Parshat Hashavua Yitro
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
Parshat Hashavua Yitro in a nutshell: In this week’s reading, Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), arrives at the Israelite encampment and advises them to set up a smoothly functioning legal system. The Israelites are encamped at Mount Sinai and hear the Ten Commandments.
The scene for Matan Torah (the Giving of the Torah) was set when:
They arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai… the Israelites camped there, opposite the mountain (19:1-2).
Matan Torah was unique. It was a spiritual experience designed to maximize impact for the longest term. As Moses later recalled G-d telling him at the time: “If only their hearts would always remain this way, where they are in such awe of Me. They would keep all My commandments for all time, so that it would go well with them and their descendants for ever” (Deut. 5:26).
Abarbanel considers Matan Torah from many angles. One of them is the particular environment: in the Wilderness in general, and at Mount Sinai in particular. He explains that it was those very surroundings that helped the impact of Matan Torah to be engraved permanently on the souls of the Children of Israel.
Firstly, Mount Sinai already connected with G-d’s revealing Himself. At Sinai (identified as Horeb, Deut. 4:10), G-d appeared to Moses as an individual, in the burning bush. There He gave him the call to physically take command and direct the Israelites. It was at that same location that G-d again revealed Himself to Moses, with all the Israelites included. This occasion was Matan Torah: G-d’s revealing His values and the required code of conduct for all time. And there at Sinai, He gave Moses the means to spiritually instruct and lead the Israelites.
Secondly, the arrival at Mount Sinai took place when the Israelites were experiencing G-d’s daily intervention. The manna arrived fresh, every weekday. The miracles of the Ten Plagues and at the Red Sea were recent, personally-connected events. Thus the Israelites were spiritually prepared. Indeed, Abarbanel explains that the first commandment states “I am G-d who brought you out of Egypt” rather than “I am G-d who created the world” because it is easier for an individual to connect with a smaller miracle with which they are personally involved than the bigger miracle that is not within their memory or experience.
Thirdly, the Israelites were in the wilderness. They were not in Egypt, where the environment exuded idolatry and adultery. They were also not in the Promised Land, where attention to matters spiritual could hardly ever be total due the conquest, settlement, and inter-tribal issues that were to persist for generations. They were not even on land that was claimed by a particular nation. They were thus in no-one’s territory, but could be also be described as everyone’s territory – other nations included. For those nations would not be able to claim that the Torah’s being revealed in specifically Israelite territory meant that the laws that previously applied to all humanity would thereon apply to the Israelites only. The sheva mitzvot b’nei noach – the Seven Noachite laws – including common human civility, would be just as vital after as before.
Perhaps these ideas help to explain: “Torah is acquired with… yishuv, deliberation” (Avot 6:6). The word yishuv relates to Yeshiva, which in modern terms includes being part of institution where Torah learning is full time, and nothing interferes. As the Rabbis declare, G-d dwells “in the four cubits of Halacha” (Brachot 8a), where the Torah is being acquired with exclusive involvement and undivided attention - as within the environment at Mount Sinai.
Acknowledgement Reb J Solomon
Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life tells us that the first step toward attaining true spirituality is becoming more aware of the significance of the human anatomy. The Zohar teaches that the soul is said to tower so high above the body that the body is called a “shoe” relative to the soul. Through our emotions of thoughts and the proper use of our physical body and the speech that comes from our mouths [by praising Hashem] we are then able to come close to Hashem. This allows us to bring down greater illuminations of own souls. This light gives everyone the ability to use their physical body as a chariot for the highest parts of their soul to achieve closeness to Hashem in the same manner as Moshe of Blessed Memory. Closeness to Hashem is the highest level a man can achieve on this world so they may ultimately bask in His light forever and ever.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
The sheva mitzvot b’nei noach – the Seven Noahide laws
The 7 Noahide Laws are rules that all of us must keep, regardless of who we are or from where we come. Without these seven things, it would be impossible for humanity to live together in harmony.
1. Do not profane G‑d’s Oneness in any way.
Acknowledge that there is a single G‑d who cares about what we are doing and desires that we take care of His world.
2. Do not curse your Creator.
No matter how angry you may be, do not take it out verbally against your Creator.
3/. Do not murder.
The value of human life cannot be measured. To destroy a single human life is to destroy the entire world—because, for that person, the world has ceased to exist. It follows that by sustaining a single human life, you are sustaining an entire universe.
4. Do not eat a limb of a living animal.
Respect the life of all G‑d’s creatures. As intelligent beings, we have a duty not to cause undue pain to other creatures.
5. Do not steal.
Whatever benefits you receive in this world, make sure that none of them are at the unfair expense of someone else.
6. Harness and channel the human libido.
Incest, adultery, rape and homosexual relations are forbidden. The family unit is the foundation of human society. Sexuality is the fountain of life and so nothing is more holy than the sexual act. So, too, when abused, nothing can be more debasing and destructive to the human being.
7. Establish courts of law and ensure justice in our world.
With every small act of justice, we are restoring harmony to our world, synchronizing it with a supernal order. That is why we must keep the laws established by our government for the country’s stability and harmony.