We’re getting married! Not you and your pilegesh, you Azuz Punim chazir (wisenheimer pig) that you are. No- we’re getting married to the RBSO and it all happens in this week’s Parsha. Yisroy is avada, as mistama (likely) you don’t know, one of several Parshiot named after a goy. Nu- how is it that the heylige toirah has parshiois named after goyim; even Art Scroll wouldn’t stoop so low- or would they? And which others are named for goyim? I see you remember nothing from your many years and arioisgevorfene gelt (money in the toilet) learning..err, I mean sitting in yeshiva.
Every word, letter, and subtle grammatical nuance in the Toirah teaches us volumes; how much more so, the names of the parshios themselves. What then, is so significant about Yisroy that the Toirah portion containing the holy Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments) is given his name? He is described in the heylige toirah as “a priest of Midian,” and he wasn’t merely a highly respected official in his native land. Yisroy was the high priest of Midian, a macher if you will, who had explored every type of idolatrous worship and philosophy in the world – a minuvil of the highest order. The Zoihar explains that the Toirah could not be given to mankind until Yisroy had rejected each and every false god, and had publicly accepted the RBSO’s sovereignty. It was only when Yisroy declared “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods,” that truth prevailed, and the Toirah could be given. Still, why did he merit a parsha in his own name?
Says Rashi and several others, that he merited to have a parsha named after him because he himself added a parsha to the toirah when he advised his son-in-law Moishe Rabaynuu to institute a judicial system. Moishe takah listened to his shver and presto: instant fame for this goy. Some, though not most, say Yisroy was the first convert to enter the Jewish people and was instrumental in adding the laws of judges to the Toirah. It was in light of these two things that the parsha bears his name. Sounds good to me, though hard to reconcile with another part of the toirah where we learn that tens of thousands converted before the Yiddin left Mitzrayim; we call them the Eiruv Rav.
The Toirah tells that after Yisroy’s arrival, he advised Moishe to change his procedure of judging the people and answering their questions. He saw that Moishe handled all the nation’s questions personally. The people stood in a long line waiting for their turn to bring their questions and disputes. Yisroy alerted Moishe to the fact that he cannot shoulder this burden by himself; it is simply too much for one person to handle. He urged Moishe to establish a network of scholars and judges to whom the people could bring their questions, such that Moishe would be called upon to decide only the most difficult cases. Moishe accepted Yisroy’s advice, and he appointed scholarly, honest and righteous men to serve as judges to help him bear the responsibility of resolving issues. What could they be fighting about in the midbar (desert)? They weren’t working, there were no shuls or Rabbis to be angry at. There was no shopping, no returns, no restaurants and no bathroom lines – why was Moishe so damn busy judging and what was going on that he sat all day judging the people? Ver veyst?
Anyway: Moishe went along with the idea, and chose some 72,600 judges. Where he found 72,600 qualified judges who were honest and didn’t like money, I don’t know. Zicher it’s hard to find one like that. Mistama you’re wondering why is Yisroy, the stranger, the new-comer to the tribe and its beliefs, the only one who saw Moishe’s problem, and, moreover, come up with a solution; a judicial system which will more efficiently bring justice to the people? Why didn’t Moishe, or one of the elders, figure this important piece out? And if the RBSO thought this was a good idea, why not transmit this idea to Moishe; they did, after all, talk quite often.
Moreover, we know from elsewhere that Moishe appointed judges only after the RBSO commanded him to do so. In other words, Moishe did not implement Yisroy’s plan as a result of his advice, but only after he was so instructed by the RBSO. So…mistama you’re still wondering why he got a parsha in his name? ver veyst?
Efsher we can kler (think) that If Moishe could accept advice from Yisroy then we certainly should be prepared to hear and accept the advice of our peers, maybe even from the eishes chayil.
Rashi writes that Yisroy was known by seven different names, each of which has a different meaning. We can speculate that he had declared bankruptcy once or twice and was mistama also collecting food stamps, Medicare and other social benefits under these assumed names. Eventually, his greater mishpocho made their way over to Williamsburg and other neighborhoods. Nonetheless, this interesting character was the father of Tzipoirah, Moishe’s on again, off again wife at times. Don’t you remember that Moishe sent his eishes chayil packing while he went off to mitzrayim to negotiate with Paroy the minuvil? Despite the multitude of names, he is, however, universally referred to by the name Yisro (יתרו), which refers to the fact that by converting to Judaism and accepting the mitzvois upon himself, an additional letter was added to his name. Of all of the 7 names, why is this one specifically the most important? Shouldn’t Yeser, the name which represents the fact that an entire section of the Toirah was added as a result of his advice, be considered the most significant? Ver veyst?
Moreover, Chazal teach us that the aseres hadibros (the Ten Commandments) represent a microcosm of the entire Toirah. In light of this, it’s takah shver (a question) why this Parsha is not named after the aseres hadibros. Another Kasha we may ask is: what does the story of Yisro and the aseres hadibros have in common that they were placed together in the same parsha with the title Yisro? Ver veyst; do you think I have answers for all these questions?
Many of you zicher (surely) don’t know this little tidbit but halt kup because Parshas Yisroy turns out to be the source for many of the halochois (rules) of dealing with the in-laws: I speak of the shver and shvigger. It’s mamish not so poshit (simple) as we learn quite a bit from the way Moishe dealt with and honored his shver. Interestingly, after not seeing his beautiful eishes chayil Tzipoirah for almost a year, along comes Yisroy with her and their two children. Avada you would think Moishe would be all excited to see his mishpocho, at least the kids. Ober- that’s not what the toirah says took place. Her ois (listen up):
After being told of their arrival, Moishe goes running out to greet whom? His father-in-law, the shver. The toirah does not even mention if Moishe greeted his wife or sons; the Toirah was not interested in discussing that issue at this time. Nu- were I Tzipoirah, I’d be quite pissed off. The Toirah then continues and writes (Exodus 18:8) “Moishe told his father-in-law all that the RBSO had done for the B’nai Yisrael to Paroy and Egypt…”. What’s p’shat here Raboyseyee: was Moishe epes (somewhat) not attracted to his beautiful and perhaps black wife, Tzipoirah? Efsher (perhaps) you recall that she is called a Kushi and avada there is a machloikes, as well there should be, as to whether Kushi means beautiful or black. Who knows, why not both? Have you not ogled many black beauties? Seemingly Moishe is not into the wife and perhaps not even his kids, at least not at this time in his life. But still, what can we learn from the way Moishe treated his shver? It appears that we are being taught an example on how we should relate to our in-laws.
A very interesting Halacha found in Hilchot Kibud Av Vaem (Honoring Father and Mother) is derived from this week’s Parshat Yisroy. The Halacha obligates one to honor the in-laws as one’s own parents. This includes standing in their presence and visiting them regularly. It is forbidden to call one’s in-laws by their first names. Some authorities write that one should call them “Mother” and “Father” just as one refers to his own parents. Indeed, Dovid Hamelech referred to Shaul (Saul), his father-in-law, as “Avi” (“My father”)( Shmuel I 24:11). Others disagree, but according to all views, one should not call parents-in-law by their first names. When one’s in-laws eat at one’s own home, the father-in-law should be given a place of honor at the table. One should also instruct his wife to first serve her father, so that she fulfills the Mitzva of honoring her father, and he fulfills the Mitzva of honoring his father-in-law. You hear this? Admittedly there is no such lesson or halocho for the shvigger and avada some hold that one is allowed to treat her as she treats you. Exactly how and why the mother-in-law got included in this Kibbud requirement I don’t know but seemingly the halocho includes her as well.
And here is another factoid that mistama you never heard in your entire life and it’s brought to you directly from the holy Arizal and also the holy Zoihar who write that Moishe was a gilgul (reincarnation) of Hevel and Yisro was a gilgul of Kayin. What? Who? When? Rav Chaim Vital notes that this is hinted to by the first letters of the words אני חתנך יתרו – I am your father-in-law Yisro which spell the word אחי – my brother. Are you thoroughly confused yet? This is takah the reason to stick to chumish and Rashi: they don’t tax the mind and don’t leave you thinking that you’re epes mishuggah. Let’s leave the kabollah to Madonna and others that mamish understand these things; as for you- we’ll stick to the basics. Part of Yisroy’s mission in this world was to atone for Kayin’s sin of killing Hevel, which he did in several ways. He gave his daughter in marriage to a gilgul of Hevel, Moishe, which gave Hevel the descendants that were denied him through his murder. The sacrifice offered by Kayin did not find favor in Hashem’s eyes), so Yisroy corrected this by bringing proper sacrifices to Hashem, which were enjoyed not just by him, but also by Aharoin and the elders of the generation. It is written the soul of Yisroy stems from the realm of Kayin (Cain), while Moishe’s stems from Hevel (Abel). And listen to this bombshell: The Chida writes that while the toirah doesn’t recount the final conversation between Kayin and Hevel prior to the murder, the Targum Yonason ben Uziel (Bereishis 4:8) records that part of it was Kayin’s blasphemous claim that לית דין ולית דיין � there is no Divine judge or system of justice regarding our actions in this world. His gilgul Yisro rectified this by suggesting to Moshe (18:19-23) the concept of establishing a proper system of courts and judges!
Also in this week’s parsha, the purpose of the entire geula (Exodus) is achieved when, seven weeks after their liberation from Mitzrayim (Egypt), the yiddin gather at the foot of Har Seenai to receive the heylige Toirah from the RBSO. As the story goes, some three thousand years ago, a little-known people, fresh out of 210 years of slavery where they themselves served idols and did other despicable acts, gathered around a small mountain in a trackless wilderness and underwent an experience which changed the history of the world. For the first time since the beginning of the universe, the RBSO spoke to an entire nation. The nation was called Israel. The mountain was called Sinai and the rest is as they say, our history.
Actually we only received the Aseres Hadibrois and even those we only had for a short while because the Yiddin couldn’t deal with all their issues including new found freedom, eating the same food daily, no hotel accommodations and decided to create the Eygel (golden calf). Nu, just one of many tragedies to befell the Yiddin during their 40 year sojourn in the vald (Midbar or desert). We learn that at Har Sinai, the RBSO gave the Yiddin the heylige Toirah, the mystical blueprint of the entire creation. Says the possik “…and they stood under the mountain.” Even you farbrechers (oisvorfs) know the famous medrish whish states that the yiddin were sort of forced into this shotgun chasunah (wedding) with the RBSO and I regret to say that many of you are nebech also familiar with other types of shotgun weddings for your chazerish behaviors, loi olanu. What takah happened?
Before we go any further and in case you have nothing intelligent to say at the shabbis table while you’re on vacation being mechalel shabbis riding up and down the elevators in Puerto Rico or Florida and avada when you’re using your electronic keys in whatever hotel you’re in…here are some interesting parsha stats and shabbis table conversation.
Yisroy contains 17 of the 613 mitzvois of the taryag (613); 3 ahh- says and 14 lo’s (prohibitions); and listen to this chiddush- 14 of the 17 are within the Aseres HaDibrois. Avada you’re astonished, bewildered and wondering how could the Ten Commandments have 14 mitvois? Just because they were free, we took fourteen? As it turns out, there are mitzvois within the Aseres HaDibrois (14 of them) and even more, a total of 15 in the other version of the Aseres Hadibrois found in Parshas Va’eschanan’s version of the Big 10. For you oisvorfs, let me remind you that Parshas Va’eschanan is found in Sefer Devorim (Deuteronomy). Take for example, LOI TIGNOV. Generally translated as Thou shalt not steal, the traditional understanding is that it is the prohibition of Kidnapping, i.e. stealing a human being. But it is unavoidable to see LO TIGNOV as a large category of mitzvois from the toirah including stealing, robbing, cheating in business, moving a boundary marker to take land from a neighbor, taking excessive profit on sales, denying that one has the possession of another, keeping a found object that one must attempt to return, deceiving others – even merely with words, perhaps collecting interest on a personal loan, copying proprietary computer programs, stealing ideas, stealing someone’s time, or sleep… the list goes on and on.
The gemorrah in (Shabbat 88a) reveals the hidden meaning of this verse. At the mountain the yiddin literally stood “under the mountain.” The RBSO held the mountain over them like a barrel and said, “If you accept the Toirah, well and good. If not, this will be your burial place.” You hear this? Is this a way to romance us, to get us to want to marry? What happened to dating, cajoling, and promising us all kinds of benefits for being the chosen people? Instead we were mamish threatened. This seems epes quite strange. Could it be that the RBSO mamish coerced the yiddin into accepting his Toirah? Was this one of those “offers you can’t refuse” type of marriage? This p’shat seems both unpalatable and contradictory, for we know from another medrish that only the Yiddin among all the nations of the world, were prepared to accept the Toirah ‘sight unseen’ when we heard it was free. In fact the Toirah quotes us as saying Naseh V’nishma “We will do and we will hear…” — meaning that we accepted without knowing or understanding its requirements. Are you bothered that one p’shat contradicts another? You shouldn’t be and if your head wasn’t so full of narishkeyt (silliness), you would understand that each p’shat is mamish beautiful. Maybe not true, but beautiful nonetheless. Is it takah a wonder that we and I mean specifically you, transgress and are oiver (violate) its teaching and laws daily and even hourly? Perhaps we jumped the gun and said yes way too fast. Perhaps it’s impossible to follow the heylige toirah. Hey, didn’t you just covet your friend’s wife just last shabbis in shul? Aren’t you planning to keep the TV on for the playoffs, you sheeygitz (bum) that you are? Lemayseh (to sum it all up), If the yiddin were prepared to accept the toirah and did so voluntarily, why the theatrics with a mountain over their heads? Ver veyst, was I there? Were you?
Guess what, others are bothered by this as well. Nu- the heylige gemorrah in Masechta Shabbat says azoy: Rebbe Acha ben Yaakov observed: This mountain over the head trick resulted in a strong legal contest against the Toirah (since it was a contract entered into under duress) and some argued that we mamish don’t have to follow its teachings. Ober not so fast. Said Raba: not to worry, we’re still bound. Why? Because the yiddin-re-accepted it on their own in the days of Achashveyroish and he cites as proof a possik from the Migillah (Esther 9:27) which states: “The Jews confirmed, and accepted”–on that occasion they confirmed what they had accepted long before. Ok – many years later but better late than never. To me it appears as classic case of backdating the agreement.
Ober before the chasunah, lets review a few events. Ershtens (first of all) the toirah tells us that Yisroy (Jethro- taka a nice name for a goy) took Zipporah, Moishes’s wife, after he had sent her back (18:2). What does it mean that Yisroy took Moishes wife? Where did he take her, where was she, what takah happened to her all this time?
Efsher (maybe) you remember that when the RBSO sent Moshe back to Mitzrayim Moishe took the gantza (entire) mishpocha, packed them up and was on the road. Efsher you also remember that he encountered the swallowing snakes and that Tzipoira, the first ever female moielet, used a sharp stone to perform a bris on their younger son. What happened immediately thereafter? When Aaroin met them at the mountain, he said to him: “Who are these?” Said Moishe: “This is my wife whom I married in Midian and these are my children” “Where are you taking them?” asked Aharoin. “To Egypt,” said Moishe. Said Aharoin to Moishe: biste git mishigga (are you out of your mind)? “We are grieving over the ones already in Egypt, and you propose to add to their number!” So Moishe said to Zipporah, “Return to your father’s house,” and she took her two sons and went away. It could also be that after Aharoin found out how rough Tzippora was with sharp items and about her penchant for cutting things off and got a shtikel nervous and wanted no part of her. Anyway, Moishe sent the family away so that he could have freedom to move about the cabin, if you know what I mean.
Also in this week’s parasha, the RBSO calls us His “Am Segulah,” often translated His “Chosen People.” Another time we’ll explore just how chosen we have been all these years.
A gitten Shabbis- happy trails!
The Oisvorfer Ruv