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ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלקים אנשי אמת שנאי בצע

And you shall discern from the entire people, men of accomplishment, G-d-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money. (18:21)

Yisro presented Moshe Rabbeinu with a tall order to be used as the criteria for selecting the nation’s judges. He identified four qualities, which, following meticulous consideration, were to become one: anshei chayil, men of accomplishment. Veritably, the commentators, each in his inimitable style, define these four qualities as they see them. Ralbag explains anshei chayil as men who fear no man. They have strong characters, believe in what they are doing, and have robust self-confidence. Yirei Elokim, G-d-fearing, refers to those leaders who have the fear of Hashem written all over their faces. They do not for a moment…

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זכור את יום השבת לקדשו

Remember the day of Shabbos to sanctify it. (20:8)

Horav Moshe Zalmen Grossman, zl, believed that the term shomer Shabbos aptly translated, “You shall guard the Shabbos,” is an exhortation to watch over the Shabbos. A soldier who is charged with guard duty does not dare sleep. Thus, Rav Zalmen Shomer Shabbos, as he was consequently called, remained awake the entire Shabbos, engaged in learning and singing, delving into esoteric studies. It was known that Rav Zalmen could be found all Friday night in the Karliner bais hamedrash in Meah Shearim. In those days, poverty was the primary concern of Yerushalayim’s observant community. People simply had no money to…

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זכור את יום השבת לקדשו כבד את אביך ואת אמך

Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. (20:8) Honor your father and your mother. (20:12)

“Remembering” Shabbos should be a part of our lives. It is the vehicle by which we come closer to Hashem. How can we squander a moment? How can we fail to remember? This mitzvah is followed by the commandment to honor one’s parents. The juxtaposition of these two mitzvos upon one another (they are repeated in Parashas Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:3), in which both mitzvos are included in the same pasuk) implies a special relationship between the two. The fact that in Vayikra, they follow after the enjoinment of Kedoshim tiheyu, “You shall be holy,” indicates that, although every mitzvah consecrates…

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לא תרצח לא תנאף לא תגנב

You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal. (20:13)

The Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, comprise the centerpiece of Hashem’s Revelation at Har Sinai. They are the basis of our Torah. One would think that when Hashem “introduces” Himself to the people that He redeemed from Egypt, for whom He wrought unparalleled miracles, a nation that had achieved an extraordinarily high level of holiness, the dor deiah, generation of knowledge, that these commands would be earth-shattering. Yet, Hashem enjoins them to commit to such common sensical prohibitive mitzvos as: do not steal; do not commit adultery; do not murder. One lectures to a group of revered intellectuals concerning profound matters,…

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לא תגנב

Do not steal. (20:13)

We all come across people whom we once trusted, until they took advantage of our trust – then we lost it. The problem is that, unfortunately, after one person hurts us, we tend to judge everyone according to that new barometer. Not all people are perfect, and some extenuating circumstances bring out the worst in people. Sadly, it is so much easier to think negatively than positively, because negativity requires less creativity. Once betrayed, we are inclined to dig in and ignore everyone, because we do not want to be hurt again – and again. While everyone deserves the benefit…

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ואתה הרם את מטך ונטה את ידך על הים ובקעהו

And you – lift up your staff and stretch out your arm over the water and split it. (14:16)

I have heard a legend. (I use the word legend, because the veracity of this story has been questioned, as we have no definitive sources that support it.) The story is told that the curators of a Russian museum had obtained a precious stone/mineral that had unique, remarkable powers. The Russian scientists could not fathom the secret of this stone. They did not even know what kind of stone it was. They decided that since German scientists were more advanced technologically, they would send them the stone. The German scientists were, likewise, stupefied by this stone. Among the group of…

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ותען להם מרים שירו לד' כי גאה גאה סוס ורכבו רמה בים

Miriam (answered) spoke up to them, “Sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled the horse with its rider into the sea.” (15:21)

Va’taan la’hem Miriam, “Miriam answered them.” Every answer is preempted by a question. What question was asked that required Miriam HaNeviah’s response? Furthermore, if Miriam was speaking to the women, it should have said la’hen, in the female form – not la’hem, which is masculine. Last, Miriam’s choice of miracles to extol Him begs elucidation. Sus v’rochvo ramah, ba’yam, “The horse and rider were hurled into the sea.” So many other miracles occurred. Why underscore this one? Horav Y. Chashin explains that Miriam was, indeed, responding to a fundamental question. Ostensibly, the purpose of yetzias Mitzrayim, the Egyptian exodus, was…

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כי אני ה' רפאך

For I am Hashem Your healer. (15:26)

We are enjoined to seek medical help when circumstances arise that dictate such action. The Torah, likewise, commands the physician to heal those who are in need of a refuah. Nonetheless, one should never lose sight of the fact that the true and only effective Healer is Hashem. The physician and all who participate in the patient’s care are merely agents of Hashem who have been Heavenly sent to address his physical concerns by employing conventional therapeutic means. Hashem determines the success of the physician. Horav Mordechai, zl, m’Neshchiz, was known for the efficacy of his blessings. The ill and…

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הנני ממטיר לכם לחם מן השמים

Behold! I shall rain down for you food from Heaven. (16:4)

The underlying motif of being sustained by the daily portion of manna that descended from Heaven is faith and trust in the Almighty. I think, in the end, everyone believes in Hashem and even places his trust in Him. The question is when. Do we wait until every last option for salvation has been exhausted before we finally accede to the verity that everything comes from Hashem? The daily gift of manna – survival from Heaven – was a lesson in faith. Hashem provides for those who believe in Him. A person of little faith worries about what tomorrow will…

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כי מחה אמחה את זכר עמלק

I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek. (17:14)

As Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, observes from the Torah’s use of zeicher, remembrance (of Amalek), it is not Amalek who is so pernicious for the future of mankind, but his remembrance. The glorifying of Amalek’s memory, exalting in his achievements, presents an imminent danger to the moral mindset of G-d-fearing people. Violence, force, living by the sword, dominating the weak, murder and plunder at will, just to show one’s power and prowess, is anathema to the moral rectitude of humanity. Glorifying the deeds of murderers and terrorists, venerating their memory, catalyzes the weak-minded to emulate them. Thus, their memory…

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