Parshat Yitro - 5761
the thirty-day period that is the second most intense after the "Shivah,"
the original seven-day period of
mourning for my mother, is complete. At
this point, the custom is for the "Avel," the Mourner, to provide
a "Tikkun," a mini-"breakfast" after the final Shacharit of the "Shloshim," for the congregants who have
shared in his prayers for the month. The
purpose is that the congregants may make "brachot,"
blessings, on the food and the "avel" can respond with
"Amen" and the participants can express the wish that the soul of
the departed will experience an
"aliyah," an elevation in its heavenly status and the "avel"
can respond "Amen" as
well to that blessing. One of
my fellow congregants remarked to me that I must be a real "Shabbat
Jew" (would that it were true!). He meant that I seem to "daven" so-o slowly on
Shabbat and so f-fast on weekdays.
"davening" is a necessary evil during the week to allow people to
get to their jobs on time. It occurred to me that a review of the "Six
Remembrances" listed in the Siddur
to be reviewed each morning
after Shacharit, but almost universally ignored for the reason mentioned
above, might be a timely subject, especially in view of the fact that one of
the remembrances plays a central role in Parshat Yitro.
Remembrances are the following:
16:3, we find, "That you may remember
the day of your Exodus from Egypt all the days of your life."
One is immediately reminded of the disagreement in the Haggadah, the
text of the Seder,
between Ben Zoma and the Sages, where Ben Zoma says, "the days" refer,
literally, to the daylight hours of one's life, while "all the days" includes the night-time
hours. This means that
one should recite the "Kriat Shema," the Prayer whose basic themes
are the Unity of G-d, the
obligation upon the Jew to observe all the commandments, and the command to
wear "Tzitzit," the fringes dyed with "techeilet," the
blue-colored dye, the color of the sea as a reminder of the Exodus and the
Splitting of the Sea, both by day and by night.
add another level of meaning, when they say that "the
days" refers to the Pre-Messianic World, while "all the days" includes the time of the Mashiach.
Meaning that the lessons of the Exodus concerning the Might of HaShem,
His Will to intervene in human
history and His Morality (indeed, as the "Author of Morality")
that He displayed and taught at that time will remain
significant even after the Jewish People will have experienced the
miracles of the Final
The Giving of the Torah
Remembrance concerns the event that occupies center stage in Parshat Yitro,
"Maamad Har Sinai," perhaps the peak event in human history, when
HaShem transmitted the Torah to the Jewish People at Mt. Sinai.
The command appears in Devarim 4:9-10, ”Only
be aware and guard yourselves carefully, lest
you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they stray from
your heart all the days of your life… - the day that you stood before
HaShem, your G-d, at Sinai."
One might ask, "Why is it not sufficient to simply (of course, it's not so simple) become an expert in the Torah. Why is it necessary to recall the manner in which the Torah was given to Man?"
is that it is essential to know and remember that the Torah is different
from all other "possessions" of Man, in that "Torah min HaShamayim," the Torah
is of Divine origin. As we pray
on Rosh HaShanah, "You revealed Yourself in the Cloud of Your Glory to
Your Holy Nation to speak with them. From
Heaven did they hear your Word, and Your Holy Utterances, from flames of
fire." It was the failure to remember this fact that tragically led millions of our
The Act of Amalek
In Devarim 25:17-19, we find, "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way out of Mitzrayim. How he encountered you on the way and cut down the weaklings trailing behind you, while you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear G-d….You are to erase the memory of Amalek from under the heaven. Do not forget."
in the Torah, in Shemot 17:16, we find, "…a
state of war exists between HaShem and Amalek, from generation to
question arises, "Why is Amalek different from Egypt, concerning which
HaShem told the Jewish People to be quiet and let Him fight for them, and
Amalek, where HaShem, so to speak, needs the help of the Jewish
People?" One answer may
lie in the principle that "Everything is in G-d's hands, so to speak,
except for the fear of heaven." And
the Torah says specifically that Amalek did
not fear G-d; so HaShem, as it were, needed the help of the Jewish
People against this implacable foe, who represents absolute evil, and does
not fear G-d.
The Golden Calf
do not forget, how you angered HaShem, in the desert" (Devarim 9:7).
This is a
reference to the tragic sin committed by the Jewish People, while yet at the
foot of Mt. Sinai, the worship of the Golden Calf.
Adorned with "edyam me'Har
"spiritual jewelry attained at Mt. Chorev (Sinai)," the
"impatient People" who had reached celestial heights when they
said "We will obey and afterwards we will understand," had lost
patience in waiting for the return of Moshe. For this disloyalty and unfaithfulness, the impetuous People
earned the comparison to a "shameful bride who committed adultery while
yet under her marriage canopy," and were required to take off the
"jewelry" earned at Chorev.
what HaShem did to Miriam on the way, when you left Egypt" (Devarim
is a reference to the time when Miriam, the great prophetess who earlier,
while still in Mitzrayim, had urged her father, Amram, to re-marry Yocheved
and who had echoed Moshe's great Song of the Sea for the women of Israel,
had underestimated the level of holiness that Moshe was on.
Allowing herself to be blinded by the pain of a fellow woman,
Tzipporah, Moshe's wife, she had criticized Moshe for separating himself
from his wife, so as to be "on call" to HaShem at all times.
lesson to be drawn is that if the great Miriam, with pure intentions, was
punished harshly for criticizing Moshe, how careful must we be not to speak ill of a fellow human being.
The Holiness of the
Torah says, "Remember the Shabbat Day to keep it holy"
Sages associate this Command mainly with the obligation to recite the "Kiddush,"
usually recited over wine, at the Shabbat meal.
respect to Purim, the Talmud
tells us in Masechet
Megillah that one is required to drink wine or liquor on that day until the
point where one "cannot distinguish between 'Arur Haman' (Cursed be
Haman) and 'Baruch Mordechai' (Blessed be Mordechai)."
One possible interpretation of this unusual requirement is that the
Jew should drink until his emotions are
raised and enhanced to the point where he or she can no longer
distinguish between the two possible methods of enhancing the degree of
"good" in the world; namely, the destruction of evil ("Arur
Haman!") and the direct blessing of righteous Mordechai ("Baruch
Mordechai!"). One can only
remember this truth by forgetting
the hatred of and prejudice against one's enemies.
Pesach, we drink four
cups of wine at the Seder. The
Family Seder is a time of Exaltation, of identification with one's fellow
Jews across all time and space. It
is a time of enhanced memory. "In
every generation, the individual is obligated to view himself as if he
or she actually was redeemed from Mitzrayim;" we make the blessing
praising G-d as the One Who redeemed "us
and our forefathers."
wine, has the ability, on Shabbat and the Holidays, to raise the Jew out of
his finite frame of reference into an infinite frame of reference.
He or she is now able to view events, to an extent, from the
"perspective of eternity."
One More Remembrance
Tradition requires that a person be careful to remember and never to forget
his or her mother's name. One
might see in this the additional requirement to remember, and never to
neglect, oneself, because the mother's very existence was intertwined with
her child's. Be that as it may,
it would be very difficult to forget you, mother, for so wonderful (as Eddie
Fisher (though the reference may "date" me) used to sing of his
"papa") were you to me, to each and every member of my family, and
to all who knew you.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel