Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 February 2004 / 22 Shevat 5764

Parshat Yitro

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Hearing of the miracles G-d 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 himself, Yitro suggests that subsidiary judges be appointed to adjudicate smaller matters, leaving Moshe free to attend to larger issues. Moshe accepts his advice. Bnei Yisrael arrive at Mt. Sinai where G-d offers them the Torah. After they accept, G-d 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, G-d's voice emanates from the smoke-enshrouded mountain and He speaks to the Jewish People, giving them the Ten Commandments:

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

After receiving the first two commandments, the Jewish People, overwhelmed by this experience of the Divine, request that Moshe relay G-d's word to them. G-d instructs Moshe to caution the Jewish People regarding their responsibility to be faithful to the One who spoke to them.


Does Shabbat Like You?

"Remember the day of Shabbat to make it holy"

May I ask you a personal question?

Hows your Shabbat?

Does every Shabbat make you feel suffused with holiness? Does every rock and building and tree whisper to you "Shabbat!" Do feel so much closer to G-d than the rest of the week?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, then you should know youre part of a very large majority.

Many people find Shabbat a burden: You cant watch the TV. You cant go to the ball game. You cant go shopping. You cant do this. You cant do that. When is it going to be dark already?

And even if Shabbat isnt a burden, and we enjoy the food, the company, the Shabbat nap, but do feel that we have left one reality and entered another world?

Why dont we feel that kedusha, that holiness? Why dont we feel Shabbat?

Many years ago, I remember a magic Shabbat. I prayed at the Wall and had the Friday night meal at some friends in the Old City. After the meal, as I was walking back to my apartment, I dont know why, but I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and said very quietly to myself "Ahh Shabbat!" And then I said it again, and again and again. I walked through the magical streets of Meah Shearim. I came upon a small synagogue. I went in and opened up a Talmud tractate and started to learn. I had never been in that synagogue before, and Im pretty sure that I couldnt find it again. Maybe it only existed for that one night. Who knows?

I learned for a while. It could have been a few minutes or an hour. Then I got up and walked home. I got into bed and my last words before sleep overtook me were "Shabbat, Shabbat!"

You might think that Shabbat is a day in the week.

You might think that Shabbat is a 24-hour period of time between Friday afternoon and Saturday night.

Youd be wrong. Its not.

Shabbat is a being. Shabbat is an existence with feelings and likes and dislikes. Shabbat can choose to come to you once in your life, or every week or never. Because if you never felt Shabbat, its because it never came to you. It didnt feel comfortable with you.

Because you dont feel comfortable with it.

Shabbat is very sensitive, and very picky. If it senses that your commitment to it is shaky, then it wont come to you. You can light your Shabbat lights and make Kiddush and eat your cholent to your hearts content, but if you arent really there for it, Shabbat knows that, it senses that, and passes on down the block.

"Remember the day of Shabbat to make it holy"

Every we week, we have to remember to make Shabbat holy, to exert ourselves and infuse those precious hours with Torah, with spirituality, enthusiasm and kedusha, for if we make it holy then the Shabbat queen will arrive with all her retinue of blessings to crown our week.

  • Based on Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz in Daat Chochma UMussar

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