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Yitro 5766

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   It seems that nearly everyone is interested in Kabbalah. It has gotten a lot of high profile press. A lot of high profile people are aficionados even if they're not Jewish. Torah is compared to a meal -the 5 Books of Moses and the Talmud are the bread and the meat, and Kabbalah is the wine. One is supposed to be 40 years old, married and a Talmudic scholar before starting to learn Kabbalah. If one drinks wine before consuming the staples there can be problems.

The Talmud (Tractate Hagigah) tells the story of 4 people who entered the Pardes ("Orchard" - a code word for studying Kabbalah). One died, one became a heretic, one went insane and the fourth, Rabbi Akiva, went in and came out unscathed. Be that as it may, there are some legitimate efforts to bring practical wisdom under the guise of Kabbalah. It tends to intrigue people if the wisdom is packaged as Kabbalah, mysticism. (For more on Kabbalah, you can go to &

My friend, Rabbi Max Weiman has a website, Rabbi Weiman writes:

"Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. It has many aspects and has been around as long as there have been people in existence. God taught Moses things He wanted written down. That's the Written Tradition, or the Torah. God also taught Moses things He wanted to remain an Oral Tradition. Most of this is contained in the Talmud. Kabbalah is part of the Oral Tradition.

"The Torah and Jewish Law teach people how to relate to God. The Kabbalah teaches us how God relates to us. It's a description of the spiritual underpinnings of the universe.

"Even though much of this wisdom is kept among those that are on the level to understand and use it properly, there is an incredible amount that is open to the masses. Many people can gain tremendous insights and improve their lives and connection to the Infinite Being."

Rabbi Weiman shares with us a short list of ideas that I think are of tremendous value to keep in mind:


  1. Everything has meaning and purpose. All the events of our life are lessons.

  2. The Creator is always trying to help you with your challenges.

  3. The purpose of life is to grow spiritually by dealing with life's tests.

  4. God is constantly communicating with us.
  5. All challenges have positive elements. Everything is for your good.
  6. God is hidden in all the events of your life.
  7. You can learn something important from every person in your life.
  8. Prayer isn't just pouring out your heart or asking God for favors, but it is also a tool for meditation and introspection.
  9. Happiness is a tool, not a goal. Ask yourself, "What do you really want out of life?"
  10. With God's help you can accomplish anything.

For more on "Kabbalah" Go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

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 related 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 based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states regarding the preparation for receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai:

"And the Israelites encamped there near the mountain." (Exodus 19:2)

The Hebrew word for "encamped" is "vayichan." What is particularly interesting is that "vayichan" is in the singular form; the grammatically correct form would be "vayachanu." What do we learn from the word "vayichan"?

Rashi, the great commentator, tells us that the singular form is used to tell us that they encamped "as one person with one heart." From here Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that we see that love of our fellow man is a prerequisite for accepting the Torah.

Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki noted that the word "vayichan" besides meaning "encamped" also comes from the word "khain," which means "finding favor." That is, the people found favor in the eyes of one another and therefore found favor in the eyes of the Almighty.

When you just see the faults and shortcomings of another person, you become distant from him. However, when you see the good and positive in other people, you become closer to them. This unity is a fundamental requirement for accepting the Torah.

How is this developed? We find in the book Nachal Kidumim that togetherness between people is possible only when there is humility. When the Israelites came to Mount Sinai, which is the symbol of humility, they internalized this attribute.

When you have humility, you do not feel a need to gain power over others or feel above them by focusing on their faults. When you have the trait of humility you can allow yourself to see the good in others. The traits of love for others, seeing the good in them, and having humility go hand in hand. By growing in these traits you make yourself into a more elevated person who is worthy of receiving the Torah.

CANDLE LIGHTING - February 17:
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Jerusalem  4:52
Guatemala 5:37  Hong Kong 6:03  Honolulu 6:12
J'Burg 6:31  London 5:00  Los Angeles 5:20
Melbourne 8:00  Mexico City 6:18  Miami 5:58

New York 5:15  Singapore 7:03  Toronto 5:32


When you are good to others,
you are best to yourself.

--  Benjamin Franklin

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