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אנכי ד' אלקיך... לא יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני

I am Hashem, Your G-d. You shall not recognize the gods of others in My Presence. (20:2,3)

The first two commandments exhort us to believe only in Hashem. No other power, however real or purported, has any validity. Only Hashem is One. He is our G-d, and the G-d of the entire universe. We understand that we may not turn to any other source for salvation, since only Hashem has the power to save. The Alter, zl, m’Novorodok was wont to relate the following story in support of this idea. A poor man had reached the limits of degradation. He had no one to whom to turn. He had exhausted every avenue of “income.” Depressed and dejected,…

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ויסעו מרפידים ויבאו מדבר סיני

They journeyed from Refidim and arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. (19:2)

Rashi asks why the Torah found it necessary to relate from whence they journeyed. We already know that they had previously encamped in Refidim. He explains that the Torah reiterates their journey from Refidim to teach that, just as they came to Har Sinai in a state of teshuvah, repentance, in preparation for the receiving of the Torah, likewise, during their journey from Refidim they were in a state of teshuvah. Having said this, we wonder why teshuvah seems to be a prerequisite for receiving the Torah – to the point that they were in a state of teshuvah on…

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וישלח משה את חותנו

Moshe sent off his father-in-law. (18:27)

Shlomo Hamelech says, Lev yodea moras nafsho u’b’simchaso lo yisarev zar; “The heart knows the bitterness of his soul and in his celebration a stranger shall not mix” (Mishlei 14:10). Hashem said, “My children were enslaved with mortar and stone, while Yisro was sitting comfortably in peace and calm in his land – and now he wants to see (and take part in) the celebration of the (Giving of) the Torah” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yisro). The Yalkut implies that the Revelation of the Giving of the Torah was reserved for those who had suffered in Egypt. Yisro had been in Midyan…

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ואתה תחזה מכל העם אנשי חיל יראי אלקים אנשי אמת שונאי 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)

Ramban explains that the phrase, sonei batza, “people who despise money,” refers to improperly obtained money. Moshe Rabbeinu is searching for those individuals who are of sterling character, G-d-fearing men who are not swayed by offers of material abundance. Money means nothing to them. Such people can be judges. We wonder why someone who is a person of accomplishment, G-d-fearing and honest, would still have to prove that he despises money gained inappropriately. If he is an ish emes, honest person, false money would be abhorrent to him. Why is it necessary to underscore that the judge must have proven…

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והודעת להם את הדרך ילכו בה ואת המעשה אשר יעשון

You shall make known to them the path in which they should go and the deeds that they should do. (18:20)

Haderech yeilchu bah, “The path in which they should go.” Yeilchu, “they should go,” is a reference to visiting the sick. By virtue of simply “going” to visit someone who is ill, even if he does nothing, the individual has already fulfilled the mitzvah. What is it about simply visiting that provides mitzvah fulfillment? Obviously, the optimum mitzvah is spending time, talking. Calming the patient– encouraging and engendering hope — is what the patient needs, but the mitzvah at its basic is fulfilled merely with a visit. Perhaps by understanding the immediate consequences of illness we can better comprehend why…

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ברוך ד' אשר הציל אתכם מיד מצרים ומיד פרעה

Blessed is Hashem Who has rescued you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh. (18:10)

The Talmud Sanhedrin 94a makes a striking statement: “It was taught in the name of Rabbi Papyas, g’nai hu l’Moshe, it is a shame for Moshe and the 600,000 Jews that they had never uttered, Baruch (Hashem), until Yisro came and said, Baruch Hashem asher hitzil eschem.’” This is a strong statement which begs elucidation. Clearly, Klal Yisrael had praised Hashem when they sang the Shirah amid great joy, praising Hashem for the spectacular miracles and wonders which He had wrought. They did not say the words, “Baruch Hashem.” Does that warrant that their inaction be termed a g’nai, shame?…

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