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iTorah on Parashat Yitro 5783

Jealousy’s Effect on Children

Parashat Yitro tells of Ma’amar Har Sinai – Hashem’s revelation to Beneh Yisrael at Mount Sinai, and the Aseret Ha’dibberot (Ten Commandments).

Rashi, in his commentary to Shir Hashirim (4:5), makes a fascinating comment about the Aseret Ha’dibberot. He writes that the two sets of commandments – the first five, and the second five – correspond to one another. Meaning, there is a connection between the first commandment of the first group, and the first commandment of the second group; there is also a connection between the second commandment of the first group, and the second commandment of the second group, and so on.

For example, the first commandment of the first group is אנוכי ה' אלוקיך, the belief in Hashem, and the first commandment of the second group is לא תרצח, the prohibition against murder. These mitzvot are connected, Rashi explains, because every human being is created in the image of Hashem, and so killing a person diminishes, in a sense, from Hashem’s presence in our world.

According to this parallel, the fifth commandment, the mitzva to honor parents (כבד את אביך ואת אמך), corresponds to the tenth of the Aseret Ha’dibberot, the command of לא תחמוד, the prohibition against coveting, desiring something which somebody else has. Rashi explains that these two commands are connected because החומד סופו להוליד בן שמקלה אותו ומכבד למי שאינו אביו – somebody who is jealous of other people will have a child who disrespects him, and instead respects other people.

How does this work? Why does jealousy have the effect of causing one’s children to disrespect him?

The answer, in truth, is quite simple.

If children see that their parents are always upset and dissatisfied because they don’t have what other people have, then the children will want to be like those other people. If the message they learn from their parents is that they’re disadvantaged, that other people have it better than them, then they will respect those other people, and not their parents. They will look to their parents as failures, and nobody is going to respect or try to emulate somebody who they see as a failure.

The way we avoid this problem is by understanding that Hashem has given us everything we need, and He has given other people exactly what they need. What somebody has or doesn’t have has absolutely nothing to do with us. We have precisely what we’re supposed to have, and other people have precisely what they’re supposed to have. We don’t need to feel jealous, because other people’s assets have no connection to us whatsoever.

This is the vibe we should be giving our children – that we are very fortunate and blessed by Hashem, and other people are also fortunate and blessed by Hashem, because He gives each person exactly what he or she needs to succeed. If this is the attitude and mindset, that we have been given a great deal of berachah, then our children will feel grateful and respect us. They will look to us as winners, not losers, and we will gain their respect. They will feel proud and happy to have received these berachot, and will grow to be grateful to Hashem and to their parents who have given them all these wonderful blessings. - Rabbi Joey Haber

Jealousy’s Effect on Children Parashat Yitro by Rabbi Joey Haber
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Parashat Yitro- Partnering With Hashem

Parashat Yitro tells of Ma’amad Har Sinai – Hashem’s revelation to Beneh Yisrael at Mount Sinai, and Moshe’s ascent to the mountaintop after the revelation in order to receive the Torah.

The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (88b) tells of Moshe’s confrontation with the angels when he was in the heavens receiving the Torah. The angels objected to G-d’s decision to give the sacred Torah, which had been in the heavens for millennia, to lowly mortals. Hashem instructed Moshe to respond to the angels’ argument, and Moshe retorted that the angels have no need for the Torah’s laws. For example, the command of Shabbat is relevant only to those who work during the week, and the angels do not work; the prohibition of theft is relevant only to those who experience jealousy and have an instinct to compete, which angels do not.

The Hid"a (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806), in his Peneh David, explains the rationale behind the angels’ contention based on a Halachic rule known as "Bar Masra." This rule establishes that if a person wishes to sell a piece of property, he must grant the right of first refusal to the person who owns the neighboring property. Since the owner of a neighboring property will benefit from the property more than others, it is only proper to grant him first rights to purchase it. Accordingly, the angels argued that if Hashem was "selling" the Torah, He was obliged to first offer it to them, as they reside in the heavens and could thus be regarded as the Torah’s "neighbors."

Many later writers have elaborated further on this approach, and offered various explanations for why the angels’ claim was not valid.

Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin (Poland, 1887-1933) explained by noting an event that preceded Ma’amad Har Sinai, and which, in a sense, served as a prelude to the giving of Torah. During Beneh Yisrael’s encampment in Mara, they were taught several Misvot (Shemot 15:25). Specifically, Rashi writes, they were taught the obligation of honoring parents, the obligation to observe Shabbat, and the obligation to maintain a just legal system. Rav Shapiro noted that the common theme shared by these three Misvot is the idea of our partnership with Hashem. The Rabbis teach that whoever observes Shabbat properly is considered as though he has partnered with Hashem in the world’s creation, and they similar comment that a judge who rules truthfully is considered G-d’s partner. And when a person honors him parents, he gives honor to all three partners who took part in his creation – his mother, his father, and G-d. Thus, before Beneh Yisrael arrived at Sinai, they were made Hashem’s partners through these three Misvot.

This is precisely the flaw in the angels’ argument. One of the exceptions to the law of "Bar Masra" is that the seller’s partner takes precedence to a neighbor. If the seller’s partner wishes to purchase the property, then he receives first rights, even if the owner of the neighboring property is also interested. Hence, Beneh Yisrael were entitled to the Torah even if the angels wanted it. We are not only Hashem’s subjects – we are His "partners," in that we represent Him in the world and conduct our lives according to His will. Therefore, we deserve first rights to the Torah. Although the angels reside in the heavens, and we are mere mortals living here on earth, we were nevertheless granted the precious gift of the Torah, because we are Hashem’s partners, who enjoy a special relationship with Him, by virtue of which He showers us with His blessings, including, and most importantly, the sacred Torah. - Rabbi Eli Mansour

Parashat Yitro- Partnering With Hashem by Rabbi Eli Mansour
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Shabbat Holiness and Blessing

Rav Gershon Edelstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh Yeshiva, shares a beautiful thought about Shabbat. In Beraishit it tells us, וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ, G-d blessed the seventh day and He made it holy. Rav Edelstein points out that this is something that existed even before Matan Torah: Shabbat inherently had added blessing and kedusha.

What is the added blessing? Shabbat is the mekor haBeracha, which refers to physical blessings. Shabbat provides bracha for a person’s body, their parnassah, their food and drink, and everything else needed for Shabbat and the rest of the year. In the merit of Shabbat, HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives us our parnassah. As the famous Chofetz Chaim teaches: when a person works on Shabbat, it is as if he put a seventh hole in an existing barrel. Nothing more will come out. Shabbat is the source of all physical blessings.

וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ- Kedusha refers to the spiritual uplifting of Shabbat. On Shabbat, not only is the day itself holy, but a person themselves can become holier. This was true even before Matan Torah. Adam HaRishon and the avot kept Shabbat- inherently Shabbat brings Kedusha unto a person.

Medrash Rabba (Beraishit 11:2) explains that this special kedusha refers to a person’s face. אֵינוֹ דוֹמֶה אוֹר פָּנָיו שֶׁל אָדָם כָּל יְמוֹת הַשַּׁבָּת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא דּוֹמֶה בְּשַׁבָּת. On Shabbat a person has a different face. The word פָּנִים, face, is connected to פְּנִים, your inside; a person’s face expresses what is going on inside of them.

The Chofetz Chaim relates the following story to show that even a young child can recognize this. A father that was angry at his daughter during the week and was still walking around with an angry face. The girl said to her father, “Can you please have your Shabbat face on?” Even a little girl was able to pick up that there is a Shabbat face, there is something different there about the face of Shabbat.

This concept that the face expresses what is inside explains why it is that there is a certain chein (grace) in young children. When we look at young children, we see a certain wholesomeness, because the child hasn’t sinned yet. Similarly, when Sarah Imeinu died, the Torah tells us that when she was 20, it was like she was a 7 in beauty. The obvious question is that 7 year olds are not beautiful! Why are we comparing her at 20 to be like a 7 year old?

A seven year old has a wholesome beauty that does not have any sinful thought to it. Therefore, even though Sarah turned 20, it was still like she was stuck in a seven year old body.

Let us tap into these two aspects of Shabbat: kedusha and bracha. May we have the holiness of kedusha and the physical blessings from our bracha. On Shabbat, we have to enhance and appreciate both of these things. Appreciate the physical blessing that Shabbat brings us. We start Shabbat off with kiddush, which has in it both aspects. We cannot eat before we say Kiddush, which means that we are acknowledging G-d’s holiness and the holiness of Shabbat before start the meal.

May we merit to both gain from the kedusha, the holiness, and the bracha of Shabbat. - Rabbi David Sutton

Shabbat Holiness and Blessing Parashat Yitro By Rabbi David Sutton
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