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Yitro 5768

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! A friend of mine went for his annual physical at age 50. Being of thin built, exercising an hour a night and having no complaints, he was just being prudent. While sitting across the desk from his doctor discussing the various tests, BAM! He drops dead to the floor with a heart attack. No pulse, no breath. The doctor calls a code. Immediately 3 cardiologists are working on him. They get a pulse ... and BAM! His heart stops a second time. They bring him back and BAM! He's down for the third time ... and what seems to be for "the count." Yet, they revive him and stabilize him.

When he told me this story, I responded, "WOW! You died not once, but 3 times. Had you been anywhere else than in that clinic, you'd be dead! This experience must have made you think about your life -- what you've accomplished, what you hope to accomplish, your values, your ambitions, your family, your relationship with the Almighty. How did this experience impact your life?

My friend replied, "You're absolutely right! This event gave me plenty of time to think and to reflect. I realized how precarious life is and that you can die at any moment. So, I decided, 'Why wait? I'll buy that 52 inch plasma screen now.' "

I'm not sure if my friend was kidding me or not (he DID buy the 52 inch plasma screen). However, his story made me think about my life and my priorities. (And I hope it will make you think about your life and your priorities, too!)

A person does what a person desires to do. Unless he (or she) makes plans and sets goals, a person will just react to what life throws at him until his final day. How does one set priorities or make a plan? Perhaps the easiest way is to write your own obituary. What would you want written there? What would you want people to remember about you? While you're at it, write what you want written on your tombstone, too.

Oftentimes when I speak to elderly people (that is defined as "anyone older than I am"), they tell me, "As long as you have your health, you have everything!" When they say that, I think of what my rebbie -- my teacher, -- Rabbi Noah Weinberg once asked me, "What would you say about a person who was 110 years old and in perfect health. Pretty good, yes?" And after my agreeing, he serves up the zinger -- "And what would you think if you then found out that he's been in a coma for the last 40 years? Good health isn't everything. Even if you have your mind working, you still need to do something with your life!"

People seek happiness. If you seek happiness, you will not find happiness. If you seek meaning, you will have meaning and happiness. Recently I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and highly recommend it. Morrie Schwartz was dying from Lou Gehrig Disease -- slowly his body became progressively paralyzed from the feet up over a period of months until he died. Morrie didn't focus on his debilitation; he focused on what he had left and what he could do -- especially for others. Each of us has something we can do for others that will give us meaning and happiness.

The Torah tells us that "God saw all that He created and behold it was very good ..." Genesis 1:31). The midrash Breishis Raba expounds, "What is 'very good'? This refers to death." Why is death good? If we didn't know that eventually we are going to die, we would always put off everything until tomorrow. If we had forever to do something, we'd never accomplish anything. A goal without a deadline is not a goal, it is a dream, a fantasy.

How do we make life real for ourselves? Funerals make life real if we take the lesson to heart and remember it. However, when we leave the funeral we tell ourselves, "There is a club of people who die ... and I don't belong!" What if there was a special digital clock sitting on top on your TV (or Home Entertainment Center)? Instead of moving forward, it was counting backwards, counting down the days of your life, the hours of your life, the minutes of your life and the seconds of your life from now until the moment you will die. At what point would you get up from your chair, turn it off and do something?

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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 G-d 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 G-d. 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.

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Most people would sooner die than think;
in fact, they do so --
Bertrand Russell

To my beloved mother
Debora Dolnikova
May she rest in peace

Mary Kogan

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