Shabbos in the Parashah
In this week’s parashah it is said (Shemos 18:1) vayishma Yisro chohein Midyan chosein Moshe es kol asher asa Elokim liMoshe uliYisroel amo ki hotzi HaShem es Yisroel mimitzrayim, Yisro, the minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard everything that G-d did to Moshe and to Israel, His people – that HaShem had taken Israel out of Egypt. The literal translation of the word vayishma is and he heard. Rashi quotes the Gemara (Zevachim 116a) that states that Yisro heard about the defeat of Amalek in battle and about the splitting of the Sea, and therefore he came. It is said (Shmuel I 15:4) vayeshama Shaul es haam, Shaul had all the people summoned. Thus, the word shama can also connote gathering. What is the association between hearing and gathering? In the simple sense, when one listens to someone else’s summons, he is essentially gathering his hearing faculties and concentrating on what the other person has to say. In a deeper sense, however, the idea of gathering is that one is taking leave of what he has previously been engaged in and he is now embarking on something new. Yisro, according to the Medrash (Mechilta Yisro 1), had sought out and worshipped every single idol that existed in his time. Yet, Yisro ultimately forsook all the idols and religions and entered himself under the wings of the Divine Presence, i.e. he converted to Judaism. Yisro was able to leave everything that he believed in behind him and embrace HaShem and His Torah. Thus, vayishma Yisro, Yisro did more than hear. Yisro left what he had been accustomed to and he embarked on a new career. This is the lesson of this week’s parashah. Too often we are stuck in the daily grind of religious observance, without any battle with Amalek or splitting of the Sea to pull us out. Nonetheless, we all battle the Evil Inclination, who Amalek represents, and we all struggle to earn a livelihood, which the Gemara (Pesachim 118a) compares to being as difficult as the splitting of the Sea. When HaShem allows us to witness victory over the Evil Inclination and to be cognizant of the Divine Providence in the area of sustenance, then we are forsaking the pagans of our time and we are embracing HaShem and His Torah similar to Yisro in his time. There is another aspect to Yisro and his new path in life. It is said (Shemos 18:10) vayichad Yisro, Yisro rejoiced. It is insufficient to stir from complacency and still be worried and depressed about what life will bring. One must rejoice in his great fortune of being able to serve the King of Kings. Who was gracious enough to grant us life and bestow upon us the opportunity of studying Torah and performing mitzvos. Furthermore, HaShem gave us the Holy Shabbos, when one does not have to be concerned for the Evil Inclination, as all harsh judgments depart with the onset of Shabbos. One is also prohibited from engaging in labor on Shabbos, and this knowledge alone should allow us to realize that it is not our efforts that sustain our existence. Rather, it is HaShem and His Holy Torah and His Holy Shabbos that allow us to exist. Let us all take up the clarion call of Yisro by gathering our strength to hear the voice of HaShem that will lead us to greater service of HaShem and His Holy Torah.
Ribbon kol HaOlamim
Published in 5401 (1641)
Melech elyon al kol tzava marom, O King Who is exalted above the entire heavenly array. The word tzava is normally translated as array or hosts. Yet, the commentators offer other interpretations of this word. The Ramban (Bamidbar 1:3) writes that the word tzava means a gathering of people. The Targum (Shemos 38:8; see also Ibn Ezra, Ramban and Sforno Ibid) renders the word hatzovos to mean prayer. Based on the above interpretations, we can suggest that the meaning of the passage here is that when we gather together in prayer, which is a matter that stands at the pinnacle of the world, (See Brachos 6b) to “shake the heavens,” we must acknowledge that HaShem is above everything and it is only HaShem Who has the capabilities to hear our prayers and fulfill our wishes.
Shabbos in Tefillah
Hameshubach vihamefoar vihamisnasei mimos olam, Who is praised, glorified and extolled since days of old. One must wonder of what significance is the idea that HaShem is praised, glorified and extolled since days of old. Perhaps the idea is that the Sfas Emes (Chanukah 5661 and many other instances) writes that the word olam, meaning world, is similar to the world helam, which means hidden. Thus, we can suggest that HaShem has been and will always be praised, regardless of whether mankind praises HaShem. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 94a) states that when HaShem performed a great miracle for the Jewish People and obliterated the Assyrian army of Sancheiriv, Chizkiyah did not sing shirah and he forfeited the opportunity to be Moshiach. Nonetheless, the land sang shirah in his stead. Similarly, we declare that HaShem is praised, glorified and extolled since days of old, i.e. even when it was hidden from mankind the need to praise HaShem. This can occur in times of catastrophe, Heaven forbid, or even when HaShem performs an extraordinary miracle, as man has the capability of forgetting that HaShem wrought the miracle. When we know that the praise of HaShem will be declared regardless of whether man desires to do so, we can then make the extra effort to praise and thank HaShem for all the miracles that He performs for us.
My step-grandfather writes in his memoirs the following amazing story about his paternal grandparents. Reb Yaakov, his grandfather, was one of the rare individuals upon whom one could confidently confer the title “men who despise money.” He writes: Grandfather Yaakov and his brother Yonta were engaged in heavy physical work. They specialized in draining swamp land to produce additional crops. In the cold months, grandpa worked for a brewery in Ponadel, which was operated by a Jewish innkeeper. Grandpa was a devoted Lubavitch Chassid, and was scrupulously honest in all his dealings. He was married to Nechama, who came from a learned family in Dvinsk. The family lived modestly, always having enough to eat and to help less fortunate neighbors. Grandma was a frugal manager, and made the most of what grandpa earned. Grandma came from Dvinsk, from a family that produced a famous scholar and rabbi. Her cousin, Reb Meir Simcha Ha-Kohen, was the gaon of Dvinsk. Grandma was described to me by a local resident as the most righteous woman in town. He still remembers her going to the synagogue carrying a large prayer book with wooden covers under her arm. She was very charitable, making sure that others had the necessities to celebrate the Shabbos. In the summer, she would pick wild raspberries that grew around the cemetery fence. She would process the juice and store it for the winter, when she would provide it as a home remedy for the sick. Today we know that raspberries are high in vitamin content, and could indeed help as a home remedy. My father told me that she would go and clean up the hekdesh, a shelter for homeless wayfarers usually in a mess. Once, he said, there was a man in town who was dying from an advanced stage of syphilis; no one would come near him but grandma, who nursed him in his agony. In her old age, she fasted two days a week. Grandpa was a man of great honesty and integrity, as illustrated by the following story, that I call “The Dowry.” My grandparents’ oldest child was a daughter, Sara Malla. In those days, when a girl reached sixteen she was already referred to as a kallah maid (a bride girl), and the hunt was on for a suitable husband. It was customary for the bride’s parents to provide a dowry, a sum of money to start the couple in their new life. A suitable husband was found for Sara Malla, and the agreement called for a 200 ruble dowry. As the time approached for the completion of the marriage arrangements, my grandparents had only been able to get together 170 rubles toward the 200 ruble dowry. This is where things stood when a strange thing happened. Grandpa worked for a brewery run by the local innkeeper. Each day, when he finished his work, he would stop at the inn and discuss with his boss what was happening at the brewery. On the day of this event, the shtetl was alive with people. It was the market day, when the peasants from the surrounding area came to town. They sold their produce, bought provisions, and settled in at the pub to regale themselves with beer and vodka. This day, as well as all other days, grandpa came in to see his boss. The town was abuzz, and in the inn there was drinking and loud laughter. As grandpa left the inn and walked on to the town square, lo and behold, he saw a small sack on the ground. He bent down and picked it up. He was surprised how heavy it was. He opened it up, and what do you think he found? Thirty gold rubles! There was no name or identification as to who owned it. The square was a public place, and since there were no identifying marks, according to both Jewish and Russian law, he was entitled to keep the money. At this stage, you would guess what was going to happen with that money. Just the right amount to complete Sara Malla’s dowry! But to grandpa, when it came to honesty, there were no shadings. It was either black or white. He returned to the inn, found his employer, and told him of what he had found. He requested that the rightful owner be found, and the sack be returned to him. Without further comment, he left for home. When the family was having their evening meal, grandpa casually told of what had taken place that day. Well, grandma was very pious, and was in constant touch with G-d. Among the other things she prayed for was the completion of the dowry, so that her daughter could get married. When she heard grandpa’s story, she felt sure that Hashem had heard her pleas, and had so neatly sent just the right amount. The dowry would be complete, and her daughter's wedding would take place. She made this known to grandpa in no uncertain terms. She called him a fool, and accused him of throwing Hashem's gift away. He kept protesting that it was not his money. It was not his money. Time for completing the dowry passed, and the match could not be completed. The deal was off. Weeks later, a young man by the name of Moshe, from a good Ponadel family, approached grandpa in the synagogue. He said he heard that Sara Malla was no longer spoken for, and that he would like to be considered as a suitable husband. When the two families got together, grandpa asked what dowry was expected. “I came to ask for your daughter,” Moshe replied, “that is dowry enough for me.” The rest of the story is there for all to see. The young couple was married, and enjoyed a fruitful life together. Moshe was a devoted husband and father. He was very respectful of my grandparents, and if you asked my father and his siblings, they would have told you that he was the pillar of the family. [Morris Silbert, Family History and Other Stories, p. 3-6].
Shabbos in Navi
In this chapter the Navi records the cities and the open surrounding spaces that were given to the tribe of Levi to dwell in. It is said that the total cities of the Levites within the possession of the Children of Israel were forty-eight, and their open spaces. It is noteworthy that on Friday night we recite the chapter of Mishlei that begins with eishes chayil, woman of valor. The word chayil in numerical value equals 48, and the Mishnah in Avos (6:6) states that Torah is acquired by means of forty-eight qualities. The Zohar states that a Torah scholar is in the category of Shabbos. The Rambam (end of Hilchos Shemittah ViYoveil) writes that not only the tribe of Levi, but anyone who takes upon himself the yoke of Torah and the service of HaShem, is rendered holy of holies and will have his livelihood provided for similar to the Levites. Thus, we can suggest that it was appropriate that the tribe of Levi, who were the Torah scholars of the nation, received forty-eight cities as forty-eight is the number of qualities that a Torah scholar must posses. A Torah scholar is akin to Shabbos, and it is for this reason that we recite eishes chayil at the onset of Shabbos.
Shabbos in Agadah
One must wonder why Shabbos is listed in the Aseres HaDibros, translated as the Ten Commandments. It would seem that all the commandments are either regarding belief in HaShem or not committing a sin, such as stealing and murder. The mitzvah of honoring ones parents also relates to ones behavior towards others, as one who does not respect his parents will most likely not respect anyone else in the world. Why is it, then, that Shabbos is listed amongst those mitzvos that relate to believing in HaShem and relating to ones fellow man? One answer to this question is that Shabbos is the foundation of our belief, and one who intentionally violates Shabbos is akin to one who worships idols (Eiruvin 69b). Thus, Shabbos is listed in the Aseres HaDibros as a fundamental of our belief that HaShem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. Furthermore, Shabbos is a time when the entire Jewish People unite in their service of HaShem, so Shabbos is also related to ones relationship with his fellow man.
Shabbos in Halacha
One can use a hot plate that has only one temperature setting (i.e. it has no temperature-control knob) if it is generally not used for cooking and it is merely used to keep food warm. (One must obviously connect the hot plate before Shabbos.) A hot plate that has adjustable temperature settings is deemed to be a conventional method of cooking and one is prohibited from placing food on such a hot plate on Shabbos.
Shabbos in Numbers and Words
It is said (Bereishis 2:1-2) vayechulu hashamayim vihaaretz vechol tzivaam vayechal Elokim bayom hashevii melachto asher asa vayishbos bayom hashevii mikol melachto asher asa, thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. By the seventh day G-d completed His work which He had done, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. In these words there are numerous allusions to Shabbos. The words vechol tzivaam end with the letters lamed and mem, which equal in mispar katan, digit sum, 7, which alludes to Shabbos, the seventh day of the week. The words vechol tzivaam also begin with letters that equal 9 in mispar katan, digit sum, and Shabbos equals 9 in mispar katan. The words vayechal Elokim also end with letters that equal 7 in mispar katan. The words bayom hashevii begin with letters that equal 7 in mispar katan. The words vayishbos bayom hashevii end with letters that equal 9 in mispar katan, and Shabbos in mispar katan equals 9. The words mikol melachto asher begins with letters that equal 9. The words mikol melachto end with letters that equal 9 in mispar katan.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Yisro 5768
is sponsored Lerefuah Sheleima
Tinok Ben Aviva and Ilana Leah Bas Shaindel Rochel bisoch shaar cholei Yisroel
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Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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