Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 February 2018 / 18 Shevat 5778

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.


Buried Treasure

“...And you will be to Me an 'am segula,' a treasured nation from all the nations, for all the world is Mine.” (19:5)

What is the connection between the first half of this sentence, "And you will be to Me a treasured nation from all the nations," and the second half: “for all the world is Mine”?

Our Sages teach, "G-d has nothing in His treasury except a storehouse of the Fear of Heaven.” (Berachot 33) The Vilna Gaon comments that a treasury contains only things that are both valuable and are difficult to acquire. Everything in this world is the Hand of Heaven; He already has everything. Everything, that is, save the Fear of Heaven itself, for that depends solely on individual free choice. Thus, in reality, G-d has nothing in His treasury of true value to Him except the storehouse of the Fear of Heaven.

"And you will be to Me an am segula...” Rashi interprets the adjective segula as meaning “a treasury”. A treasured nation.

"For all the world is Mine. Being that the entire world already belongs to G-d, the only thing that is a treasure to Him is the Jewish People, who have chosen to fear Him.

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