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וכל העם ראים את הקולת

The entire people saw the thunder. (20:15)

Thunder is a sound which one hears, not sees. Yet, the nation was able to see the thunder: Ro’im es ha’nishma, “They saw what is (ordinarily only) heard.” This indicates that during the Revelation, the nation transcended human/normal physical limitations, rising to the level of superhuman comprehension, whereby they could see what had otherwise only been heard. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber, zl, writes (Kerem HaTzvi) that he came across an innovative satirical explanation of ro’im es ha’nishma. At that time (early 20th century England/Europe) Jewish observance was hemorrhaging, decreasing with each passing day. One of the obvious reasons for this…

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כבד את אביך ואת אמך למען יאריכון ימיך

Honor your father and mother so that your days shall be lengthened. (20:12)

Kibbud av’v’eim is a difficult mitzvah to fulfill properly because there is no shiur, measurement, to it. The mitzvah has no limits, because one can always do more. Indeed, the great Amora, Abaye, who was an orphan (his father died before he was born, and his mother died in childbirth), considered himself fortunate, since he never transgressed this mitzvah (Kiddushin 31b). Why is arichas yamim, longevity, the stated reward for Kibbud av v’eim? Each generation is a link in a continuum that goes on until the advent of Moshiach Tzidkeinu. This link is as strong as the relationship one has…

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והגבלת את העם סביב... כל הנוגע בהר מות יומת

You shall set boundaries for the people roundabout…Whoever will touch the mountain will surely die. (19:12)

Nogea means to touch inappropriately or to reach up/out. It is the act of going beyond one’s domain into that of another. One may extend himself indecorously or even correctly, but, in any event, he goes beyond himself into another otherwise inaccessible area. He reaches/touches elsewhere. The Jewish People were warned not to touch the mountain. It was off-limits to them. It was theoretically beyond their reach, out of the sphere of their purview. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, cited this pasuk in a letter admonishing the head of a medical conference against tampering with the Torah-study of yeshivah students. Apparently,…

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ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש

You shall be to Me a kingdom of ministers/priests and a holy nation. (19:6)

The Torah hereby informs us of our mission statement, the identity which we must strive to achieve as members of Klal Yisrael. The Kohanim stand at the spiritual helm of the nation as mentors and paradigms of moral/spiritual perfection. They have dedicated their lives to the service of Hashem – a mission which the Torah expects all of us to complete. Second, we are to become a goy kadosh, holy nation. Holiness is achieved via separation and removal of oneself from the moral temptations and conflicts that would destroy our spiritual ascent. One can hardly live a life of abandon,…

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

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

Yisro advised Moshe Rabbeinu to seek Judges who possessed four exemplary attributes; most important, they were seeking anshei chayil, men of accomplishment. Rashi interprets accomplishment as referring to men of means who would not be swayed, who could resist pressure, thus enabling them to render their judgment not subject to external influence. Sforno interprets chayil to mean men who possess good judgment, common sense, and the ability to recognize when truth is being related and when it is not. Interestingly, after sifting through the ranks of the people, he found numerous anshei chayil, which is a strong indication of the…

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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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