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ולא תעלה במעלות על מזבחי

You shall not ascend My Altar on steps. (20: 23)

Rashi explains that a ramp was used for the Kohanim to ascend to the Mizbayach, Altar, as a provision to circumvent any suggestion of immodesty. A ramp allows for the legs to move evenly, thereby not allowing any inappropriate exposure of one’s self. I think we might be able to add a homiletic interpretation to the closing pasuk of Parashas Yisro. The Mizbayach symbolizes sacrifice. Indeed, to study Torah, to live a Torah lifestyle, does require a certain element of sacrifice. Before I continue, the sacrifice is only in the eyes of the beholder. A true ben Torah does not…

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ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר

They stood transfixed at the foot of the mountain. (19:17)

As Klal Yisrael stood at the foot of Har Sinai, waiting anxiously for the Torah, they were united as one, with a sense of unity described by Chazal as, k’ish echad, b’lev echad, “like one man with one heart.” This phrase has since become the catchword for describing unity at its apex. All of Klal Yisrael were focused, intent on accepting the Torah with a firm commitment, a common aspiration and uniform purpose. All of Klal Yisrael stood together as one to accept the Torah. It is the term b’lev echad, “with one heart”, that begs to be elucidated. Does…

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ויוצא משה את העם לקראת האלקים מן המחנה... ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר

Moshe led the people out of the camp toward the Divine Presence. They stood transfixed at the foot of the mountain. (19:17)

In a statement that has become endemic to Kabbolas haTorah, the Acceptance of the Torah, Chazal state that Hashem raised Har Sinai above the heads of the Jewish People and declared: Im mekablim atem es haTorah mutav – v’im lav – sham tehei kevuraschem, “If you accept the Torah – good – and if not – there will be your burial.” The question is obvious: If they are standing beneath the mountain, the correct term would have been: Po, “here will be your burial.” What is the meaning of sham, “there”? Where is there? Furthermore, why wait? If they did…

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עתה ידעתי כי גדול ד' מכל האלהים כי בדבר אשר זדו עליהם

Now I know that G-d is the greatest of all deities; through their very plots, He rose above them. (18:11)

Yisro was overwhelmed with the miracles Hashem wrought against the Egyptians. Rashi explains that what impressed Pharaoh most was the middah k’neged middah, measure for measure, aspect of the punishment the Egyptians received. Ki ba’davar asher zadu aleihem, specifically in the very plot which they (the Egyptians) had intended for them. The Egyptians attempted to use water as the weapon of destruction. Instead, they themselves drowned in the Red Sea. In other words, it was not “simply” that Hashem punished them “any old way.” No! He turned the tables on them. The water which was supposed to drown the Jews…

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וישמע יתרו חתן משה את כל אשר אתם עשה למשה ולישראל עמו

And Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, heard about everything that G-d had done for Moshe and for his people, Yisrael. (18:1)

When Ariel Sharon, military leader and eventual prime minister of Israel, lost a son in a tragic accident, he was overcome with grief. A mutual friend approached Horav Aryeh Levine, zl, and asked him to invite Sharon to his home. Perhaps the general would be moved by the tzaddik’s divrei nechamah, words of comfort. Thus far, no one was really having much luck in reaching him. Sadly, this was not Sharon’s first encounter with tragedy, having lost his first wife and a son in a road accident. The tzaddik absolutely refused to have Sharon come to his house. “It is…

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