Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 January 2016 / 20 Shevat 5776

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 Mount 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 Limits of Desire

“In the third month of the Exodus of the Children of Yisrael from the land of Egypt…” (19:1)

The greatest desire of G-d for His People — Yisrael —was revealed in the giving of His “marriage pledge”, His holy Torah.

If so, why didn’t G-d give us the Torah immediately after we left Egypt? Why did we have to wait three months to consummate this Divine union?

You can’t say it was a function of distance, that it took three months to get to Sinai, because even for Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, G-d supernaturally truncated his journey, and without a doubt He would have certainly done this also for His People.

Rather, G-d wanted the impurity of Egypt to gradually fade from us and leave us worthy to join Him under the marriage canopy of Sinai.

This is the meaning of the above verse:

“In the third month of the Exodus of the Children of Yisrael from the land of Egypt…”

Because they were coming “from the land of Egypt” and were still steeped in its impurity, so only “in the third month of the Exodus” of the Jewish People were they ready to receive the holy Torah at Sinai.

This understanding of the verse is borne out by the fact that immediately after their period of purification came to an end the Torah tells us “on that day”, i.e. on the same day that they traveled, so too did they arrive. As soon as they were they really ready to travel to Sinai they arrived there.

You might still ask: If the period of waiting was to allow the miasma of Egypt to fade from the Jewish People, why then did we have to endure a journey of three months through the desert? Why couldn’t we have just arrived at Sinai and waited there for seven weeks?

Human words cannot express more than human feelings, but if one can say it, from here we can discern the tremendous "overwhelming" desire of G-d to give the Jewish People the Torah. G-d didn’t want us to arrive at the "wedding hall" early, for He would have to ‘endure the overwhelming suspense’ of waiting to be joined to His beloved People.

He knew that if we were already under the Chupa, we would not be able to hold back from taking ourselves to Him.

  • Source: Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh in Tallalei Orot

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