Category Archives: Parshas Yisro

Parshas Yisro: Tailor-Made

Parshas Yisro


“Moshe said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to seek [instruction from] Hashem.” (Shmos 18:15).

I read a story a long time ago. I don’t remember the exact details, but it is very appropriate to this dvar Torah.

A prestigious rav was invited by a town in Europe, to become their rabbi. When he arrived, the townspeople brought two people to the rav. The individuals had been having an argument and they wanted the rav to settle their dispute. The rav heard their case. He thought for a long time and finally said that the case was a sham! He said that whenever he judged a case, he felt siyata dishmaya, help from Hashem, inspiring and guiding his decision. He did not experience that feeling now so he knew that the dispute was a fabrication. As he said that, the townspeople smiled and marveled at the wisdom of their new rav.

On the day after Yom Kippur (Rashi Shmos 18:13), Moshe was judging Bnei Yisroel. Moshe’s father-in-law, Yisro, asked him, “Why are you sitting by yourself and [letting] the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moshe replied “Because the people come to me lidrosh, to seek [instruction from] Hashem. (Shmos 18:13-15)

There are different interpretations explaining what Bnei Yisroel were asking Moshe. Targum Yonasan ben Uziel and the Kli Yakar (18:15) say that Moshe was judging disputes.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l has a different approach. He explains that Yisro could not understand what questions the Jews could possibly have, which required Moshe’s judgements. The Jews were living in the desert. They did not own property and did not have the need to conduct any business transactions. Hashem provided them with all their needs. How could they be involved in any litigation?

Moshe told Yisro that he was correct. Currently, the Jews had no disputes that required judicial ruling.  Rather the Jews came “lidrosh”. They had wanted to clarify various laws that could come up in the future, after they were already settled in Eretz Yisroel, in their own homes. They asked various theoretical questions of what to do in different circumstances that could potentially arise.

Yisro responded to Moshe that holding court from morning until evening would tire Moshe and impact his productive leadership of Bnei Yisroel. Why would that tire Moshe? Rashi (18:13) says (quoting Talmud Shabbos, 10A) that when a judge judges a case honestly, he is considered a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world. Since he is a partner with Hashem, he will not become tired while trying to resolve the case. However, since the cases brought to Moshe were theoretical but not actual cases, then Moshe wouldn’t be getting assistance from Hashem. Thus, Moshe would have to exert himself more and would become fatigued. (Life and Works of the Chofetz Chaim, part 1 page 46. Quoted in Biurei Chofetz Chaim on the Torah by Rabbi Yisroel Yosef Braunstein)


In the same vein, Hashem gives us the strength to overcome any challenge that He gives us. Although the challenge may seem overwhelming, Hashem gives us the ability and strength to manage it.

Midrash Rabbah (Shmos 34:1) says that “Hashem does not make matters difficult for His creatures; He expects a person to perform according to his capacity. Hashem demonstrated this when He gave us the Torah. Had Hashem come with the full might of His strength, we would not have been able to withstand it, as it says, (Devarim 5:22) “’If we continue to hear [the voice of Hashem] anymore, then we shall die.’” This is also the meaning of the pasuk (Tehillim 29:4), “The voice of Hashem resounds with might.” It does not say “with His might,” but “with might”, which means according to the might, of each individual.

If we don’t have the strength to overcome the challenge, then Hashem does not give it to us. The Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis 25:3) notes that the famine in the days of Dovid HaMelech (Shmuel Beis 21) should have come in the days of Shaul HaMelech, as it was his sins that caused the famine. Nevertheless, it was Dovid HaMelech ‘s generation that was punished because the generation of Shaul HaMelech would not have been able to withstand it.

We say a bracha every morning, “בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ד’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַנּוֹתֵן לַיָּעֵף כֹּֽחַ.” Hashem gives strength to the weary. The Maharzu explains that Hashem gives us the strength to withstand challenges.

Every challenge that we get is tailor-made for us. Although challenges can be very, very difficult to bear, at some point, either later in our lives or after 120, we will understand how beneficial each challenge was. We must always remember how much Hashem loves us. We must always keep in mind that Hashem gives us the strength to withstand the challenges that He gives us.


Parshas Yisro: The Mission of a Lifetime!

Parshas Yisro

The Mission of a Lifetime!


“And her two sons of whom the name of one was Gershom, for he had said, ‘I was a sojourner in a strange land.’ And the name of the other was Eliezer, for ‘the G-D of my father came to my aid, and He saved me from the sword of Pharoah.’” (Shmos 18:3-4)

Moshe and Tziporah had two sons. Moshe named his first son, Gershom, because Moshe was a stranger in a strange land. Moshe named his second son, Eliezer, to commemorate the miracle of when Hashem saved him from Pharoah’s executioner.

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l  (Chofetz Chaim On the Torah) asks two questions. Firstly, Moshe should have named his first son Eliezer since chronologically Moshe was first saved before he became a stranger in the land of Midian. Secondly, what was the objective of naming him Gershom, indicating that Moshe was a stranger there?

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l answers, that when Moshe arrived at Yisro’s house, Yisro had not yet converted to Judaism. Obviously Yisro’s deeds were not yet completely refined. Moshe was concerned lest he learn from or be influenced by Yisro’s actions. That is why he called his first son’s name Gershom. Moshe wanted to make a constant reminder for himself that he was a stranger in a strange land. Moshe wanted that reminder so that he should not learn from Yisro’s deeds and certainly not learn from the deeds of the people of Midian. “Now, I am a stranger in a strange land”, thought Moshe. “In the future I will return to my source, dwelling with the Holy Presence of Hashem”. This naming was a vivid reminder to Moshe to be heedful of his actions. He could draw the strength to maintain his holiness by remembering that he was only in MIdian temporarily but eventually he would reside with Hashem.

We find a similar idea expressed by the Shelah in Parshas Va’era. The Torah (Shmos 6:14-16) says, “The sons of Reuvein…”, and then the Torah lists the sons. Then the Torah says, “The names of Shimon …”   and then the Torah states, “And these are the names of the sons of Levi ….” The Shelah questions why the Torah changed the wording when it listed the names of Levi’s sons. The Shelah says something very fascinating. Through Divine inspiration, Levi knew that his descendants would not be subject to the suffering of the enslavement, as the other tribes were. Yet, Levi wanted to show empathy for the Jewish people who would suffer from the pain of slavery. Thus, he named his children with names that would help him focus on the suffering that the Jewish people would soon undergo in Egypt. He named one son Gershon because the Jewish people were strangers in Egypt. He named the next son Kehas because the teeth of the Jews, kahu, would rot from suffering. The third son he named Merari, from the word mar, “bitter”, because the Egyptians would embitter the lives of the Jews. (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin)   

 The Chofetz Chaim zt”l  (Chofetz Chaim On the Torah) closes with a beautiful parable. Imagine that you travelled thousands of miles to a different country, to purchase precious merchandise at their fair. This merchandise was not found in your country. Upon your return home, you would sell the merchandise at a nice profit. The money that you would earn would support your family for the year.  Now, imagine that while you were at the fair, involved in negotiations to buy the merchandise, someone approached you. That fellow wanted to show you a fascinating article in the newspaper or invited you to join him in a game. You would tell him in very strong terms to leave and stop annoying you. Every minute that you would waste talking to him would cause you a financial loss. You came, thousands of miles from home, leaving your family behind, to be able to provide for them for the year. You would have no time to waste on trivial, inconsequential things like reading newspapers or playing games.        

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l says that each of our souls was under Hashem’s throne. Our souls came to this world, for a short while, from millions of miles away, to learn Torah and to acquire mitzvos. That “merchandise” will be needed to support us for eternity. The yetzer hara tries to distract us from our mission, with inconsequential things. Every moment that the yetzer hara distracts us, he prevents us from earning all that we could. We must firmly send the yetzer hara away, telling him not to distract us from our life’s mission.      

 With this in mind, we should consciously decide how much time, if any, we want to spend on things like reading newspapers & playing or watching games as versus learning Torah & doing other mitzvos. Each of us must determine if it’s a relaxation to help us do more mitzvos? Or is it a distraction?   

We can use different methods to help us stay focused on our mission.

Let’s think how we can prevent the yetzer hara from distracting us from our important mission in life.

Our mission in this world is to attain as many mitzvos and as much Torah-learning as we can.

Those merits will sustain us for eternity.