Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 February 2012 / 17 Shevat 5772

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.


The Princess and the Bentley

“Thou shalt not covet.” (20:14)

How is it possible to command people not to covet? Coveting is a knee-jerk reaction, isn’t it? You see someone driving along in a Bentley Continental and before you can even think twice, your envy-glands go into overdrive. Covetousness is a reflex, isn’t it? It’s not in the domain of intellectual control, is it?

Once there was a peasant who stood in line all day to see the king pass by. At last, the royal procession drew close. He craned his neck to catch a glimpse of the royal countenance. Immediately behind the king stood the crown princess; the peasant was taken aback. The princess was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had delicate pale features. All the women he knew had coarse sun-browned skin and bad teeth. A peasant’s life is not conducive to physical beauty. However, despite the princess’s exquisite appearance, not for one moment did the peasant desire or covet her. She was someone so above his station in life that it never entered his mind that he was even in the same world as her. She remained an ethereal unreality in another cosmos

The root of all desire is the unconscious assumption that we could have the object of our desire. If we feel that it’s possible for us to have that thing, if we feel that it’s within our orbit, the next step is to covet it.

The truth of the matter is that G-d puts each of us on our own separate monorail in life. Like two trains speeding past each other in the night that come ever-so-close, but never (hopefully) touch.

The fact that you have a Bentley Continental and I don't doesn't mean that if you weren't around I could have your car. It means that if you weren't around that Bentley Continental wouldn't exist.

The mitzvah of not coveting tells us to look at someone else’s Bentley as peasant looks at a princess.

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