These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #975– Kiddush On Wine: Absolutely Necessary? Good Shabbos!
Yisro Did More Than Just Point Out The Problem
The pasuk in the beginning of Parshas Yisro says, “And Yisro the minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard all that G-d did to Moshe and to Israel, His people — that Hashem took Israel out of Egypt.” [Shemos 18:1] Rashi tells us that Yisro had seven names: Reuel, Yeser, Yisro, Hovav, Hever, Keini, and Putiel. The reason he is called Yeser (meaning extra) is that an extra portion was added to the Torah because of him — namely the portion beginning with the words “And you see…” [Shemos 18:21-23] where he gave Moshe the advice to set up a hierarchical system of judges to relieve him of having to personally hear and rule on everyone’s disputes.
I saw an interesting observation in a Sefer called Yismach Yehudah from a Rabbi Jacobowitz in Lakewood. Why does Rashi say that the section Yisro was responsible for adding to the Torah was the pasukim beginning with the words “And you shall see…” which introduces Yisro’s proposed solution to the problem of inefficiency caused by Moshe personally having to hear all the cases? Rashi should have said that the section Yisro was responsible for adding were the pasukim appearing 7 pesukim earlier starting with the words “What is this thing that you do to the people? Why do you sit alone with all the people standing by you from morning to evening?” [Shemos 18:14]
The Yismach Yehudah answers that we see from here that many times we encounter situations where things are not right and people complain. Anyone can point out problems. The trick is to provide a solution, to offer sage counsel that solves the problem. The kuntz is not to find problems; the kuntz is to solve them!
Yisro did not only point out the problem. He did not only say, “This is not right.” He also said, “I will tell you what to do about it.” This is the suggestion of “And you shall see from among the entire people, men of means, G-d-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money, and you shall appoint them leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens…” That is why Rashi said that the section that was added to the Torah in the merit of Yisro was the section beginning with the words “And you shall see…” Yisro does not receive this credit and merit an extra portion in the Torah for pointing out a problem. He receives this credit specifically for proposing a good solution.
Everyone can complain. What’s the proof? Come to shul. Everybody has what to complain about. Everyone sees what is not right. But how many people have solutions? It is meritorious to come up with the solution, not merely to come up with the problem.
There Is A Certain Basic Honor Due To Any Tzelem Elokim
The pasuk states: Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe, came to Moshe with his sons and wife, to the wilderness where he was encamped, by the Mountain of G-d. He said to Moshe, ‘I, your father-in-law Yisro, have come to you with your wife and her two sons with her.'” [Shemos 18:5-6]
Rashi points out that Yisro’s statement appears to be obvious. Clearly Moshe would recognize his father-in-law, wife, and children. Yisro and family had no need to identify themselves to Moshe. Rashi explains that Yisro’s statement was delivered to Moshe by a messenger, ahead of his arrival in the camp. Rashi continues that the message delivered by Yisro’s agent had the following nuance: If you do not come out to greet us in my honor, come out in honor of your wife, and if you do not come out in honor of your wife, at least come out in honor of your two sons.
The Maharal in the Gur Aryeh notes: “There are those who ask –” (it is in fact the Chizkuni that asks this question), “Are we to assume that Yisro, who was a great personality, was an honor seeker who demanded a welcoming reception in his honor?” The Maharal answers with a very important principle. He says the question is not a question. This is not a matter of running after honor — it is simply an attempt by Yisro to avoid insult and humiliation.
Every person — even a righteous and pious person — is particular about not being offended. A person has a legitimate right to protect his humanity and his integrity. A person has an obligation to ensure that he is not humiliated. Since it is normal protocol to honor a guest and certainly that is so in the case of a father-in-law, if Moshe would not personally come out to greet him, it would be a matter of great shame and embarrassment.
Yisro merely requested the respect that was due to him. Not providing a person such as Yisro with that respect would be a slap in his face. No person no matter how great should ever subject himself to shame and humiliation. This is not called chasing after honor.
Rabbi Yehoshua Hartman, who writes an insightful commentary on many of the works of the Maharal, cross-references this idea with a second Rashi at the end of this week’s parsha. In the very last pasuk of Parshas Yisro, the Torah says, “You shall not ascend with steps upon My Altar, so that your nakedness will not be uncovered upon it.” [Yisro 20:23] Rashi writes there that the reason for this prohibition is that when someone is climbing steps, it is necessary to spread his legs (as opposed to climbing a ramp where he can take small steps without spreading his legs). “And even though this is not actual exposure of nakedness, for it is written, ‘And make for them linen pants,’ [Shemos 28:42] nonetheless, taking wide steps is close to exposing nakedness and if you take wide steps you are treating the stones of the Altar in a humiliating manner. These words imply a kal vachomer. If regarding these inanimate stones, which do not have the perception to care about their humiliation, the Torah says, ‘Since there is need for them, do not treat them in a humiliating manner,’ in the case of your fellow man, who is in the image of your Creator and cares about his humiliation, how much more so must you treat him with respect.”
We see that someone who “cares about his humiliation” does not possess a character defect — it is an obligation. A person should care about his humiliation because every person is created in the Image of G-d (Tzelem Elokim). When someone humiliates someone else and does not give him his proper due, this is not only a slap in the face of the person; it is a slap in the Face of the Almighty who created him.
Rav Hutner writes in a letter to a student that a Talmid Chochom is due certain respect and when he is not given the honor due him, it is a dishonor to him and he has a right to object. Sometimes we see Talmidei Chachomim who object that they were not treated properly. People might be taken aback — is it appropriate for a Talmid Chochom to be so particular about his kavod? The answer is yes. People need to be treated in a certain way. Not providing people with their due respect is equivalent to shaming them. Shaming a person affects his Tzelem Elokim.
Personally, I try not to do this, but often times I go to a bank and somebody will be talking on his cell phone as he walks into the bank. He are waiting in line for the teller and he is still on the cell phone. He gets up to the window and gives his deposit slip to the teller and he is still on his cell phone. The teller makes the transaction for him, he takes the receipt and he is still on the cell phone the entire time. This is grossly disrespectful to the bank teller. If you want to talk on your cell phone while you do your banking — then go to an ATM machine. At least say “Excuse me, do you mind? I am on an important call.” However, to come in and totally ignore the person who is providing you with service is shameful.
A student told me that one of the people on the kitchen staff at the Yeshiva is a woman named Beverly. A boy came into the kitchen while on his cell phone and stuck out his plate toward Beverly expecting that she would put food on it for him. She refused. She told him “If you do not have the decency to put your call on hold and ask me nicely for your portion, I am insulted and will not give you any food!” This applies to all people, regardless of religion and race. We are created in the Image of G-d and we deserve courtesy and respect.
Rashi over here is telling us that certain people require greater respect and when one fails to provide that respect, this is called an insult. It is called humiliating the person. A person has the right and obligation to demand that he not be humiliated. It such circumstances, he is merely demanding the honor of the Almighty who created him in the Image of G-d.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Yisro is provided below:
- CD #042 Kiddush: To Sit or Not to Sit
- CD #085 Christianity in Halacha
- CD #133 Honoring In-Laws
- CD #180 The Mitzvah of Kiddush for Men and Women
- CD #226 The Fearless Judge: A Difficult Task
- CD #270 Parental Wishes vs. Staying in Israel
- CD #316 The Reading of the “Aseres Hadibros”
- CD #360 Dolls and Statues: Is There An Avodah Zarah Problem?
- CD #404 Making a Bracha on a Makom Neis
- CD #448 Lo Sachmod
- CD #492 Eating Before Kiddush
- CD #536 Newspapers on Shabbos
- CD #580 Women and Havdalah
- CD #624 Resting Your Animal on the Shabbos
- CD #668 Kiddush B’mkom Seudah
- CD #712 The Kiddush Club
- CD #756 The Kosel Video Camera
- CD #800 Avoda Zara and The Jewish Jeweler
- CD #844 Yisro and Birchas Hagomel
- CD #888 What Should It Be – Hello or Shalom?
- CD #932 Saying The Shem Hashem While Learning – Yes or No?
- CD #975 Kiddush on Wine: Absolutely Necessary?
- CD#1019 Unnecessary Brachos
- CD#1063 Ma’aris Ayin: The Power Lunch In A Treife Restaurant
- CD#1106 Must You Treat Your Father-in-Law Like Your Father?
- CD#1149 Kiddush Shabbos Day – On What? What Do You Say?
- CD#1192 I Keep 72 Minutes; You Keep 45 – Can You Do Melacha for Me?
- CD#1236 “I Want Your House and I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse”: Muttar or Assur?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.