Parsha Yisro

FEBRUARY 1, 2013
SHEVAT 21, 5773

Candle-lighting Time: 5:01 PM

This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated to all the dessert team members of Wine, Cheese &
Chocolate 2013. Thanks for all your delicious hard work. May the best dessert win!


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Tune In

There are certain people you should just listen to. They say you should listen to your mother.There’s no question you should listen to a police officer. And you should listen to your doctor. Especially when he’s telling you a Dvar Torah.

One afternoon between minchah and maariv my doctor, Alex Jacobs, said the following lovely thought on parshas Yisro. Or at least, this is what I heard him say. It is asked, how did Yisro merit having the parsha with the Ten Commandments named after him?
The parsha says that Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, heard all that happened to the Jewish people upon their departure from Egypt, and he came to join them.Did he have bionic ears? Was he the only person that heard about the signs and wonders of the Exodus? What exactly did Yisro hear?Reb Chatskel (a diminutive of Ezekiel) explained with a statement of our Sages. Every day, the Voice of Heaven calls out to the world, declaring the glory of G-d and His Torah.Funny, I don’t remember hearing any Voices of Heaven this morning. Maybe the VOH server is down.
It’s not the Voice of Heaven that’s broken, it’s the ears. If a person is listening correctly, he can hear the voice. But not everyone hears it. We have to be tuned in.Yisro heard the awesome news of the miraculous Egyptian defeat by G-d’s hand. Along with everyone else. What set him apart, however, was the way he heard it. He really listened. He heard it, he picked himself up and went to join the Jewish People. And with those ears, he merited to have the Parsha of our hearing the Ten Commandments directly from G-d, named after him.


Moshe conveyed the Ten Commandments to the Jewish nation. This was not accomplished injust any setting. The intensity of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai transcended anything that had been previously experienced. The level of spiritual acuity that they achieved was never again reached. The entire nation achieved awareness beyond the realm of normal human experience as they ‘met’ Hashem. Perhaps the purpose of this was to impress upon the nation the veracity of the mitzvos that were received at Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, Rashi explains that due to this we gained became prominence amongst the nations of the world. Nachmonides cites Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed”, who presents an incredibly relevant understating of what occurred. The people were terrified as they experienced a level of prophetic capacity unbeknownst to their predecessors. They told Moshe that they were dying and he should intervene and save them. Moshe responded that they should not be concerned because there was an explanation behind this extraordinary experience.
Although at the time that the Torah was given we were surrounded by Hashem’s miracles and wonders, it would not always be so. This outward display of Hashem’s magnificence was limitedto this particular time and place. Throughout all the ordeals and difficulties that we would encounter, the authenticity of Hashem’s Torah would never again be established beyond any doubt as at this occasion. There would be many times when we would need to muster our strength and gird ourselves with steadfast conviction to battle the falsehoods that would attempt to penetrate into our lives.
However, the vaccination that we would need to defend ourselves was to inculcate the truth and reliability of the Torah beyond a shadow of a doubt. If even the most remote doubt was removed from our minds, then we would be stalwart defenders of our legacy. Even the most critical of threats would not cause a breach in our attitude and we would tenaciously guard our traditions and heritage at all costs.
When we received the Torah with such faith and passion, the Torah’s eternal significance would remain everlastingly bound within our hearts never to be wrested away from any future generation no matter what potential struggle we would encounter. Anything less would not identify us as the people of Hashem who had received His interminable message.We and our children are the guarantors of that sacred trust accepted by our ancestors. We must look beyond the temporary difficulties that surround us and muster sufficient courage and valor to protect our living Torah no matter what adversarial condition comes our way. Even from within, there would be those seeking compromise, venturing the notion that times have changed and eroded the original nature of our Torah. There would also be the undecided who are truly unsure of how to react to the challenge that confronts our people. And then there would be those who remain steadfast and confident in the beliefs and principles that have kept us secure for thousands of years. Their values will withstand the test of time and due to their perseverance under fire we will emerge strong and eternal over those that seek our submission to their philosophies. The Torah is unending in its depth and those who imbibe its profundity attain its level of perpetuity.

Joke of the Week

Question for the Rabbis

The Jews are described as literally shaking with fear during the revelation at Mt. Sinai (Exodus20:15). Numerous scholars have recommended that when one studies Torah or hears it being read in the synagogue, one should actually imitate this shaking. Early Ashkenazic sources maintain that it is appropriate to train children to sway back and forth while studying Torah, so that their study will be with the same “fear and trembling” as at the revelation (Darchei Moshe, OC 48:1, Machzor Vitry 508). Some argue that it is from these sources that the custom of shokeling (swaying back and forth) during prayer and study developed. Although these sources only suggest shokeling while studying, others maintain that even during prayer it is appropriate to sway in order to fulfill the verse, “All my bones shall declare, ‘G-d! Who is like You?’ ” (Psalms 35:9, Sefer Chasidim 57:117). After a discussion about shokeling, Rabbi Teomim states, “And everything is according to the individual makeup of that person. If he focuses well with movement, he should shokel, and if not, he should stand still, as long as his intention is for the sake of Heaven” (Pri Megadim OC 48, Eshel Avraham par. 4).


When Moshe asked the people if they would accept the Torah, they responded, “We will do the mitzvos, and we will learn them.” Normally one would say that they would learn the mitzvos and then do them. Their response indicated that they understood that the first step in accepting the Torah is the obligation to DO the mitzvos, not just to learn about the mitzvos.