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Yitro 5770

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Kalman Packouz

Help save Martin Grossman's life.

GOOD MORNING! What is the value of a life? We know that the Torah tells us that we are "created in the image of the Almighty" and therefore each of us has intrinsic worth. We also know that the Torah tells us that there are 3 mitzvos (commandments) which one must give up his life rather than transgress even under duress -- one of which is "Thou shall not murder." (The other 2 are: "Not to engage in Forbidden Relationships" and "Not to Worship Idols.") The Talmud explains the reason --- "Who is to say that his blood (the murderer's) is redder than the victim's blood?" This means "Who can measure which human being is more valued in the 'Eyes' of the Almighty?"

What if that life is the life of a 46 year old murderer who killed a police woman? Would it make a difference if that murderer did not kill in a premeditated act, has an IQ of 77, deep psychological problems -- and killed while in a drug-induced state as a teenager?

Does the Torah sanction the death penalty? Definitely "yes". However, the stringencies in evidence are such that the Talmud tells us that "A court which executes someone once in 7 years is called a 'killer court.' There is a dissenting opinion that "A court which executes someone once in SEVENTY years is called a 'killer court' (Makkos 1:10). The Torah is concerned with protecting lives and society.

The talmud teaches us that "To save one life is as if you have saved the whole world" (Sanhedrin 37a). For this reason, I am sharing with you the following information and calling upon you to help save the life of Martin Grossman. For 25 years Martin has sat on death row because no Florida governor felt it appropriate to sign the order to carry out his death penalty. Recently Governor Charlie Crist chose to sign the order. The goal is to stop the execution called for February 16th and to call for a proper clemency hearing to determine if the Death Penalty is truly appropriate in this case and to ask for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

I have consulted with Rabbi Menachem Katz, director of the Aleph Institute which tends to the needs of Jewish prisoners world-wide. He is spear-heading this effort and has verified the authenticity of the facts and the situation.

This may not be easy for you to go out of your way to try and save the life of someone who took someone else’s life, but we must do what is just and right and what the Torah teaches us is correct. Prominent Rabbis have ruled that every Jew has the responsibility to save this man’s life.

There is no question that Martin Grossman committed a grievous and violent act, robbing Margaret Parks of her life and her future as well as robbing her family of their beloved daughter and sister and the future they hoped for her. Rabbi Katz has counseled Martin and provided spiritual guidance to him over the course of the last 25 years, he knows without any doubt that Martin takes full responsibility for this awful deed and that he lives (as he should) with tremendous daily guilt and remorse. He often speaks of the anguish and devastation he has wreaked on Ms. Park’s family and of his inability to do anything to relieve their sorrow or make amends.

There are many unusual circumstances in Martin Grossman’s case. They are detailed on the petition website at: .

Please go to the website, inform yourself so that you feel that you understand the situation and circumstances ... and then please sign the petition. Also, please email a request to Gov. Charlie Crist ( -- or write him at: Office of the Governor, The Capitol, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399 -- to stop the execution called for February 16th and to call for a proper clemency hearing to determine if the Death Penalty is truly appropriate in this case. If you have any questions or can offer help, please contact Rabbi Menachem Katz -- or call him at 305-864-5553.


Please help save the life of Martin Grossman!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Yisro (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 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 Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And now if you will certainly listen to My voice and observe My convenant, you will be to Me a treasure from all peoples for Mine is the entire world. And you will be to Me a kingdom of Cohanim (priests) and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5).

How is it possible for us to rise to this level?

Rashi, the great commentator, cites the Mechilta on this verse that "All beginnings are difficult." When one tries to accomplish for Torah, he might be discouraged when he finds himself running into difficulties and go from enthusiastic to disillusioned. He might tell himself, "Things are so difficult that I'll never accomplish. I'll never get anywhere even if I do try, so I might as well give up right now."

If you ever feel this way, remember that all beginnings are difficult. Expect difficulties when you commence doing something and you won't be discouraged by them. The only way to consistently meet your goals is by being persistent.

Regardless of how difficult you find it at first, as long as you consider your original goal worthwhile, keep on trying. That is the only way anyone succeeds. Very frequently, the difficulties are short-lived, and as you persevere you will find things becoming easier and easier.


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Courage is not a lack of fear, but the ability to act -- though you fear


In loving memory of

Wes Spellman


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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