Parshas Yisro from Rabbi Gedalia Segal based on Rav Usher Freund

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What did Yisro hear that made him come?

He heard about the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek.  All the nations heard about the miracles and wonders that happened to Israel in Egypt and at the sea.  And they trembled.  There was a certain fear that grasped Edom and Moav and Caanan.  The question is, why didn’t all of this, that everyone heard, why didn’t anyone else come, only Yisro?  Of all the nations that heard about this, who were all trembling, only Yisro came.

In the book written by sifre chassidim, it says the reason Yisro came is he heard it in depth, and he really wanted to understand it.  All the nations heard what happened to Israel but they interpreted what they heard according to their own understandings and beliefs. They understand there was mazel , luck, for Israel, and that was why they were enslaved, and then their mazel changed and that was why their luck changed. They believed in the constellations, the horoscope of every nation. But Yisro thought deeply and he heard about the splitting of the sea and Amalek and asked if this is really based on mazel, on the constellations, that they won the war with Amalek.  He had to understand the splitting of the sea, what all of a sudden changed with that and to make Amalek go down in the depths, what was this small nation who was so humiliated, to win battles.  Yisro really decided it was not really a matter of mazel, of constellations, that determined this.  He realized Yisrael was under the divine providence of Hashem and when they sinned, like in Refidim, that their hands became weak from the Torah, that Amalek was sent.  He attributed the situations to consequence and he understood the relationship between an act and a consequence and that is why he determined the divine providence in it all, he really thought about it in depth.  He saw that there really was divine providence controlling all these affairs and that is why he came to join the people who were residing with His divine presence and beign sheltered with divine providence.

WE also see with the staff of Moshe, that in klal Yisrael had some that believed in the constellations and they thought the staff was like a magnet to hit and take revenge, like the ten plagues that Egypt stopped.  Hashem said to Moshe that the stick that you hit the sea with, that stick that was until now established with the plagues, that stick should now bring out water for the nation of Israel to drink to take out of their hearts any believe in mazelot, in the constellation, that some of bnei Yisrael also believed in,.  there is no mazel. There is just Hashem.  That is what Hashem tried to show him.  That same stick for the plagues would bring salvation as well.

The exodus of mitrayim and the giving of the Torah

The nation left Egypt and went to sinai and became the chosen nation, the specific nation that Hashem brought close to Him. This nation that I created will sing my praises.  For this goal, they were redeemed, to become a nation of Torah. Without this, this is the reason the heavens and earth were created and the whole creation is dependent and exists because Israel got the Torah.  Just like yom ha shishi, the day of the creation of man, ha shishi is talking about the creaton of man, specifically Israel, and that it is dependent on Israel keeping the Torah. That is the reason they were redeemed to take the yoke upon them.  The way a person takes the yoke of heaven takes it, so too the attribute of the strength of mitzrayim exists in him, and that is the attribute that when he takes the yoke of Hashem on him, it awakens in him the redemption of the exile of the exodus and servitude.  It says you won’t find a free person, only someone that is involved in the learning of the Torah. The more someone learns Torah to take upon him the yoke of heaven, so too he will develop a feeling of a true free person from those who were redeemed from mitzrayim.

In every generation a person has to see himself as if he left mitzrayim, because it is connected to the receiving of the Torah, and that is a free person.  A person has to see himself as being redeemed from mitzrayim and to grow in his leaning of the Torah because that is the reason they left mitzrayim.  If they are still in servitude in mitrayim and to pharaoh and to all different strange powers, that is a person that is not a person that is learning Torah, in servitude, a slave to pharaoh and all foreign powers.

The Shem MShmuel said now, if you listen to the voice of Hashem, you take the true yoke of heaven, there is only a person that is not enslaved to any other power in the world. The only servitude he takes is the servitude to Hashem.  In yerushalmi, it says an eved caanani is not required to say kria shema because he has the yoke of a master besides Hashem so he doesn’t take the yoke of heaven.  Now if you listen to my voice, when you don’t have the yoke of the exile of the servitude of mitzrayim, when it is removed from your neck, of no other masters on you, then you are ready to acquire the yoke of heven complete and to get the Torah.

A person has to worry for himself

Hashem calls Moshe from the peak of the mountain and He tells him you saw what I did in mitzrayim, now listen to me and be a special treasure to me amongst the nation.  Why does it say and now if you will listen to me and why is it said here.

A wealthy man had a son and the father brought the son to have a business in the world and when the son grew up he married him off and gave him money and he said, my dear son I raised you and educated you and gave you your needs. Now take your fortune in your hands, work, make a living and support yourself.  Now you don’t come back to my hands, I am a father, I will help you when you need it, but yor main concern is to help yourself and this is your responsibility.  That is what Hashem said through Moshe. You saw how I led you and punished the Egyptians and I took you out and held you in my hands now you are fortunate in Torah and you are a nation and you have to trust in your existence through keeping this Torah. It is your responsibility to purify yourself and become holy through the mitzvahs I gave you and this is how you will exist. In Mitzrayim I am the one that took you out of the impurity and now it is up to you. Of course I will help you but it is your responsibility. You should merit the good, through working with your bodies, that is waiting for you.

Everyone should know that they grow up and get older and every day that passes by is a renewed sense that he is a child of a treasured nation and he has to increase his faith in his Creator and pray to Him, my father it is my will to go in Your ways, you should be my strength and support for You are my help and the Gd of my salvation.

We will do and then we will hear

We know when the Jewish nation accepted the Torah, we have to know a lot about simple faith.  We have to believe in our Creator that He gives us life and our existence and everything without Him is nothing, nothing exists without Him.

Our rabbis say that Hashem asked Esav and Ishmael if they want the Torah and they asked what was in it and they said no when they heard no murder and no idolatry.  They would rather have a life that is without any responsibility.  When the Torah was offered to Israel they did not ask what is in it.  Why didn’t they ask?  The Torah is from Hashem.  If a person gives an instruction booklet, we ask what is written in it so we can see if it makes sense, but if it is a Torah from the heavens, a mind of someone limited can’t understand.  What is the reason to ask what is in it if it is higher than the understanding of a person.

Only Israel understood it and the merited to get the Torah. It was given from Hashem. It is a totally different approach if it is given by Hashem.  We don’t have to really understand it, it is greater than our understanding. 

If there were a poor person who was in the street dying of hunger and a messenger came from the king to eat at his table, would he ask what type of food is he going to get in the king’s palace?

Hashem is the Source of all good and He creates us to do good for us.  And He gave Torah to us so of course it is good, it is coming from a Source that is good, He creates people to do good for us and He gives us the instruction book.  Everything written in it is good so why ask questions. This is why Irael said we will do and we will hear.

A bas kol came out and said who told this secret to my children, the secret was the faith in Hashem and in His goodness. The nations could not understand it because they are far away from faith.  It was not an instruction book from man it is from Hashem and such a book is of course greater than what we can understand. The naion of Israel were believers and that is why they were able to be successful to understand the secret and they did not investigate and they said we will do and we will hear.

Everything was quiet

At the time of the giving of the Torah it was still.  The Medrash says that when Hashem gave the Torah, a bird did not chirp or fly, an ox did not thrust his horns into anything, nothing flew, heavenly beings did not say holy holy, the waves in the sea were quiet.  Everything was quiet and then a large noise came out I am Your Gd. Everything was quiet at the time of the giving of the Torah to Israel.

What is this matter of quiet and what are our rabbis trying to reach us when they tell us about it

It is hinted to us that if we will take the Torah the whole world will be quiet from saying anything against us.  No nation and no speech will be against us.  The animals won’t hurt us.  To the nation of Israel, the dogs won’t bark and all the prosecutors will be quiet.  Our Rabbis say, why was it called Har Sinai, because at that time came hatred sina, to the nations against Israel.  If the Jewish people would be involved with the Torah and listen to it as we should like the day it was given, then that hatred of the nations would be trapped in their hearts and they would be quiet and they would not have the disrespect to raise a hand against Israel.

When we hear this, it causes us anguish because we ask why are the nations so against us?  When the voice is the voice of Yaakov in the houses of Torah, the hands of Esav are not the ones that can touch us.  A person that takes upon him the yoke of Torah, they take away from him the yoike of finding sustenance.  They take away the yoke of other worries, it demands perfectionand it gives perfecgtion. When a person gives all his interest in Torah a person has the opportunity to continue forever. When a person becomes weak in Torah, if we leave the Torah, it leaves us.  All the more if we leave it, it goes further from us.  A good attribute is greater than an attribute of punishment and judgment. All the more that as a person gets closer to Torah Torah gets closer to him and he is full of tranquility and he is full of a certain sense of a calm spirit.  When a person learns Torah at every hour with a lot of enthusiasm and a spirit of renewal just like at Har Sinai, all worries no longer eixst. They don’t bother him or trouble him because he is the one in the center of the world and the whole world is created just for him.

Covenant at Sinai then and til today

Thousands of years have passed since Sinai, when we were given the Torah of life.  We walk towards it light and it lights up our ways and through all the exiles that we have experienced, and we made mistakes during these thousands of years.  A lot of situations pass over us and a lot of Jewish blood is spilled from the time of the giving of the Torah til now. 

That Torah that was given from one generation to the next and was written down, nothing was changed.

This reveals to us the great strength of Torah, the strength of Hashem tha tis with us forever, that is connected to the Torah, and all of the happenings that happened from the time of the giving of the Torah could not uproot one letter of the Torah. When simple people come and they want to be like the other nations and to change the Torah to modernize it, to live a life without responsibility, we have three ways to answer.  We can’t do it, we don’t want do it and we are forbitdden to do it.  We cannot change one letter of Torah. The Torah with all its laws is given from the heaven and we cannot change one bit, we are forbidden.  We can’t change It it is impossible for  a person whose future is to die because of his makeup, to touch a Torah that is given to inspire from heaven and to make a certain boundary for a person who is limited.  We don’t want to change it because we see what happened when they left the Torah, how much they became spoiled and how much they destroyed with leaving the Torah and its ways, the ways of their fathers.  It all started with small changes and the end of it was a great desolation that it caused.

Every generation is really totally existent in the Jewish nation from the chain that goes from Sinai from the receiving of the Torah until today.  Chas vshalom we should not touch the Torah and break the chain.

We saw what was heard

It is possible to learn the Torah many years and not live according to it. It is possible for a person to learn Torah and will not fear it.  He may learn it but not necessarily put Hashem before him.  A person should not do a transgression.  When a Jewish person learns Torah he has to see it, not just hear it, learn it with a certain enthusiasm and see everything in the Torah and ask when will I be able to do this, what it says in the Torah.  It says your eyes should see your teacher.  When a person says a law from a person that he learned it from, he should see what he is hearing like the Rabbi is standing in front of him.  Rebbeinu Hakadosh said everything he merited in his life was because he saw the back of Reb Meir. If he had seen his face he would have understood much more.

This is what it was as Sinai. They saw the sounds ,they say the dibros.  That was one of the great things that happened.  What it meant is that Israel saw what they heard.  It stayed with them in front of their eyes. It went into their ears, they internalized it, in their bodies and their souls, to have in front of their eyes always and to fear and to do it and to live accordingly.

Also the nations of the world heard the 10 commandments, but they did not see it.

What they heard did not internalize.  When it says see, that I put before you today the blessing and the curse, Israel has to see with their eyes that if they don’t do the Torah that is the curse and if we do then that is the blessing. The life of blessing and holiness Torah gives to the people who keep it, and the life of course that a life without responsibility for the portion of those who want to change the Torah. When a person sees with his eyes then it is promised to him that he won’t do a sin and that he will understand the Torah like he should.  A person understands more when he sees it with his eyes rather than just hearing what he hears.

He will merit this way to keep and to do all the mitzvahs of the Torah.  He has to actually see what he hears , internalize it.

There is no salvation , nothing to be sure about, that you can overcome a transgression

A person can get very high in levels of spirituality and it is not for sure that he won’t trip up in a serious transgression.  Even on Yom Kipur it is not for sure that a person would not stumble in something that is a transgression when he is faced with a challenge. That is why we read in mincha on Yom Kipr about transgressions.  Even on such a holy day a person could slip.

Hashem tells Moshe to tell the people not to go up onto Har Sinai.  He tells them not to go up. Moshe said they would not.  They prepared three days, they are strong in their belief and they won’t go against a commandment of Hashem.  It is like a mechitzah of steel and they won’t trespass it.  Hashem tells Moshe tell them strictly to not go up the mountain, we can’t be sure that person tries to become holy and he won’t fail and he won’t transgress.  A person has to work on himself without stop and without rest.

After matan Torah they made the eigle.  A person cannot trust himself.  He has to ask for mercy that hashem be a stronghold for him in any type of challenge.  What was the great revelation at Sinai that all the nations were trembling?  Were they told secrets, or very elevated things, so elevated that they could not understand them?

They heard simple things that everyone understood, no idol worshiop, respect parents, don’t kidnap or kill or swear falsely, not to desecrate Shabbos.  All this was told to them after they prepared for three days, after seven weeks of purifying themselves from Egypt.

To understand that after all their hard work a person still needs mercy from heaven that he should not be a stealer, a kidnapper. This knowledge can save us from sin a person has to know to be on the lookout, to be careful and really to always ask for help from Hashem three times a day, the first primary request is to please save me from sinning because without His help it is impossible to overcome the evil inclination that tempts us to sin.

Hashem really overturned the mountain to force us to take the Torah

People who do not learn Torah think that learning Torah is a hard burden. They don’t know that it is a joy to learn the Torah.  We know it is hard work at the beginning but it is a great joy, a joy for eternity, that is hard to describe …a feeling of the next world in this world. When a person starts learning it is hard and if he doesn’t make progress with patience, until the fire of Torah grips him, and the light of the Torah will enter all of the nooks and crannies of his soul and his body, he has to proceed patiently with determination.

When a person starts learning Torah he has to have faith in the ones who give Torah. No matter how hard it is we cannot leave the learning of the Torah Hashem gave us and we have to be willing to give our lives for it.  The Rabbis say Hashem forced Israel, that He turned the mountain over them, If you take the Torah good or you will be buried here. They were forced.

The bESHT says when He forced them, He wanted to show them the way, that even in a time that a person does not have the will to learn, then he should force himself and learn without enthusiasm and think they are forcing him.  In the end he will learn it with enthusiasm.  That power to do this was given to us at Har Sinai.

In the Tosefos it says that the rabbis say bnei Israel wanted to get the Torah written down, not the oral Torah.  But the oral Torah is what He forced on us. 

The evil inclination wants to stop a person from learning gemara, oral law.  That is something that has less enthusiasm than chumash.  In relation to the gemara, the greater laziness of a person than to learn chumash.  A person has to force himself to learn gemara. That is why Hashem forced them to learn oral law at Sinai.  A person has the power to do so because the power itself was given at Har Sina.

The harder and the more struggle, the more sweet it is at the end, the amount of reward. When we work hard on understanding a question and at the end it becomes clear to us, there is no end to the great joy and accomplishment

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