Perashat Yitro

Dedicated Le'lui Nishmat Aharon ben Levana by the Natkin Family

Perashat Yitro

This week’s Perashah is named after the father-in-law of Moshe Rabenu, Yitro (Jethro), a high priest of Midian. Why would the Masoretic Text of the Torah begin a new section with Yitro, and why would our Rabbi's choose this section to be the start of a new Perashah, which would then carry his name? Why confer such an honor on Yitro, an idolatrous Midianite, especially in a Parasha that carries the holy words of the ten commandments? Maybe the answer to this question lies in the first two words of the Parasha,(18:1): vayishma yitro. “and Yitro heard." The Pasuk goes on to say that Yitro heard what Hashem had done for Moshe and B’nei Yisrael. Accordng to Rashi, Yitro heard of the parting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek. These two events were known by all, but the Torah singles out Yitro for a very important reason. Yitro not only heard, but also decided to act on what he had heard by converting to Judaism. Yitro was also an advisor to Pharoah. The Midrash teaches that Yitro looked at all the various forms of idolatry that were prevalent at the time, and was able to come to the understanding that Hashem is the one and only true G-d! It is one thing to realize that something is true, however, and another thing to act on it. It is difficult for someone who has held certain beliefs his entire life to change his way of thinking in his latter years. A change of that kind involves the realization that everything you have believed up to then has been wrong. That was the greatness of Yitro, and what we learn from him is that if Yitro, a non-Jewish priest, can make such an amazing change, then so can we! I remember when I was growing up in our community, there were much less very observant families, while the majority was somewhat less observant or some even non-observant. Over the next forty years, an awakening took place in our community. I witnessed a slow but gradual increase in Torah growth, as more and more mainstream families made the decision to become Baalei Teshuvah. This transformation meant leaving a substantial part of their old ways behind and adopting new habits of Torah learning. This development led to tremendous personal growth in Mitzvot and Maasim Tovim. Our values were changing. We were sending our children to yeshivot that stressed true Torah values. As young parents, we became part of different circles. Over my lifetime I've witnessed many different people from traditional families in our community make these changes. Some were even from the so called jet-set families that you would not expect to see going in this direction! Hashem gives each and every one of us opportunities to grow. We must first recognize that opportunity when we encounter it and then have the courage to take advantage of it and eventually adopt and embrace it! To make these changes is probably one of the hardest things we can do, because we may risk leaving behind lifelong friends. However, if the changes take place at a unhurried pace and with long-term growth in mind, they will ultimately prove to be changes for the better, elevating your family to a life of Torah values that will bring you much Berachah and perpetuate your children and grandchildren for many generations to come! There is a story about a group of young boys who lived in our community about fifty years ago. These boys were all in their late teens and passionate about basketball. They used to play in the schoolyard every Sunday and after their games were done, they would head over to their favorite deli for something to eat. One Sunday, a friend asked one of the boys if he would help his Rabbi raise money for his new Yeshivah. The boy agreed and persuaded the other players to join in as well. Over the next few weeks, they raised hundreds of dollars for the Rabbi's Yeshivah. The Rabbi was impressed and asked to meet the boy who was behind the fundraising. The boy was reluctant at first, but then agreed to meet with the Rabbi. When they met, the teen was very impressed by the Rabbi and decided to go and learn with his friend at the Rabbi's Yeshivah. Most of the other boys didn't follow so fast and as time passed, these two boys continued to learn and grow in Torah. The second boy became so close to the Rabbi that he eventually married the Rabbi's daughter. Today these two boys grew to become among the leading Rabbis in our community. They heard the words of Torah, and they acted on what they heard. For the past forty years they have both been spreading Torah learning throughout our community by means of their Yeshivot and Kollelim. If you haven't guessed by now, the boy who raised the money is none other than Rabbi Shlomo Diamond of the Sephardic Kollel in Deal and of the Ilan High School. His friend who encouraged him is Rabbi Hillel Haber of Shaare Torah. Because they acted on what they heard, they helped so many families in our community grow to great spiritual heights! B'h This Perashah includes the Aseret Hadibberot (Ten Commandments). We learn that the five commandments on the right tablet correspond to the five commandments on the left. The first commandment, "I am Hashem", is opposite the fifth, "You shall not murder"; this tells us that Hashem gives us life and we are forbidden to take that life. The second commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me", is opposite "You shall not commit adultery"; in other words, don't cheat on Hashem and don't cheat on your spouse. Third is the commandment not to take G-d's name in vain, which is opposite "You shall not steal"; this tells us that a thief will use Hashem's name in vain to try and prove he's innocent. The fourth commandment is "Remember the Sabbath day", and it stands opposite "You shall not bear false witness"; Shabbat testifies that Hashem created the world, and our testimony too must be true. Lastly, the fifth commandment, "to honor our parents", faces the injunction against "coveting your friend". There is a profound lesson to be had here. The fifth commandment, Honor your father and your mother, is directly opposite the last commandment, You shall not covet. Honoring our parents is part of honouring Hashem for his gifts. Hashem, like our parents, showers us with gifts. And if we appreciate everything that Hashem has given us and understand that we have been given all that we need, there will be no reason to covet what others have. Rabbi Frand asks a different question regarding the tenth commandment. Why does the Torah provide a list for this commandment (house, wife, servants, ox, donkey) and then end with a generalization (or anything that belongs to your neighbor)? Rabbi Frand answers, because if you want your friend’s house or his wife, then you have to take the whole package, including your friend’s troubles. The Torah is clearly teaching us to be careful for what we wish for. There is a well-known Mashal that my father taught me growing up. This parable says that if we were to put all our troubles into a suitcase and place the suitcase in a circle with everyone else's suitcase's of troubles, would we take someone else's package or would we take our own package back? The answer is, of course we would take our own package back, because we don't know what someone else's package might contain! May we all have the strength to act when we hear and are inspired by the words of Torah, so that we may find the true path of Torah for ourselves and our families. This will surely benefit us in so many wonderful ways through Hashem's Berachot! May we also be careful to always respect our parents and Hashem for all of the gifts that they bestowed upon us with love and appreciation. Also to follow the commandment not to covet anything from our friends, because the gifts that Hashem gave us are all perfect and tailor-made especially for us to succeed with! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal