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לא תענה ברעך עד שקר

You shall not bear false witness against your fellow. (20:13)

Chazal (Pesikta Rabbasi 21) teach that each of the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, corresponds to one of the Ten Utterances, through which Hashem created the world. (Understandably, this concept is beyond the scope of this paper.) The Midrash goes on to identify which commandment coincides with which equivalent utterance. Interestingly, the prohibitive commandment, Lo sa’ane b’reiacha eid shaker, “You shall not bear false witness against your fellow,” corresponds with Hashem’s declaration that mortal man should be created, Naase adam b’Tzalmeinu kidmuseinu; “Let us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Bereishis 1:26). How do these two (commandments) parallel one…

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כבד את אביך ואת אמך

Honor your father and your mother. (20:12)

The Sefer Hachinuch explains that the shoresh, root, of the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Eim, honoring parents, is a sense of hakoras hatov, gratitude, to those who have acted kindly towards him. One who is a kafui tov, ingrate, is a naval, abominable person. He acts as if his benefactor, in this case his parents, are strangers to him. He quickly ignores the fact that his parents are the reason that he is here altogether. For this alone, he should honor them. One who does not honor his parents will soon present a similar attitude toward his Father in Heaven….

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לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני

You shall not recognize the gods of others in My Presence. (20:3)

The prohibition against having any other gods is quite simple: A Jew believes only in Hashem as the Only Source of anything in his life. To ascribe power of any form to any other entity is pure idol worship. The Sefer HaChinuch considers this the ikar gadol, great/primary principle concerning upon which all the mitzvos are dependent. As Chazal (Sifri, Parashas Re’eh 11:28) state: “Whoever concedes to avodah zarah, idol worship, it is as if he has denied the entire Torah.” Essentially, a Jew by his very faith in Hashem must be totally committed only to Hashem, realizing and acknowledging…

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וישמע יתרו ... את כל אשר עשה אלקים למשה ולישראל עמו

Yisro heard… everything that G-D did to Moshe and Yisrael, his people. (18:1)

Was Yisro the only one who heard about Hashem’s wondrous miracles on behalf of the Jews? Shamu amim yirgazun… “Nations heard, they were anguished” (Shemos 15:14). The entire world heard, but only Yisro responded actively to the message. He came to join the Jews, realizing that the deities he had worshipped until now were a sham. We all hear, but we do not all listen. The sound enters our ears, but not our brain. Hearing without cognitive processing does not relay the message, leaving the person as if he had never even heard. Horav Chaim Vital, zl, writes that the…

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לא תחמד בית רעך... וכל אשר לרעך

Do not covet your friend’s house… and everything that belongs to your friend. (20:14)

The question is obvious. Why delineate various items that belong (so to speak) to your friend (which you covet) and then conclude the pasuk with, V’chol asher l’reiecha, “And everything that belongs to your friend”? The aforementioned items also belong to your friend. Why not simply write: “Do not covet anything that belongs to your friend”? The simple answer to this question is that a person covets because he sees something that his neighbor has, and this drives him into a frenzy. Why not me? I also want that. Envy is the driving force behind chemdah, coveting, what belongs to someone…

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אנכי ד' אלקיך אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים

I am Hashem, Your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt. (20:2)

So begin the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, the basis upon which our Torah stands. Indeed, when we depict the Torah, it is through the medium of the Two Tablets upon which the Ten Commandments are inscribed. Chazal (Shabbos 88b) relate the dialogue that ensued between Moshe Rabbeinu and the Ministering Angels concerning the Torah. The Ministering Angels said to Hashem, “The Torah is a hidden treasure that had been concealed for 974 generations prior to the creation of the world. Yet, You want to give it to a mortal of flesh and blood.” Hashem asked Moshe to respond…

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והר סיני עשן כלו מפני אשר ירד עליו ד' באש

All of Har Sinai was smoking, because Hashem had descended upon it in the fire. (19:18)

The most awesome, momentous moment in the history of mankind was the Revelation, during which Hashem descended upon Har Sinai amid an unprecedented display of thunder, smoke, lightning and fire. The background “music” was the accompaniment of shofar blasts. In Derech Eitz Chaim, the Ramchal addresses the idea that the essence of Torah is eish, fire: “Behold! With great precision, it (the Torah) was compared to fire. When one uses an ember which does not flame (not noticeable), but the energy of the flame is concealed inside, until that moment when one blows (stokes) on it. Then the flame will…

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אשר שם האחד גרשם... ושם האחד אליעזר

And the name of one was Gershom… and the name of one (the other) was Eliezer. (18:3,4)

The Baalei Mussar, Ethicists, exhort us to live on the bare minimum in terms of material needs. The Tanna in Pirkei Avos teaches us the recipe for Torah living: Pas ba’melech tochal, u’mayim ba’meshureh tishte, “Bread dipped in salt, and measured water”; v’al haaretz tishan, “and sleep on the floor.” We can do without luxuries. When it comes to spiritual benefits, Torah achievements, one should not be mistapek b’muat, suffice with a little. We should be filled with a passion to achieve greater and even greater levels of erudition in Torah. Horav Reuven Karlinstein, zl, applies this rule to explain…

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וישמע יתרו

Yisro heard. (18:1)

The name of a Parsha is not arbitrary. It has been chosen by design, for a reason, for a purpose, to teach a lesson. This brings us to the name of our parsha: Yisro. Unquestionably, Yisro was an extraordinary human being: father-in-law of both Moshe Rabbeinu and Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen Gadol and the grandfather of Pinchas, who is Eliyahu HaNavi, but do their relationships warrant that a parsha be named after him? It is not as if we have a parsha named for the Patriarchs, Yosef HaTzaddik or Aharon HaKohen. Veritably, our parsha is about Mattan Torah, the Giving…

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וישמע יתרו...כי הוציא ד' את ישראל ממצרים

And Yisro heard…that Hashem had taken Yisrael out of Egypt. (18:1)

Originally, Moshe Rabbeinu had taken his entire family with him to Egypt. Aharon HaKohen urged him to send them back to Midyan. His contention was very practical: The Jews in Egypt were already suffering; why should Moshe add to their number? Now, after hearing about all of the miracles, Yisro realized that the time had come for the family to be reunited. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Shemos 4:4) relate Moshe’s response to his brother’s admonishment. He said, “Tomorrow (in the near future), they (Klal Yisrael) will leave Egypt and stand at the foot of Har Sinai, where they will hear Hashem…

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