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Yitro 5774

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!   What would you do if you were flying in the face of death -- wherever you go and whatever you did -- the enemy wanted to kill you? What would you do?

Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany. The following story is from his book, The Fall of Fortresses:

"Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi anti-aircraft guns. That wasn't unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.

"On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.

"Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn. He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them! One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech.

"The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: 'This is all we can do for you now.' "

Using Jewish slave labor is never a good idea!

There is a wide misconception that Jews went to their death "like sheep to the slaughter" with virtually no resistance or fighting back. Many people know of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but few know that it took the Germans longer to conquer the Warsaw Ghetto (27 days) than it took them to conquer all of Poland (18 days). The might of the German nation against a few hundred starving and poorly armed Jews... They even awarded the General in charge an Iron Cross First Class for his momentous "victory".

In the face of a largely hostile society with little outside support, starved, worked nearly to death -- Jews organized resistance in approximately 100 out of 400 ghettos. They revolted in the Sobibor death camp which led to the Nazis destroying the camp, plowing it under and planting it with crops. Seven hundred Jews rebelled in Treblinka killing guards, setting buildings on fire and making their escape -- though few survived. In Auschwitz-Berkenau the Jews smuggled dynamite from a munitions factory and blew up one of the four crematoriums.

There are many books on Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. There is one, I Escaped from Auschwitz, about two Jews who brought to the world a 50 page report detailing the workings of the death camp.

Though their oppressors tried to break them, dehumanize them and denigrate their faith, perhaps the greatest resistance of the Jews during the Holocaust was their spiritual resistance. Large number of Jews strove to study Torah, organize classes to teach Torah, to pray -- with a minyan if possible, to wear tefillin, to bake matzas, light the menorah, blow the shofar, celebrate the Shabbos and holidays.

The multitudes made every effort to retain their humanity towards others, to do acts of kindness and to help others. In a time when seemingly the whole world had gone insane, when human life appeared to many as worthless, when one was struggling for survival -- the stories of caring for others, sacrificing for others are legendary. I highly recommend To Vanquish the Dragon by Pearl Benisch. It is the true story of women who were students of the Beth Jacob school who kept their humanity in a time when so many had lost theirs.

At the end of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC there is a little amphitheater playing short clips. In one, a man relates while in a death camp seeing his friend praying at a time that was too late for the morning service and too early for the afternoon service. He asks his friend what he is praying. The friend responds, "I am thanking God." For what?" enquires the man, "Look around you!" His friend replied, "I am thanking God that I am one of us and not one of them."


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Torah Portion of the week

Yisro/Yitro, Exodus 18:1 -20:23

This is the Torah portion containing the giving of the Ten Commandments. Did you know that there are differences in the Ten Commandments as stated here (Exodus 20:1 -14) and restated later in Deuteronomy 5:6 - 18? (Suggestion: have your children find the differences as a game at the Shabbat table during dinner).

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro or Yisro in the Hebrew) joins the Jewish people in the desert, advises Moses on the best way to serve and judge the people -- by appointing a hierarchy of intermediaries -- and then returns home to Midian. The Ten Commandments are given, the first two were heard directly from God by every Jew and then the people begged Moses to be their intermediary for the remaining eight because the experience was too intense.

The portion concludes with the Almighty telling Moses to instruct the Jewish people not to make any images of God. They were then commanded to make an earthen altar; and eventually to make a stone altar, but without the use of a sword or metal tool.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And Yisro, the priest of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard all that the Almighty did for Moshe and to Israel His people" (Exodus 18:1).

Rashi cites the Talmud (Zevachim 116a): "What did Yisro hear to make him come to join the Jewish people? He heard about the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek." What was so unique about what Yisro heard? Didn't all the other surrounding nations hear about this also?

"The answer is," said Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman, "that they heard and remained the same. Yisro, however, didn't merely hear, he took action. Others were moved and inspired for a few moments, but stayed where they were. Yisro picked himself up and changed his life."

Everyone has moments of inspiration. The difference between a great person and an ordinary person is that the great person acts upon his inspirations. When you obtain an important awareness, let it move you to actual changes in your life.

Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian asked a question on this Rashi: We can understand how the miracles at the Red Sea influenced Yisro. However, what was so moving about the war with Amalek? He replied, "At times the best way to appreciate Torah values for living is to observe the behavior of those who lack those values. Amalek also heard about the crossing of the Red Sea. They themselves were in no danger from the Israelites, nevertheless they cruelly tried to wipe them out. Hearing this, Yisro was moved. He realized how one needs the Almighty in his life for basic values.


Candle Lighting Times

January 17
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:25
Guatemala 5:35 - Hong Kong 5:43 - Honolulu 5:54
J'Burg 6:46 - London 4:05 - Los Angeles 4:51
Melbourne 8:25 - Mexico City 6:01 - Miami 5:35
New York 4:37- Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 4:51

Quote of the Week

There are two types of teachers --
one teaches subjects, the other teaches students.
The first imparts information, the second impacts lives!


In Loving Memory of

Jules Abels &
Milton Lippman

Michael & Jackie Abels


With Deep Appreciation to



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