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Yitro 5776

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  I was talking with my friend, Lenny, and started to tell a story of Divine Providence. He immediately cut me off and with great vehemence told me, "Rabbi, don't talk about God! I don't believe in God, I never believed in God and no matter what you tell me, I won't believe in God!" I assured him that I love him, I don't judge him and that I just wanted to share a story. Later in our conversation, I told Lenny that I need a few minutes to daven Mincha (pray the afternoon prayer service) and then we could continue our conversation. Lenny gave his assent and then said, "Put a good word in for me!" I quickly turned to him and asked ... "To whom?"

Belief in God? It has been said that to a believer, no evidence is necessary and to a disbeliever, no evidence is sufficient. However, if one is inclined to believe and wants evidence, the evidence exists.

There are 7 classical categories of evidence why we, the Jewish people, believe that the Almighty exists. Lawrence Kelemen put together a compelling presentation of several categories in Permission to Believe (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242).

One of the classical presentations is the Design Proof. Reduced to its simplest form: If you find a watch in the desert you don't exclaim, "Wow! Millions of years of sand blowing in the desert and poof ... you have a watch!" Design implies designer. Someone designed the watch. When you compare the complexities of a watch with that of a human body, or any microcosm of the human body like the eye, the watch pales in comparison.

My colleague, Rabbi Stephen Baars (of fame for helping people create great marriages) shared with me a "Discovery Magazine" article entitled "A Universe Built for Us" which updates evidence for the Design Proof to include the whole universe!

The theme of the article is that "...everything here, right down to the photons ... bears witness to an extraordinary fact about the universe: its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and -- in this universe, anyway -- life as we know it would not exist."

The article gives examples of unrelated properties of the universe, gravity, atoms, etc. -- "there are many such examples... so many, in fact, that physicists can't dismiss them all as mere accidents."

" 'We have a lot or really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.' Linde says."

"Physicists don't like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet.... In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us."

What an amazing article! What tremendous testimony to the order and design of the universe. And what did the writer conclude from the order and design of the universe?

"Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse."

In other words, the only way they can explain how we ended up with such a universe is that there must be billions of other universes out there that didn't work, and we are on the one that did! Even the article admits it's a theory that cannot be proved or unproved, you can't find these universes. The only reason to have the theory of multiverse is so they don't need God.

I imagine it is possible that the writer could just have easily concluded: "many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe was created by God." However, he decided to conclude that we are the product of a virtual improbable and unprovable probability. It reminds me of a quote which I will paraphrase from W.C. Fields, "I tried bourbon and water and got drunk, I tried scotch and water and got drunk, I tried vodka and water and got drunk. And you know what I learned? Stay away from water!" To a believer, no evidence is necessary and to a disbeliever, no evidence is sufficient...

By the way, after I asked, "To whom?" Lenny stopped for a moment ... and then he smiled and said, "You got me, Rabbi!"


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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
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" (Ex. 20:7).

The commandment forbids swearing falsely. The Talmud says that when God spoke this commandment, the entire world trembled (Shavuos 39a). What is so outstanding about this particular commandment that makes it so formidable?

The author of Chezyonos Avraham says that this commandment was a prerequisite for all the commandments that follow.

Our capacity to rationalize is remarkable. The human mind is ingenious in producing logical reasons for something one wishes to do. Rationalizations, of course, are nothing but good reasons to cover up the true reason. The danger of rationalization is that we may delude ourselves to actually believe the conjured up reasons.

People wish to satisfy their desires, so they rationalize in order to eliminate any obstacles. However, if they had to answer to the reason for a particular act, the severity of the transgression, "God will not absolve anyone who takes His Name in vain," might break through their self-deception. If the rationalization was eliminated, they would be discouraged from doing the forbidden act. This commandment made the Israelites cognizant of the importance of adhering to the truth.


Candle Lighting Times

January 29
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:34
Guatemala 5:42 - Hong Kong 5:51 - Honolulu 6:02
J'Burg 6:44 - London 4:25 - Los Angeles 5:02
Melbourne 8:18 - Mexico City 6:09 - Miami 5:44
New York 4:51 - Singapore 7:01 - Toronto 5:06

Quote of the Week

If you want to tell people the truth,
make them laugh,
otherwise they'll kill you
--  Oscar Wilde



In Loving Memory of

Leah Stein


With Deep Appreciation to

Mr. & Mrs. Jeremy S. Goldstein


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