Thursday, January 31, 2013

Parsha Yisro, stories, the situation in Northern Israel

This week’s Parsha is dedicated to the memory of Felix ben Yitzchak Pauli Z”L who passed away on 23 Shevat 5769

Please pray for Sarah Merkavah bas Elisheva.

Parsha Yisro

Last week when we learned about the Mann we heard a Halacha regarding Shabbos for the first time. See, Hashem has given you Shabbos. (Shemos 16:29)  This week we learn of Moshe Judging the people from morning until night. Where do all these Judgements and disputes come from? We look further into the Parsha and what is see is that there had to have been some oral Torah that Moshe had and gave to the elders. Our Mishnah and Talmud were the first collection of Oral law as the Jews began to be persecuted and dispersed. It would be another 800-900 years before the Rambam and a few hundred more before the Tur and Shulchan Aruch. Less than 100 years ago the Chofetz Chaim wrote the Mishnah Berura which is the finally Halachic word for Ashkenazim of the Aruch HaChaim section on the Shulchan Aruch. Still if one was just a simple Jew who followed the Code of Jewish Law, he or she would be as close as possible to the final Halachic word. 

18:1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.

I liked very much Rabbi Pinchas Winston Shlita Drasha on the Parsha and I thought I would take the introduction and leave the source for one to read more. Life takes place on many levels. We know that even from our own personal lives when the things we say or do can have different levels of meaning, one for the people we are addressing, and one for ourselves. Sometimes it is just plain deception, sometimes it is necessary deception, and sometimes it is just due to the limitations of the perceivers.
God has no problem sharing many of His secrets with mankind, which is why He gave the Torah 70 facets, and made it so that it can be understood on all four levels of Pardes: Pshat, Remez, Drush, and Sod, or simply, through hints, as a result of exegesis, or Kabbalistically.
You have to pity the person who doesn’t know this, or doesn’t believe it, especially when, as a result, they reject Torah. But then again, sometimes this is the choice they make, especially when their desire to integrate into the gentile world is much greater than their desire to integrate into the World-to-Come.
As I have mentioned before, I have taken to reading about Jewish history once again. I love history in general, and Jewish history in particular, and I know that it is extremely important for us to know how we got to where we are today. A ship without knowledge of its past, even if it has knowledge of its future, is a ship lost at sea.
In my reading, I am up to the period of emancipation which occurred in the 1800s. With new found acceptance into their gentile host societies, and in spite of prevailing anti-Semitism, many Jews used the opportunity to jump ship and either leave Judaism altogether, or rewrite it to suit their whims. Thus was born Reform Judaism, and all of its innovations to make it, in their own words, match the Christian approach to religion.
Now Orthodox Judaism not only had to fight the enemy from without, but it also had to fight an enemy from within. For, not only did Reform leaders turn their backs on their three-millennia-old heritage and their portions in the World-to-Come, they went on the offensive and insisted that the rest of the Jewish people do the same. Those who did not they condemned and often in the ugliest of ways, suggesting to many objective onlookers that what they felt was more self-hate than self-righteousness.
The story of Yisro is about the opposite approach. It is about how a man had the courage to reject the prevalent and accepted religions of his day to join one that was not. It is the account of a person whose desire for truth was greater than his desire for comfort and acceptance, because there was a good chance that he would achieve neither on both sides of the line. Just ask many ba’alei teshuvah, who often have difficulty fitting in well to communities in which its members grew up religious. Not only this, but basic skills which FFBs (Frum From Birth) developed long ago must be leaned anew by people becoming religious at the age of 20 and upward. Some people don’t even take on Torah until their 60s or later!
All of a sudden, people who had grown together with peers their own age for decades, advancing in skills as their peers did, which allowed for the development of their self-confidence, have to start from scratch with people who already have decades of experience on them. This often leads to moments of embarrassment and has to damage self-confidence. …

2 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons; of whom the name of the one was Gershom; for he said: 'I have been a stranger in a strange land'; 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer: 'for the God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.' 5 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God; 6 and he said unto Moses: 'I thy father-in-law Jethro am coming unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.' 7 And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent.

We learn here that one must give honor to his father-in-law similar to his own father for his wife is like his body. Even a head of State like Moshe is required to honor his wife’s parents, his parents and his Torah Teachers.

8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the travail that had come upon them by the way, and how the LORD delivered them. 9 And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in that He had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said: 'Blessed be the LORD, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh; who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.

From here we learn that a person can bless HASHEM for doing something for us. (For Example: Private miracles or getting out of danger).

11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods; yea, for that they dealt proudly against them.'

Yisro had worshipped all gods just to be on the safe side but now he was sure that there is none but HASHEM.

12 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God.

Chances are that since he was from Midian aka Bnei Ketura that he kept Taharos like Avraham and perhaps ritual slaughter. At this time there was no Gezaira on Bishul Akum (cooking of non-Jews).

13 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood about Moses from the morning unto the evening. 14 And when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said: 'What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand about thee from morning unto even?'

The Torah had not yet been written but parts of the Oral Torah already existed either after leaving Mitzrayim or for generations.

15 And Moses said unto his father-in-law: 'Because the people come unto me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a matter, it cometh unto me; and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God, and His laws.' 17 And Moses' father-in-law said unto him: 'The thing that you do is not good. 18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee; for the thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.

Only Moshe knew the whole Halacha as he had not passed it on to anybody.

19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God be with thee: be thou for the people before God, and bring thou the causes unto God. 20 And thou shalt teach them the statutes and the laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee.

Am Yisrael had no leadership tradition or experience outside of the tribe and the various clans inside the tribes. Now as a Nation, Moshe was given advice to set up a judiciary and delegation of power.

23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people also shall go to their place in peace.' 24 So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. 27 And Moses let his father-in-law depart; and he went his way into his own land.

Although the whole world heard the first two commandments, only Am Yisrael was worthy of receiving them and not Yisro.

19: 1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. …14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said unto the people: 'Be ready against the third day; come not near a woman.'

Be ready for three days: For the end of three days. That is the fourth day, for Moses added one day of his own volition. This is the view of Rabbi Jose [who says that the Torah was given on the seventh of Sivan]. According to the one who says that the Ten Commandments were given on the sixth of the month, however, Moses did not add anything, and “for three days” has the same meaning as “for the third day.” [from Shab. 87a] do not go near a woman: [to have intimacy with her] for all these three days [of preparation], in order that the women may immerse themselves on the third day and be pure to receive the Torah. If they have intercourse within the three days, the woman could [involuntarily] emit semen after her immersion and become unclean again. After three days have elapsed [since intercourse], however, the semen has already become putrid and is no longer capable of fertilization, so it is pure from contaminating the [woman] who emits it. — [from Shab. 86a]

The simple and condensed explanation from Gemara in Shabbos states that since the seed of a man remains alive in the womb of a woman for up to three days and was to keep the women pure to receive the Torah. The Talmudic Discussion of the Sinai Experience of receiving the Assera Debros starts in the Mishnah here: and continues through 89. It is deep and scholastic and explains it better than I ever could.

16 And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace (Chabad translates as Kiln), and the whole mount quaked greatly.

The kiln: [used for the baking] of lime. I could think that it means [Mount Sinai smoked] like the kiln and no more. Therefore, [to clarify this,] Scripture states: “[the mountain was] blazing with fire up to the heart of the heaven” (Deut. 4:11) [meaning that the fire was far greater than in a lime kiln]. Why then does the Torah say "kiln"? In order to explain to the [human] ear what it is able to hear, [i.e., to give the reader a picture that can be imagined]. He gives the creatures [humans] a sign familiar to them. Similar to this [is the description in reference to God:] “He shall roar like a lion” (Hos. 11:10). Who but Him gave strength to the lion? Yet the Scriptures compare Him to a lion? But we describe Him and compare Him to His creatures in order to explain to [humans] what the ear is able to hear. Similar to this [is], “And its sound [the voice of God] was like the sound of abundant waters” (Ezek. 43:2). Now who gave the water a sound but He? Yet you describe Him and compare Him to His creatures in order to explain to [humans] what the ear is able to hear. — [from Mechilta]

Mt. Sinai and the area has not had volcanic activity perhaps from before the creation of Adam which is different from the Mt. Hermon area.

19 And when the voice of the horn waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, to the top of the mount; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. 22 And let the priests also, that come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.'

And also, the priests: [I.e.,] also the firstborn, who perform the [divine] service. — [from Zev. 115b] who go near to the Lord: to offer up sacrifices (targumim), they too shall not rely on their importance to ascend the mountain. shall prepare themselves: They shall be ready to stand on their position. lest the Lord wreak destruction: Heb. יִפְרֹץ, an expression of a breach. [This means] He will kill some of them and [thus] make a breach in them [their completeness].

23 And Moses said unto the LORD: 'The people cannot come up to mount Sinai; for thou didst charge us, saying: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.' 24 And the LORD said unto him: 'Go, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest He break forth upon them.' 25 So Moses went down unto the people, and told them.

20: 1 And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. 3 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 4 thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; 5 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments. 6 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

This can be a pseudo-prophet, a person who swear falsely, or a person who curses HASHEM  such as Yose beat up Yose where in Gematria Yose is 86 and so is Elokim (example Gemara Sanhedrin on the trial of the Blasphemer), and variations not mentioned here. But if a man says I swear by all that is valuable to Assad or Morsi – we do not bother with him but make him a big bluffer.

7 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 8 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; The Hebrew clarifies Melechos Avoda, not plain labor but a Melacha. 9 but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; 10 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. 11 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God gives thee. 12 Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 13 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Chumash Themes #12: The Ten Commandments by Rabbi Zave Rudman (for a video go to
Exploring the earth-shattering events at Mount Sinai.  Exodus – chapters 19-20
Perhaps the quintessential section of Torah is the giving of the Ten Commandments. No other event so clearly defines the relationship between God and humanity. In order to fully grasp the depth of what took place, however, we need to go beyond the movie and analyze the text. Let’s begin by reviewing the events leading up to Mount Sinai:1
The Jews leave Egypt, and a week later cross the Red Sea. They then travel through the desert toward Mount Sinai. During this period, the manna begins to fall, Moses transmits various laws (e.g. Shabbat), and the Jews beat off an attack by Amalek. Six weeks after the Exodus they arrive at Mount Sinai. There the entire nation spends a week preparing for the receiving of the Torah, which takes place 50 days after the Exodus, on the sixth of Sivan.
When the Jews are offered the Torah, their response is Na’aseh V’nishma – "We will do and we will listen." Then the mountain lifts into the air and is suspended over their heads.2 God then proclaims the Ten Commandments, whereby the entire Jewish nation – men, women and children – participates with Moses in this unique prophetic experience.
The next day Moses goes up the mountain, and studies the rest of the Torah with God for 40 days and 40 nights. When Moses descends, he is met by the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf.3
The purpose of the Exodus was for the Jews to receive the Torah, as Moses was told at his first conversation with God at the Burning Bush.4 Everything that took place till now was in preparation for this event. In order to fully appreciate this monumental event, we need to answer the following:
  • What was the function of the week of preparations?
  • What actually took place on Mount Sinai?
  • What was special about these Ten Commandments?
  • Why did God suspend the mountain over the people's head?
The Preparations
The first prerequisite for receiving Torah is unity of the Jewish people. On the first day of Sivan, the Jews arrived at the mountain. The verse5 uses an unusual conjugation to describe their encampment. Rather than the plural form, here the entire camp is described in the singular. This emphasizes the need for unity at the giving of the Torah.6
This is not simply a beautiful sentiment, but something crucial to the understanding of these events. In the Zohar, we are taught that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah, which parallel the number of “root souls” of Jews who accepted the Torah.7 The obvious conclusion is that each Jew has a corresponding letter in the Torah.
There is a deeper meaning, however. A Torah scroll that is missing one letter is unfit, no matter how unimportant that letter might seem to the naked eye. That is because the Torah is greater than the sum of its parts. So too, if the Jewish people are missing one person they are unfit. Every Jew has a unique function in the makeup of the nation. The Jewish people and the Torah reflect one another. So without Jewish unity, the Torah would not start.
The preparations continue on the second day of Sivan. Moses goes up to the mountain and God commands him to “Speak to the house of Jacob, and instruct the children of Israel.”8 The Midrash points out the double usage of “house” and “children”: “house” refers to the women, and “children” refers to the men.9 This highlights another important aspect of the importance of Jewish unity: If any one member of the nation – man, woman or child – would have been absent from Mount Sinai, the Torah could not have been given.10
The Humble Mountain
God commands Moses to sanctify Mount Sinai, and to prohibit anyone from touching the mountain. From here, we would assume that Mount Sinai is one of the holiest sites of Judaism. However, Moses is told that after the giving of the Torah, this ban will be lifted, and the mountain can even be used for grazing cattle.11 That is curious enough, but there is even a deeper question about the chosen location: Why is the Torah given in the desert and not in the Land of Israel?
The answer to both questions is the same: The Torah is eternal and relevant anywhere in the world. In addition, the relationship between God and Israel is inherent and not limited to any specific location. Therefore, once the mountain has served its function, it reverts to its previous state.12
Even though the mountain does not have an eternal holiness, there is a beautiful Midrash which explains why Mount Sinai was chosen. All the mountains desired to fulfill God's purpose by being used for the giving of the Torah. All except Mount Sinai, which felt that it was not great enough for this exalted task. When God perceived the humility of Mount Sinai, He specifically chose it as the venue for this event, to emphasize the importance of this character trait.13
Why is this crucial to receiving Torah?
We can answer this by posing another question. The Torah says: “And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert.”14 Why was the Torah given in a desert? Because a desert is empty.15 What this means is that to acquire Torah – to receive God's wisdom – we must first be willing to put our own self-assuredness aside, to realize we still have a lot to learn, and to open up space inside. A desert, empty and void, symbolizes this process.
Na’aseh V’nishma
A key aspect of the Sinai event is the resounding avowal by the Jews, "We will do and we will listen." This statement of complete acceptance of the will of God is the paradigm of the Jewish approach to mitzvot.
There are two possible approaches to the relationship between God and man. One is that God's will is so far beyond human reason that there is no possibility of understanding, and thus we follow His commands without any attempt to understand at all. The other is that if God commanded us, then our intellect must be sufficient to understand what we are commanded; therefore, if we do not comprehend, we are not obligated.
Each of these is true, but each one alone is incorrect.
God granted man powers of intellect that enable us to grasp some of God's will. However, so that man's hubris should not permit him to think that his understanding of God is complete, God also expects us to follow His commands even without understanding. This is the uniqueness of Na’aseh V’nishma. The statement 'We will listen' says that we must try to comprehend God's will. But it is preceded by 'We will do' – i.e. that our first obligation is to bow to God's will even when we do not comprehend.
This is the fine balance: recognizing the great intellect that God granted to man, while understanding its limits in its perception of God.
The Day of the Giving of the Torah
Moses gathers the people together at the foot of Mount Sinai. A great pillar of fire and smoke are seen emanating from the cloud atop the mountain. Moses then ascends into the cloud, and the entire nation awaits the word of God. At that moment, God's voice and presence fills the world; all of nature is still, as the entire Jewish nation hears and sees God's voice proclaiming the Ten Commandments. Moses then informs the people that he will be ascending the mountain for 40 days and nights to receive the rest of the Torah, and to bring down the Tablets of Law inscribed with the Ten Commandments.16
Each of the particulars of that day is of great significance. We will delve into just a few aspects.
Maimonides writes:17
The Jews did not believe in Moses because of miracles that he performed. Any belief which is only a result of miracles remains subject to doubt, since perhaps it is being done with magic. At Mount Sinai, the Jewish people heard God call to Moses and participated with him in this prophetic experience. From then on, our belief in Moses was established.
It would seem that the main purpose of the giving of the Torah, beyond the specific commands, was to concretize the knowledge that God had actually spoken to Moses, and to be certain that the rest of the Torah was truthfully transmitted from God to Moses. Indeed, no other religion is founded on a national experience of prophecy.18 This creates a unique Jewish relationship with God and Torah that is based on knowledge rather than faith.
This begins to explain the conundrum that we posed concerning the Ten Commandments. Altogether, the Torah contains 613 commandments, transmitted over the course of many years:
  • the first commandments were given in Egypt19
  • more were given during the 49-day period between the Exodus and Mount Sinai20
  • the majority were given throughout the 40 years in the desert
  • the final command was given only days before Moses' passing21
So why were these 10 specifically chosen to be given on Mount Sinai? Are they are in some way greater than the other 603?
In fact, there is no difference between one of the Ten Commandments or any other law in the Torah. The requirement to observe them is equal. So that strengthens our question: Why these 10?
The Ten Commandments are meant to be the fundamental principles of all 613 mitzvot. Rav Sa’adia Gaon, a 10th century scholar, delineated all the commandments into ten families, based on the Ten Commandments.22 It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss this in detail, but a cursory examination will show the fundamentals of this idea:
As is well known, the commandments were given on two tablets. From the chart, we see that the commandments seem to be clearly divided into two groups: those that apply between man and God, and those between man and man.
Look closely. One of the commands seems to be misplaced: the fifth commandment, “Honor your parents.” The common explanation is that the parent-child relationship is a metaphor for the human relationship to God. From the moment of infancy and beyond, the way a parent acts toward their child forms in the child's consciousness a paradigm for how God relates to us.
But we can also use this as a means to illustrate the way each of the commandments is expanded to include significant portions of the Torah. The principle of honoring parents is to teach us gratitude. This would seem to be a simple act, but it is fraught with difficulty. In order to be grateful, one needs to recognize that they are lacking, and need other people. Someone who thinks they do not need others, even when "accidentally" someone else may help them, does not feel grateful. This recognition of our innate deficiency – that I come from somewhere (i.e. my parents), and am dependent – is the beginning of accepting God.
Therefore honoring parents is the basis of all the mitzvot which mandate our submission to a higher authority, and that is why it is part of the first tablet. This is but one illustration of how to approach each of the Ten Commandments as a principle for the rest of Torah.
Suspended Mountain
Before speaking the Ten Commandments, God suspended the mountain over the people's heads and said, "If you will accept the Torah – good. And if not, the mountain will bury you."23
As described earlier, the Jewish people eagerly accepted the Torah, declaring "We will do and we will listen." If so, why the need for coercion?
The simple answer is that although the people volunteered to fulfill the Torah, God wanted to make sure they understood that it is really an obligation.24
In a deeper sense, the mountain being suspended over the nation is to reinforce the inevitability of the Torah. The Torah has two levels. On one level, Torah is the individual choice of each person, and there is free will as to its observance. However, there is another reality: The world requires Torah. A world without the revelation of God, without an absolute standard of morality to guide humanity, is a world devoid of its ultimate purpose. Therefore, once the Torah was willingly accepted, God emphasized the inescapable truth that without the existence of the Torah, the world cannot exist. Without the guiding light of Torah, the world would ultimately revert to its pre-creation state of “void and nothingness.”25

14 And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off.

And all the people saw: [This] teaches [us] that there was not one blind person among them. From where do we know that [there was] no mute person among them? The Torah states: “And all the people replied” (Exod. 19:8). From where do we know that there was no deaf person among them? The Torah states: “We will do and hear” (Exod. 24:7). [from Mechilta] the voices: They saw what was audible, which is impossible to see elsewhere. Stephen Spielberg used this concept when he made the movie “Meetings of the third kind” — [from Mechilta d’Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai] the voices: Emanating from the mouth of the Almighty. Many voices, voices coming from every direction, and from the heavens, and from the earth. — [Rashi above, verse 2] and trembled: Heb. וַיָנֻעוּ נוֹעַ means only trembling. In modern Hebrew it is more like vibrating back and forth. — [from Mechilta] so they stood from afar: They were drawing backwards twelve mil, as far as the length of their camp. The ministering angels came and assisted them [in order] to bring them back, as it is said: “Kings of hosts wander; yea they wander” (Ps. 68:13). [from Shab. 88b]

Either they could perceive the vibrations of the thunderings or the relationship with the lightning the phenomena was a onetime affair.

15 And they said unto Moses: 'Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'

If you recall the Gemara on Daf 88 of Shabbos that I brought down a year or two ago, the soul would leave the body and return with each commandment and the people became sore afraid of death even if their soul was around.

16 And Moses said unto the people: 'Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before you, that ye sin not.' 17 And the people stood afar off; but Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. 18 And the LORD said unto Moses: Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel: Ye yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

Drew near to the opaque darkness: Within three partitions: darkness, cloud, and opaque darkness, as it is said: “And the mountain was burning with fire unto the heart of the heavens, darkness, cloud, and opaque darkness” (Deut. 4:11). Opaque darkness is [synonymous with] “the thickness of the cloud,” [concerning] which He [God] had said to him [Moses], “Behold, I am coming to you in the thickness of the cloud” (Exod. 19:9). [from Mechilta]

19 Ye shall not make with Me--gods of silver, or gods of gold, ye shall not make unto you. 20 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee. 21 And if thou make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast profaned it. 22 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto Mine altar, that thy nakedness be not uncovered thereon. 23. And you shall not ascend with steps upon My altar, so that your nakedness shall not be exposed upon it.' "

And you shall not ascend with steps: When you build a ramp for the altar, do not make it with steps, eschalons in Old French, but it must be smooth and slanting. — [from Mechilta]. And you shall not ascend with steps: When you build a ramp for the altar, do not make it with steps, eschalons in Old French, but it must be smooth and slanting. — [from Mechilta]. so that your nakedness shall not be exposed: Because due to the steps, you must widen your stride, although it would not be an actual exposure of nakedness, for it is written: “And make them linen pants” (Exod. 28:42). Nevertheless, widening the strides is close to exposing the nakedness [of the one ascending the steps], and you behave toward them [the stones] in a humiliating manner. Now these matters are a kal vachomer [a fortiori] conclusion, that if [concerning] these stones-which have no intelligence to object to their humiliation-the Torah said that because they are necessary, you shall not behave toward them in a humiliating manner. [In contrast,] your friend, who is [created] in the likeness of your Creator and who does object to being humiliated, how much more [must you be careful not to embarrass him]!-[from Mechilta]

This is why the Mizbayach had a ramp going up it and the Cohanim wore pants under their robes. (To this day the Scots and the Arabs do not wear underwear under their kilts or robes.)

The Panicked Nurse by Rabbi Tilles

In 1947, only a few years before Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn (the "Rayatz"), sixth Rebbe in the Lubavitch/Chabad dynasty, passed away, his son-in-law and eventual successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, traveled to Paris. His mother had made it out of communist Russia. The Rebbe, who had escaped from Europe to the United States in 1941, arrived in Paris to greet his mother whom he had not seen for more than 15 years and escort her back to the United States.

In Paris, he met a group of Lubavitch chassidim who had survived the Holocaust and very much wanted to immigrate to the Unites States but could not get visas. They asked him that upon his return he tell the Rebbe Rayatz of their plight and ask him to awaken compassion and mercy upon them from Heaven. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained to them that they must be a little naïve to think that the Rayatz needs to be directly informed in order to be made aware of their problems. In order to make his point he told them the following story.

At the time, the Rayatz was ill and required a certain injection of drugs every day. A private nurse would come to his study at 770 at a set time to administer the injection. One day the nurse was a few minutes late. When she knocked on the door of his study there was no answer. Usually, there were Rabbis from the Rayatz's secretariat around, but this time there was no one there. So she slowly opened the door to his study. When she walked in she saw him sitting at his desk, his eyes gazing off into the distance, obviously unaware that she had entered. He had the look of someone who was not in this world altogether. She had never seen anything like this and was certain that something had happened to him, perhaps he had even lost consciousness.

She ran out looking for someone from the family or the staff. She encountered the "Ramash" (as the Rebbe-to-be was known in those days), who quickly came into the room and approached near to his father-in-law's mouth to hear what he was mumbling. He heard that the Rebbe Rayatz was reciting by heart and with the Torah melody the words of the Song of the Sea, Az Yashir. It was as if the Rayatz was praying. So, immediately he realized that the Rayatz was in a state of communion (with G-d) and not that he was sick. This state is known as disembodiment and the person seems to have lost touch with reality (the truth is very much the opposite, as we will see in a moment). Indeed, after a few minutes the Rayatz seemed to snap out of it.

But, the Rebbe sensed that there was a reason for all this. He decided to do some research and learnt that during those very moments that the Rayatz was in a state of communion and disembodiment, thousands of miles away, a small group of chassidim had tried to illegally make it across the Russian-Polish border. If they had been caught, they would have been summarily executed. During those critical moments, the Rebbe Rayatz had awakened the mercy of Heaven that they be successful.

So, the Rebbe-to-be told the chassidim in Paris that after this story they should understand that the Rebbe Rayatz does not need anyone to tell him when to awaken mercy on his disciples. Every chassid is always on his mind. He sees and knows exactly what is happening with him, and continually sacrifices himself and prays for each and every one of them.

This is an important story to make us reflect that the Rebbe is indeed thinking of each and every one of us, and continually awakening the mercy of Heaven upon us.

One more point that we can take with us from this story is that there is a powerful connection between saying the Song of the Sea and awakening mercy from Heaven. If the Rebbe noted this (he could have told the story without noting what the Rayatz had been saying during his disembodiment), it means that we should be aware of this. If you think about someone who needs Heavenly mercy and recite the Song of the Sea with sincerity and the proper intent, you will be awakening the Heavens to be merciful with him. This is true both for an individual and for the entire Jewish people.
The Song of the Sea appears in parshat Beshalach, the Torah reading of the week during which the tenth of Shevat-the Rayatz's yahrzeit-usually falls. So this story and its teaching are particularly suited to the tenth of Shevat.

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation/rendition on, which is based on a talk by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh at a children's gathering in Ramat Aviv, six years ago. (Actually, he told there two stories. For the other, here is the link://
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (12 Tammuz 1880-10 Shvat 1950), known as the Rebbe Rayatz, was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1920 to 1950. The only son of his predecessor, the Rebbe Reshab, he established a network of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single most significant factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign of the communist Soviets. In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide headquarters in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread Judaism in all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued and expanded so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Israel's New "Master Chef" is a Converted Christian

The winner of the latest season of the Israeli version of the reality show “Master Chef” is a man who grew up in Germany to a Christian family and later converted to Judaism.

39-year-old Tom Franz, a lawyer from Tel Aviv, won the competition on Tuesday evening, beating out Jackie Azoulay, a 29-year-old religious woman from the hareidi city of Elad and Salma Fiyumi, a 27-year-old Arab woman who lives in Kfar Kassem.

Franz, who grew up in Cologne as a Christian, came to Israel at the age of 31, fell in love with the country and with Judaism and chose to convert. He had a circumcision, became observant and later married Dana, a secular woman who became observant as well, thanks to him. Throughout the “Master Chef” season, Franz made sure that all the foods he cooked were kosher.

Upon winning the first think that Tom said after hugging is wife and thanking is wife was “Blessed be THE CREATOR who has given me the knowledge and skills of cooking.”

Exploring some rational reasons. Your grandmother would turn over in her grave! It's forbidden by the Torah! You're finishing Hitler's work!
These are some of the more common arguments against intermarriage. But these are negative, guilt-inducing reasons, and they rarely work. Perhaps a more effective approach is the rational, practical view.
There's a video put out by the Reform Movement of America, called Intermarriage: When Love Meets Tradition. It's a real-life documentary that depicts a series of group therapy sessions for intermarried couples, designed to help them deal with the challenges of intermarriage. None of the couples are religious, but the video shows how ― surprisingly ― the major obstacle in their marriage is the issue of religious identity.
Esther Perel, a therapist who counsels interfaith couples, says in New York magazine: "The difference isn't just between Moses and Christ. You're dealing with issues of money, sex, education, child-rearing practices, food, family relationships, styles of emotional expressiveness, issues of autonomy ― all of these are culturally embedded."
These problems often come to the fore during lifecycle events. In the Intermarriage video, a Jewish woman says: "Our marriage was going smoothly until the birth of our baby boy. I was thrilled and wanted to arrange for a Bris (circumcision). But my husband thought I was crazy and said, 'I won't allow that bloody, barbaric cult ritual.' Instead of celebrating the birth of our child, we were having a terrible fight. He finally agreed to a Bris, on condition that the baby be baptized. I was shocked. Now I'm not sure our marriage is going to survive."
Egon Mayer, a professor at Brooklyn College who studies interfaith issues and published a study linking intermarriage with higher divorce rates, said : "When you bury something that is really important to you, all you're doing is building up a kind of pressure within the family relationship, which becomes a source of tension, which ultimately becomes a time bomb. If there's any reason why intermarriages break up, it's because of that time bomb."
The Next Generation
One of the most challenging aspects of intermarriage is raising children. Many intermarried couples say: "We're going to let our children choose their own religion. When they grow up they can choose what they want. That way they'll get the best of both worlds."
Children of intermarried couples frequently suffer an identity crisis.
The reality, however, is that children of intermarried couples frequently suffer an identity crisis. Jews often look at these children as non-Jews, and non-Jews look at them as Jews. One set of grandparents has a Christmas tree, the other a Chanukah menorah. This is all very confusing for a young person trying to forge an identity in an already-complex world.
Children need to have a solid, unambiguous identity which gives them a place in the world. They need a spiritual tradition through which to experience lifecycle events, and to have a community where they feel at home.
Psychologists report that many "dual-religion" children express anger at their parents for putting them in the middle of an issue that the parents themselves could not resolve. When a person has to choose one religion over the other, there is always the subconscious sense of choosing one parent over another.
Even when the non-Jewish spouse agrees to "raise the kids as Jewish," that only works as long as the couple stays married. In the event of divorce, custody issues become a huge challenge. I know of many cases where ― following a divorce ― the non-Jewish spouse simply reverted to raising the kids in a fully Christian lifestyle.
Complicating the issue is what happens in the event that the child grows up to strongly embrace religion. If he turns to Judaism, he'll disrespect his parents for having intermarried. And if he becomes a believing Christian, he'll think the Jewish parent is destined to hell for denying the faith.
Beyond this is the issue of the husband or wife experiencing his/her own spiritual awakening. Young adults who do not profess a belief in any particular religion often turn to religion later in life. A Gallup Poll showed that during an average lifetime, religious commitment is lowest from ages 18-39 ― precisely the time when people are making their decision about who to marry. I have a folder of emails from intermarried people whose lives turned to horror when they (or their spouses) turned back to religion. In such a case the issues are insurmountable.
A related scenario is where an intermarried spouse wants to explore his/her own religion, but holds back from doing so in order not to drive a wedge into the marriage. This inevitably leads to spiritual frustration and resentment toward the spouse. Many intermarried people have told me with great sadness, "I would like to be doing more Jewish things, but my spouse would never allow it."
This is not to say that all intermarried couples are unhappy. But if you would ask their advice, they would almost unanimously agree that with all things being equal, it's better to look for a partner with the same religious background as yourself.
Millennia of Loyalty
One consequence of intermarriage is that it is often the first step to total assimilation. Studies show that 92 percent of children of intermarriage marry non-Jews, effectively detaching themselves forever from the Jewish people. In other words, intermarriage threatens Jewish survival.
This is true, but it begs the question: Why is Jewish survival important? Why is Jewish survival something one should sacrifice personal happiness to achieve?
Jewish survival is not merely an ethnic issue, but also a moral issue, because the Jews are not only an ethnic group, they are a moral force. The values that the civilized world takes for granted ― monotheism, love your neighbor, peace on earth, justice for all, universal education, all men are created equal, dignity of the individual, the preciousness of life ― were all revolutionary ideas taught by the Jewish people.
The Jews as a moral force continues to this day, as indicated by the disproportionately high number of Jews in charities and in causes of social welfare, from civil rights to feminism. As Rabbi Nachum Braverman explains, this is not to say that only Jews are capable of conscience or of goodness. It is to say that of all the nations throughout world history, only the Jews have defined their national mission as bringing moral clarity to the world.
Find out what's driving Jewish greatness for 3,000 years.
Generation after generation of Jews understood the power of that mission, and the deep personal dividends it provided. This explains why ― even in the face of terrible persecution ― they clung with such loyalty to the Jewish people.
Yet there is no way to understand the riches of Judaism based on a "Hebrew School" education. Before deciding who to marry ― the most important decision of one's life ― it makes sense to find out what's been driving the Jewish people to greatness the past 3,000 years. Here are four suggestions:
  • Attend a Discovery Seminar. This gives an excellent overall view of Jewish history and philosophy ― and answers the question, "Why be Jewish?"
  • Try a Shabbat experience. Shabbat is the rhythm of Jewish life, and the glue of a Jewish community. Try it out one Friday evening.
  • Visit Israel. The experience of visiting Israel is the quintessential act of Jewish self-discovery. Being in an "all-Jewish" environment steeped in millennia of history, Israel provides a new perspective on the role of the Jewish people in the world, and of each Jew's personal connection.
  • Read the book, Why Marry Jewish? You might also enjoy: On Judaism, The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology, and Book of Our Heritage.
As the saying goes, have the family jewels appraised before you sell them forever.
Take a Break
In the face of these arguments against intermarriage, many people will say, "Love conquers all." Actually that is not true. Love is open-eyed; infatuation is blind. If you think love will conquer all, then you are infatuated. The foundation of a good marriage is shared background and goals, which helps the love in a marriage grow stronger over time. Otherwise, the love will dissipate amidst various pressures and challenges.
Unfortunately, when a couple is in love, the rational perspective can get clouded by the powerful physical attraction. That's why, in considering intermarriage, the best advice is to have a three-month trial separation. This means a complete separation with no communication. Spend the time investigating Judaism and pondering the question: "Do I need to be married to this person to find happiness in life? Without that trial separation, it is impossible to have clarity about the right thing to do.
Those who cannot handle a full separation should at least agree to no physical contact for three months. See the real person and deal with him/her on a level unencumbered by the physical involvement. If even doing this is too much, then chances are this relationship is based on infatuation and that means it is weak at the core.
In contemplating intermarriage, it is crucial to take some quiet time and ask the following questions, developed by Rabbi Kalman Packouz, author of How to Prevent an Intermarriage. Answering these questions honestly should help set a clear path.
•  All things being equal, would you prefer to marry someone Jewish?
•  What are some of the differences between your family and your potential spouse's family?
•  Does your potential spouse want to observe any of the non-Jewish holidays? How do you feel about this?
•  Would your potential spouse want any symbols of their religion in your home? How do you feel about this?
•  Do you feel proud when you hear about the achievements of other Jews?
•  When there is a terrorist attack in Israel, do you feel connected to the victims? Does your potential spouse share that feeling?
•  Do you have an emotional reaction when you hear an ethnic joke putting down Jews, or hear the words "Hitler" or "Nazi"? Does your potential spouse share that feeling?
•  Do you want to be buried in a Jewish cemetery? If you, God forbid, lost a child, would you want him/her buried in a Jewish cemetery?
•  How will you feel if your non-Jewish spouse surprises you by deciding to raise the children according to their religion?
•  Does your potential spouse or their family dislike Jews in general, but feel that you are different than most Jews?
•  Does your physical attraction for this person perhaps prevent you from being aware of problems which may cause difficulties later?
•  Are you afraid that if you do not marry this person you will have a hard time finding someone else to marry?
•  Given all the challenges, would you be better off looking for someone else to marry?
This is not a guilt-trip. This is an issue of practical reality. Marriage needs to be a partnership to grow, work together, and weather the tough times. Marriages are so fragile these days, that it's illogical to choose a relationship with built-in problems of such magnitude. It is a documented fact that intermarried couples have a higher divorce rate, estimated at 70 percent. Would someone ever consider going into a business with a partner who carries this risk of failure?
Every Jewish soul has a Jewish soul mate. There are many avenues to meet that match. Marrying the right person is largely based on the effort we make. Do some networking, inquire about Jewish singles programs in town, and post a profile on
It is possible to "have it all" ― a wonderful committed relationship, free of built-in liabilities, and a Jewish life with Jewish children. Why settle for anything less?

Thanks to Yosef H.: The history of the Golani Brigade Symbol:

Eric Sharon is not dead and on the other hand to really living and one of the reasons is the Heavenly Judgement against him for things like this:

From Rabbi David W.: The miracle of listening to G-D’s commandment of modesty:!

My non-Jewish heart throb - a nice wake-up story:

Holocaust survivors many impoverished:,7340,L-4337304,00.html

Yad LeAchim an underground operation to recover a Jew A nice story:

Thanks to Rabbi David W. The Shabbos is that of light:

A friend of mine wrote a movie review about one that was all too real:

From Eli: I did not need a study for this conclusion:

This last week a Jewish site was attacked by missionaries in response Yochanan sent me this:

Dependency on Egyptian Gas that stopped no longer a problem:

Finally relief is on the way for some women who have vengeful husbands: and But this character, Dr. Moscowitz, will not give a Get to his wife and I am sure a reasonable solution could be found.

Arabs robbing graves and Yosef’s tomb vandalized again.

From Miriam Esther the only couple seconds on video known of then 12 year old Anna Frank:

Inyanay Diyoma

Then after White House denials (like Susan Rice remember her),7340,L-4338511,00.html

There is a lot of dirty behind the scenes. Sarah Netanyahu is trying to sabotage Bennett’s entrance into the coalition and knives are sharpening in the Likud. Lapid has a lot of rhetoric but it could lead to more than just civil disobedience:,7340,L-4336961,00.html

Sarah Netanyahu is trying to keep Bennett out:,7340,L-4337318,00.html

Is Syria on the verge of Chemical Weapons?

Danger from Syria a new and improved iron dome moves north:

Usually Syria and Lebanon are a bit more quiet in winter weather as there is more rains and soaked ground there but Iran is calling in the IOU’s and who knows: Even big mouth Bibi mentioned the situation.

Israel will not be kicked around by dictatorships  Arabs and others on human rights:

Google Earth reveals labor prison camps in N. Korea (I do not know why the woman in this movie is smiling as this is horrifying me:|main5|dl3|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D263183

From Debka, I see that if I were still young, I would be out somewhere in Northern Israel in a cold tent freezing in the rain on some Mt. top:

On the lookout for WMD’s or SA17:,7340,L-4339181,00.html Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav held an emergency meeting with municipality general director Shmuel Gantz, to discuss recent events in Syria and Lebanon. The two decided to hold meetings with the Home Front Command, police, fire department and Magen David Adom to prepare for possible emergency. (Ahiya Raved)

 Now for M. Wolfberg’s Good Shabbos Story “Candle Lighting”

Good Shabbos Everyone. In this week's Torah portion Beshalach the Torah tells us how Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher) instructs the Jewish Nation on the observance of Shabbos.
          We distinguish Shabbos from the other days of the week by sitting down to festive meals with our family and enjoying the spiritual recharge of this special day. We cover the tables with white tablecloths and light Shabbos candles. These Shabbos candles bring the light of holiness into our homes.
          J.J. Gross, an observant Jew, works as an advertising executive at one of the top marketing agencies in the New York area.
     One day an inspirational thought crossed J.J.'s mind. What if the most widely read paper in the world, the New York Times, ran an ad across the bottom of the front page every Friday listing candle lighting time? Who knows how many people it may inspire? Just imagine the possible effects!
     Among his many clients are some members of the Lubavitch community.  Therefore, J.J. suggested the idea to some of the more influential members within the Lubavitch organization and before long, a Lubavitcher agreed to donate $1,800 to sponsor the ad every week.
     There were times when the production manager of The Times would contact Mr. Gross at the eleventh hour desperately trying to find out what time candle lighting was on that particular Friday evening. The man was of Irish Catholic descent and he was concerned that the paper would go to print before the time for candle lighting was listed! 
     From the mid-1990's until June 1999 the ad ran each and every week across the bottom of the front page. But then the philanthropist who had been sponsoring the ad cut back on his pledges, the candle lighting ad among them. 
     However, J.J. felt that the discontinuation of the ad mere days before the fast day of the seventeenth of Tammuz was just not appropriate. So he decided to sponsor it himself for just one more week. And that was the last time it appeared. Or so he thought... 
     For a special Millennium issue, The New York Times ran three different front pages. One was from January 1, 1900. The second was from January 1, 2000 and a third projected future events for the beginning of the 22nd century — January 1, 2100. Among the news stories in this fictional issue was the establishment of the fifty-first state of the U.S.A.: Cuba. Another article covered the question of whether robots should be allowed to vote, and so on. 
     Although the candle lighting ad did not appear in the other two front pages, surprisingly it did turn up on the front page of the January 1, 2100 Friday newspaper. This odd inclusion piqued the curiosity of many individuals, including J.J. 
     When the production Irish-Catholic manager of The Times was questioned about the inclusion his response was astounding. "We don't know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain — that in the year 2100 Jewish women will be lighting Shabbos candles." (Reb Yechiel Spero, Touched by a Story p.146
          We find one of the sources of the commandment to light Shabbos candles in this week's Torah portion, as Moshe tells the Bnai Yisroel in the desert "See, Hashem has given you Shabbos." (Shemos 16:29)  The essence of Shabbos is a gift from Hashem to the Jewish nation. We light candles to celebrate this special gift. Since Hashem first gave us this incredible present over three thousand years ago, the Jewish Nation has faithfully kept the Shabbos. (The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology "Sabbath" p.119)
          Rav Kaplan tells us that on Shabbos, a Jew can be a Jew in the fullest sense of the word. Every second of the day can infuse a Jew with the unique closeness to Hashem that is the essence of Judaism. (Ibid. p.126) The more a Jew refrains from weekday activities on Shabbos, the more he will connect with the holiness of the day.
          We will conclude with the words of the Midrash: all the days of the week were paired off except Shabbos. Sunday was paired with Monday. Tuesday with Wednesday, and Thursday with Friday. Only Shabbos was left without a mate. When Shabbos complained, Hashem proclaimed that the Jewish people would be its mate. With Shabbos we are one Nation, indivisible, united with G-d.
Good Shabbos Everyone.
 IN MEMORY OF HA'ISHA HA'CHASHUVAH: LEAH BAS R' DOVID (WOLFBERG) OF BLESSED MEMORY. RETURNED HER SOUL TO ITS MAKER 18 SHEVAT 5744 "FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS" . M. Wolfberg and not my Drasha is Sponsored by Ezra Solomon on behalf of the Solomon and Freidman families l’zecher nishmas their father and grandfather R’ Moshe Ben R’ Tzvi ZT"L whose yahrzeit fell on last Shabbos. In memory of R' Yaakov ben Naftoly, of blessed memory, In Memory of Reb Yitzchok ben Reb Shimon (Friedman) of blessed memory, In Memory of Tziporah Yita bas Mordechai Mendel Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Menachem Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Tsviah bas Bracha Leah

Rachamim Pauli