Category Archives: Parshat יתרו

Parshat יתרו

Parshat יתרו – Exodus 20:2 – How to Know God…

Exodus 20:2 – I am the Lord, your God, who took you out of the Land of Egypt, from the House of Slavery.

Gemora Shabbos – 108(a): Rabbi Yochanon said, “How do we know that abbreviations are from the Torah? Because the verse says ‘I’ using the letters: אנכי (anochi) – this is actually an abbreviation for ‘I, myself, wrote it [and] gave it.’”

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #3:

It is possible to say that the explanation of Rabbi Yochanon’s comment is that this is an allusion to the idea that all the ten commandments were heard by the Jewish people from God through Moshe except for the first two. Only “anochi” and “don’t have any other gods” were heard from the Almighty, himself. This is what is alluded to in the phrase “I, myself, wrote it and gave it.”

One can also say that this phrase relates to a common idea that people say: “One can tell what a person is like and what his characteristics are and the measure of his wisdom from his writings and his books.” Regarding this it is said that the essence of God, so to speak, His Will, His Honor, His Greatness and His Humility are seen and recognized from His Torah. As it says at the end of Megila 31(a), every place where you find God’s Greatness, there also you find His Humility.”

This is what is alluded to in the phrase “I, myself”. It actually means “I, the content of My Soul, wrote and gave it”. I gave it so that [others] can know and recognize me through My writings, through My Torah.

Editor’s Note: This note of the Torah Temimah’s is more poetic and mystical than most of his other notes.

Parshat יתרו Exodus 18:7 – Honoring Your Father-in-Law and Being a Man

Exodus 18:7 – Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law, and he bowed down to him and he kissed him, and the man asked after his friend’s welfare; and they came to the tent.

Mechilta: I do not know from the verse who bowed down to whom or who kissed whom. However, when the verse says “the man asked after his friend’s welfare” [we have a hint.] Who is called “man”? Moshe is, as in the verse that says “and the man Moshe [was very humble”.] So, from this we see that it was Moshe who bowed down and kissed his father-in-law. From here they [learn]/say that a person is obligated to honor his father-in-law.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #8:

It is not readily apparent why it is so good to be called “man” or what new thing is learned from this. After all, isn’t the word “man” a descriptive term used for all people? Also, behold the verse in Exodus 2:21 states “and Moshe began to dwell with the man”. In that verse the word “man” refers to Yitro. [So, how can we know that in our verse the term “man” applies to Moshe? Maybe it applies to Yitro as in Exodus 2:21!]

It appears that the intended meaning of the Mechilta is to say that when describing Moshe, the Torah [at times] uses the phrase “the man” in place of stating Moshe’s name. The intent at those times is to indicate someone on a higher level; one would not then need to also say the name of the person. It is only concerning Moshe that we find the combination of the description “the man” combined with his explicit name. The purpose of the Torah’s describing Moshe this way is to indicate a higher, more valued level of humanity of Moshe. This is similar to a phrase used in Gemora Yoma 18a, “Ishi – the high priest”.

Additionally, the fact that we learn from this verse that a person is obligated to honor is father-in-law requires greater investigation. It is not clear why the Halacha to honor your father-in-law is not derived from this verse. Rather the Halacha is derived from the Midrash Socher Tov from the verse in Shmuel I: Chapter 24. In that verse King David refers to his father-in-law Shaul as “my father”. See the comment of the Tur on Yoreh Deah (Section 240). Note the Rambam in chapter 6 of Mamrim doesn’t mention this obligation at all. This is amazing considering the phraseology of the Mechilta above implies that this is a well-known and clear Halacha.

 The Bach, commenting on the above Tur writes that the reason why many legal experts omit this law is because they have the opinion that King David was actually speaking to Avner not to Shaul, his father-in-law in the above cited verse. If so, then that would remove the whole source for this law. How can this be so given the above Mechilta whose source is explicitly clear in the Torah and which is taught as a general teaching without anyone disagreeing at all??!! This definitely requires further research.

Also note the opinion of the Bach in his comment on the Tur that even if a person were obligated to honor his father-in-law, the degree of obligation would not be greater than every person’s obligation to honor one’s elders and would not come close to the level of obligation that one has to honor one’s parents. The Bach’s proof for this view is from the wording of the verse in Shmuel I  which he believes implies a slightly less degree of honor than that due one’s father.

However, regarding the actual Halacha, this is not accurate. Behold, here in our verse it says explicitly that Moshe bowed down and kissed his father-in-law and that we should learn from here the obligation to honor one’s father-in-law. Certainly, it is not accurate to say that this is the same amount of honor as is due, in general, to one’s elders.  

Editor’s Note: The Torah Temimah says two points in this note that are worth emphasizing. First of all, the phrase “man” is a general term that applies to all humanity and in the Torah is used explicitly for Moshe and his non-Jewish father-in-law. Secondly, the Torah Temimah criticizes those legal experts who skip this opportunity to learn the law that one is obligated to honor one’s father-in-law.


Parshat יתרו Shmos 20:1 – God Spoke All These Words

Exodus 20:1 – And God spoke all these words saying.

Gemora Chagiga: 3(b) [The reason why is says “all” of these words instead of just “these words” is] to instruct the Sages who sit together in groups and occupy themselves in Torah that even though some of them say “impure” and some say “pure”; or some say “invalid” and some say “valid”; or some say “forbidden” and some say “permitted”; nevertheless all of these opinions were given by the One.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #1:

Clearly the Gemora is being careful in its analysis of the word “all”. The text could have just plainly said “and God spoke these words, saying.” This topic is included in the topic of “these and these are the words of the Living God”. Rashi comments and considers in Gemora Ketubot (57a) that the reason why we say all of the opinions derive from the One is because sometimes one opinion is more appropriate while other times the other opinion is more appropriate depending on slight changes in the facts of the case.

Were it not for Rashi’s comment it would be possible to explain that it is precisely through various approaches that different opinions come into being. And through the different opinions [being considered] it is then possible to clarify the truth of a judgment. Were this not the case the sages would have fixed the halacha through their first, immediate intuition. [MUSKAL RISHON]; in this manner it is possible to make a mistake and to err.

This whole approach is according to the Gemora (Jerusalem Talmud: Sanhedrin: Chapter 11: Halacha 1) explanation of the verse in Ecclesiastes (12:11) “ The words of the wise are like spurs, and like nails well driven in are the sayings of the masters of collections, given from the One Shepherd.”  The Gemora there explains that the phrase “masters of collections” refers to the wise sages who sit together in groups and occupy themselves in Torah.

The idea is that through the give and take arguments and the different opinions that naturally occur; that the truth of an issue becomes clarified in a sound, fundamental and lasting manner. The value of the investigation and the discussion is like the well done plowing and the fundamental, lasting manner is analogous to the “nails well driven in”; and the whole purpose of the process is because all the opinions are given by the One Shepherd.   

This same idea is the reasoning for the statement in Gemora Berakos (63b) that the Torah can only be acquired with a group of people. When a wise sage occupies himself in Torah on his own, he becomes increasingly foolish. Also look in Gemora Taanis (7a). [R. Hama b. Hanina said: What is the meaning of the verse, Iron sharpneth iron?  This is to teach you that just as in the case of one iron sharpeneth the other so also do two scholars sharpen each other’s minds by halachah.] That is to say that it is impossible without the company of a fellow student or students to delve into the ultimate depths of an idea and the truth of a Torah teaching.

 We have more lengthy thoughts to say on this from an Aggadic standpoint, but here is not the place for lengthy comments.

DBS Note: This is a  fundamental theme of the Torah Temimah’s and he  never misses a chance to mention it. I also really enjoy when he speaks to the reader such as when he says he has more thoughts on this topic but now is not the place to mention them!

Lastly, again in this note, the Torah Temimah quotes Rashi’s opinion and then respectfully offers his own.

The summary of the Torah Temimah’s comment here is that while Rashi suggests that the reason for multiple opinions is that each is true in different circumstances, the Torah Temimah suggests that the reason for multiple opinions is that each person has a different mind, and therefore no individual can consistently arrive at the unitary truth on his or her own – it is only by comparing, contrasting, and debating the initial positions arrived at through our subjectively limited intuitions that we can discover the single objective truth of Torah. (Thanks to Rabbi Klapper for the succinct summary and to Rabbi Sendor for correcting a significant error I made in this note.)