about, in the form of his youngest son, Rabbi Yitzchok Eizik HaLevi Tirnauer shlita, who eventually succeeded his father as Av Beit Din and Rav of 'Shomrei Shabbos'. Seeing the extent to which he honored his father zt"l was simply a sublime experience.

Throughout the years he accompanied his father wherever he went and after every prayer service or shiur that he delivered, he accompanied his father home. Even though the route home took him past his own house, he never entered but continued accompanying his father even though he had several other attendants, I among them. Not only did he accompany his father until his house but he would always enter together with him and saw to whatever needed doing. When he accompanied his father to a simcha, he stayed the entire time and every few minutes would go over to him and ask whether he needs something.

At the third Shabbat meal that his father presided over, R' Yitzchok sat facing him among the other participants, rather than next to him so that he could gaze at his father throughout with great humility. It was a glorious sight to see how he submissively drunk with thirst every single word that came out of his father's mouth and did not take his eyes off him for even a moment. Even later on when he was already the Rosh Yeshiva in Satmar and a respectable Rav in his own right and a grandfather too, he continued with this custom until his father zt"l passed away. He never relinquished this mitzvah of honoring his father in a most wonderful way throughout.

It is also told about the Admor, the 'Damesek Eliezer' of Vishnitz zt"l, that one Erev Shabbat he was reading through the Parsha 'twice and once with Targum' as per the custom, and just when he came to the last verse of the Parsha, his father, the 'Ahavat Yisrael' of Vishnitz, entered and asked him something. The Damesek Eliezer immediately replied and then began reading the Parsha again from the beginning because he was always particular not to stop in the middle.

The chassidim who were present were very surprised and asked him why he had to stop and then begin all over again, could his father not wait half a moment until he would finish?

The Damesek Eliezer replied: "If my father would have to wait for me even half a minute, what would all the 'twice and once with Targum' be worth?"

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.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Virtue of Unity

"They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness; and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain" (Shemot 19:2)

Rashi writes on the words "and Israel encamped there": "Like a single person with a single heart." Because the introduction and condition for receiving the Torah is unity.

Accepting the Torah is conditional on Am Yisrael being unified. One can explain this according to the Holy Zohar who says, "Yisrael, the Holy One Blessed Be He and the Torah are One". Only when a person loves his friend is he connected to Hashem and the Torah and brings about the fulfillment of the verse "A three-ply cord is not easily severed" (Kohelet 4:12). But when people do not like each other and do not wholeheartedly honor each other, there is a lack in this three-ply relationship.

The virtue of unity is vital for Torah study because for example, if the talmidim do not respect their Rav who spent time and effort preparing a shiur for them, he will not be motivated to continue to do so in the future and his talmidim will lose out.

There was an incident in which someone heard lashon hara about a certain Talmid Chacham. That Talmid Chacham came to give a shiur in our Yeshiva and in fact it was an incredible shiur. But the fellow who had accepted the lashon hara did not attend the shiur. Later on, it turned out that the victim of the lashon hara was actually a different Rav. I told him that even if the lashon hara had been said about this Rav, it was forbidden for him to accept it and because he did accept the derogatory comments which tarnish his G-dly image, he missed out on hearing Divrei Torah. In other words, because he blemished unity by accepting lashon hara, he passed up the opportunity of learning Torah.

I once met an unassuming Jew who excitedly told me a novel Torah idea that he had conceived. The fine chiddush was uncomplicated but nevertheless I praised him greatly. This gave him great pleasure and today he studies Torah for two hours every day because he felt that his chiddushim were appreciated. We see then the importance of unity and praising one another.

When there is a halachic dispute we rule according to the opinion of Beit Hillel and not according to Beit Shammai. "These and these are words of the Living G-d and the ruling is like Beit Hillel". The Gemara explains (Eruvin 13b) the reason for this: "They were agreeable and forbearing, showing restraint when affronted and when they taught the halacha they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai. Moreover, when they formulated their teaching and cited a dispute, they prioritized the statements of Beit Shammai to their own statements, in deference to Beit Shammai." Their greatness was that anyone who was taught Torah by Beit Hillel was also told about the opinions of Beit Shammai.

This detail was missing among the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva. We are told that they died because they did not treat each other with respect (Yevamot 62b). The Gemara says that when the talmidim died the world grew desolate and dark, which shows that during their lifetime they illuminated the world with their Torah. When they died, the world was comparable to the darkness that was present during the period of the Greek exile about which it says, "with darkness upon the surface of the deep" since they brought the sound of Torah to a standstill. G-d forbid these pious talmidim did not sin by purposely offending their friends. Rather, the meaning is that these tzadikim were charged with not treating their friend's Torah opinions with enough respect.

Pearls of the Parsha

A Quick Visit that Does Not Impose

"And you shall make known to them the path in which they should go and the deeds that they should do" (Shemot 18:20)

The Baron Shimon Zev Rothschild was once staying in the healing countryside of Marienbad at the same time as the 'Ktav Sofer' and he used to pay him a visit every day.

One day, the Ktav Sofer did not feel so well and when the Baron came to visit him he stayed only a short time and then turned to go.

The Baron justified himself by quoting the Gemara (Baba Metzia 30b), "Rabbi Yosef taught, 'and you shall make known to them', this refers to the structure of their livelihood, 'the path' refers to acts of kindness and 'in which they should go' refers to visiting the sick." The Baron asked rhetorically as to why the mitzvah of visiting the sick is derived from this phrase?

To hint to us that visiting the sick should not involve a lengthy stay which imposes on the sick person, rather "they should go"…

In the Merit of Leah who Uttered Day and Night

"So shall you say to the House of Ya'akov and relate to the Children of Israel" (Shemot 19:3)

"Beit Ya'akov", the house of Ya'akov, refers to the women and Chazal explain that the word 'תאמר', say, implies a mild form of speech.

The sefer 'Moshav Z'keinim' of the Ba'alei Tosafot, questions in the name of the Rabbi Ya’akov of Orléans as to why did the women merit being told first?

He answers with an explanation from HaDarshan Rabbi Moshe of Narbonne zt"l. It was in Leah's merit that they merited being told first because she would wear a golden pendant on her heart on which was engraved, "The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Ya'akov" and she would utter these words day and night. That is why "Leah's eyes were tender", from the glitter of gold. This is the reason why the women merited being told about the commandments before the men.

Moshe Took the People Out of Secular Engagement

"Moshe brought the people forth from the camp toward G-d" (Shemot 19:17)

The role of a Jewish leader is, as the Admor of Gur, the Imrei Emes zt"l taught, to draw the people out of secular matters and move them into holy boundaries.

This is in fact the explanation of "who shall take them out and bring them in" which was said in reference to appointing "a man over the assembly", someone who would lead the generation after Moshe's passing. Moshe in fact acted in this way, "Moshe brought the people forth", means that he took them out, "from the camp", from daily life, from secular occupation, "toward G-d", he brought them to within holy gates.

Shabbat – Designated for Service of Hashem Alone

"Six days shall you work and accomplish all your work" (Shemot 20:9)

Rabbeinu Bachaye brings a beautiful explanation on this verse which he heard in the name of the Rambam zt"l.

"Throughout the six days, you can serve Hashem through doing your work, like the Avot who served Hashem through their occupation with the cattle and other physical occupations. But the seventh day, the Shabbat, should be entirely for Hashem your G-d, you should not do any work on it at all.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

There is a pious gentleman who travels the world on a mission to arouse and warn the public about the severity of the prohibition of talking in the Beit Mikdash Me'at, our Batei Knessiot, particularly while in the middle of praying. The tzadik Rabbi Meir Greenwald shlita, has sensational, amazing stories in his repertoire, concerning the reward of those who are vigilant and similarly, about the bitter fate of those who disregard this prohibition and are not particular about defending the honor of our holy places of worship.

"Recently", he related, "I visited an elderly Jew shlita who is 107 years old. I asked him in amazement: 'Dear friend, how did you merit such longevity?' And he answered, 'I think the reason is that as far back as I can remember I was always very careful to recite every single blessing with the appropriate concentration and not recite any blessing while walking around. Instead, I remained in place, either sitting or standing.

Also, I am always careful to recite blessings from inside a siddur, because reciting blessings by heart causes one's thoughts to wander to other matters. Whereas if one recites the blessing from a siddur it is much easier to concentrate. Even the blessing of 'Asher Yatzar' and other similar blessings, blessings that one recites several times each day, I am nevertheless particular to recite from a siddur.

And thirdly, when I recite a blessing I do not have to say 'Tefillat Haderech', the Wayfarer's Prayer.'

'Please enlighten me', I asked, 'what do you mean by saying that you did not have to recite the Wayfarers' Prayer?' 'To my regret, people do not show due respect to reciting blessings and say them 'on the run' as one who is on a journey, which requires the Wayfarer's Prayer…. I am particular to pronounce each word clearly, as the Shulchan Aruch rules in the laws of prayer that one who prays should utter each word slowly as if he is counting coins. In my opinion, this is the merit that afforded me a long and good life with physical and mental health.'

He went on to add: 'Imagine to yourself that you are told that the Gadol Hador is about to visit your home, for example you are told that the Chafetz Chaim zt"l is coming to your home. No doubt before the visit you will make all the necessary preparations. You will clean the house, make sure that everything is in place for the visit and stand in wait to welcome the Gadol Hador.

The time arrives and the Chafetz Chaim enters your home. He sits down and begins to speak with you, the master of the house. A few moments later your cellphone rings… will it enter your mind to answer the phone while standing in front of the Gadol Hador? Certainly not!

The Holy Torah writes at the end of Parshat Yitro: "Wherever I permit My Name to be mentioned I shall come to you and bless you", meaning that when one prays and mentions Hashem's Name, the Holy One Blessed Be He, the King of Kings Himself, comes to you. So is it at all possible that one should even consider answering the phone in the middle of praying while Hashem is standing right next to you? Is this called believing in Hashem's existence?'"

May You Merit Seeing Children

A wonderful miracle took place with someone who waited many years to be blessed with children. In his distress he went to Maran Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita, asking to be blessed with compassion and salvation. HaGaon Rabbi Chaim shlita answered him: "There is a mitzvah not to talk during the Torah reading in the Beit Knesset. Unfortunately, since this matter is commonly breached, it is capable of affecting salvation! Accept upon yourself from now on not to talk even between one Aliyah and the next, including words of Torah. In this merit you will see salvation."

The blessing of the tzadik was fulfilled and in the merit of not talking during the Torah reading, the couple merited giving birth to a son.

This person told his friend about the miracle, and this friend passed it on to another friend until it eventually came to the attention of someone who was also waiting to be blessed with children. It was on Friday night of Parshat Ki Tisa when he heard this story and he decided: I also wish to join the group of those who guard their mouths from talking during the Torah reading. Maybe this will afford me the merit of being blessed with children.

And so it was. During the Torah reading, he kept his mouth tightly closed (he added that it was very difficult for him because he was used to regularly sitting together with a certain group of people every single Shabbat, and now they looked at him and laughed at his fanaticism… but he decided not to let this embarrassment stand in his way!).

He wanted to make a note of this undertaking and wrote on a piece of paper: "On Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Ki Tisa, R' Moshe told me what the Gaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita said, about being careful to listen to the Torah reading without talking even between the Aliyot, which can be a merit to be blessed with children. With Hashem's help I began implanting this the next day, may Hashem help me."

He placed this note inside his Chumash at Parshat Ki Tisa. And what a miracle: The very next year, on Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa, he had a baby girl! Exactly a year to the day that he accepted upon himself to be careful with this matter, he stood by the bimah and joyfully gave a name to his newborn daughter!

He related with emotion that anyone hearing these miracles will tangibly see that Heaven attaches great importance to this mitzvah, in particular because it is a very hard challenge. It seems that the reward is that Hashem listens to the prayers of those who are careful with this mitzvah, and each of those who undertook this commitment merited salvation. He asked to publicize the matter so that all should know that the reward is exceedingly great in accordance with the deed, to be blessed with all kinds of goodness.


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