Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 February 2024 / 24 Shvat 5784

Parshat Yitro

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Hearing of the miracles that Hashem performed for Bnei Yisrael, Moshe's father-in-law Yitro arrives with Moshe's wife and sons, reuniting the family in the wilderness. Yitro is so impressed by Moshe's detailing of the Exodus from Egypt that he converts to Judaism. Seeing that the only judicial authority for the entire Jewish nation is Moshe Rabbeinu, Yitro suggests that subsidiary judges be appointed to adjudicate smaller matters, leaving Moshe free to attend to larger issues. Moshe accepts his advice.

The Jewish People arrive at Mount Sinai, where Hashem offers them the Torah. Once they accept, Hashem charges Moshe to instruct the people not to approach the mountain, and to prepare for three days. On the third day, amidst thunder and lightning, Hashem's voice emanates from the smoke-enshrouded mountain, and He speaks to the Jewish People, giving them the Ten Commandments:

  1. Believe in Hashem.
  2. Do not worship other "gods".
  3. Do not use Hashem's name in vain.
  4. Observe Shabbat.
  5. Honor your parents.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not kidnap.
  9. Do not testify falsely.
  10. Do not covet.

After receiving the first two commandments, the Jewish People, overwhelmed by this experience of the Divine, request that Moshe relay Hashem's word to them. Hashem instructs Moshe to caution the Jewish People not to draw close to the mountain or touch any part of it.


The Green-Eyed Monster

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…” (chapter 20)

Have you had the following experience? You’ve got your eye on the newest iPhone or the newest Toyota Sienna, or, if you’re really well-heeled, the latest Rolex. You start to pray the Shemoneh Esrei, the silent standing prayer, you bend forward, say Baruch Atah… and into your mind floats a picture of this beautiful gold Rolex Seamaster Oyster Limited Edition. Baruch Atah HaRolex! You’re obsessed. An embarrassing portion of your waking life might be spent fantasizing about that new car or that new watch that you really want to buy.

Rabbi Elyahu Dessler identifies the two root motivations of our personalities: the desire to give and the desire to take. The desire to take is unique in that it’s not really about the object of desire, it’s about fulfilling the desire itself. It’s about the desire to possess. Therefore, once you get whatever it is, it loses that pristine gleam very quickly. The desire to take is a “green-eyed monster that mocks the meat it feeds on.” It can never be satisfied, because as soon as you have your new Rolex, well, you’ve got it now, right, and so it loses that delectable allure, and then sometime later, the next obsession takes hold, and so on and on. Does this sound familiar?

It says in the Book of Proverbs: “All the days of a poor man are wretched, but contentment is a feast without end.” When you’re happy with what you’ve got, your life is a never-ending feast, but when you look over your garden fence at your neighbor’s Sienna, or his family successes, and you compare all that with your own, your entire life will likely be miserable.

There are many modern challenges that a person needs to overcome in order to feel truly satisfied. In particular, it is important to be careful about what we feast our eyes on. To be truly satisfied with our lives, if we are careful where we look and what we desire, then we have a much greater chance for life to become a never-ending feast.

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