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Shabbat is not a day of rest for our soldiers Print E-mail
Sunday, 04 February 2024

In Parshat Yitro (Shmot 20:8-11), as part of the Ten Commandments, we read about the obligation to rest on Shabbat:

Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it. Six days shall you work and accomplish all your work. But the seventh day is Shabbat to Hashem, your God. You must not do any manner of work- you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maid, your animal, and the foreigner within your gates. For in six days God made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Shabbat day and sanctified it.

Rashi comments that when Shabbat arrives, you should feel as if all your work has been completed, so that you will not have to think about work on Shabbat.

If a person manages their time properly, then this model works. This has been proven by Shabbat observant Jews from the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments until today.

However, what happens in a situation when our time is not our own? When we can’t simply pack up and set our work aside?

In the war that we are currently fighting in Israel, the soldiers are fighting for the existence of the State of Israel. This war is critical in order to keep Jews safe and to save lives. The soldiers don’t have the luxury of finishing their work on Friday and resuming Saturday night the way that the rest of us can. They are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Rabbinate of the IDF provides instructions for the soldiers of how to observe Shabbat during the war. Below, is a taste of some of the issues that the soldiers face on Shabbat and how they are instructed to handle them under the guidance of an army rabbi.

If the soldiers are in active duty fighting the enemy on Shabbat, they should do everything that they would normally do on a regular day.

Soldiers who are fighting in dangerous areas such as in Gaza or on the border of Lebanon should not risk their lives by trying to set up an Eruv in order to be able to carry on Shabbat as it could take their attention away from the fighting. In these situations, they can carry as they would on a weekday.

If the soldiers are gathered and getting ready to fight, for example, on the border of Gaza, but not in Gaza, if it is not dangerous for them to set up an Eruv, then they should do so. If they were not able to set up an Eruv due to security reasons, they can still carry their guns and whatever other supplies that they need in order to fight. They can add their Siddur (prayer book) or Chumash (Bible) to their bag of necessary supplies so that they can be carried as well.

If their unit is about to start fighting, then the soldiers can prepare for war on Shabbat by doing practice exercises and drills. However, if they aren’t going to be fighting imminently, then they should not practice on Shabbat.

Pitching tents, setting up generators and heaters as well as food preparation should all be taken care of before Shabbat, if possible.

The soldiers should only light Shabbat and Havdala candles where it is safe to do so. If it is dangerous to light a fire, they can say the blessings on a flashlight.

Every soldier, whether on duty or not, must have their phone with them at all times and must answer all incoming calls.

These guidelines make it clear that the soldiers can’t follow the ideal of finishing everything before sundown on Friday, as they must be on high alert over Shabbat. However, at the times that the soldiers are out of harm’s way, they can try to achieve a Shabbat atmosphere as much as possible.

May all of our soldiers be safe and may they complete their missions so that they can return to their families and celebrate Shabbat as a true day of rest.

How can one merit a long life? Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 February 2023

In Parshat Yitro, B’nai Yisrael received the Ten Commandments. The fifth commandment (Shmot 20:12) stands out because not only is it a commandment, there is also a reward attached:

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the Land that HaShem your God gives you.

Which Land did God give us? According to the Netziv, this refers specifically to The Land of Israel.

This sounds similar to the last line in the “Vehaya” paragraph of the Shma which we recite twice a day (Dvarim 11:21):

In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the Land that God has sworn to your forefathers to give to them…”

If the reward of a long life is specifically in the Land of Israel then how do people merit to live long lives outside of the Land of Israel as well?

The Talmud, Brachot 8a relates an incident:

Rabbi Yochanan was told: There are elderly people in Babylonia. Rabbi Yochanan was surprised and said: It is written “In order to prolong your days and the days of your children upon the Land…” meaning the Land of Israel. However, outside of Israel, there is no promise of a long life. They then explained that the elders in Babylonia are people who arise early to attend shul in the morning and stay late in the evening. He said: That is the merit that has gained them long lives.

We learn in the Talmud, Megilla 29a:

It is taught in a braita: Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says: In the future, the shuls and Batei Midrash in Babylonia will be transported and established in Eretz Yisrael.

According to Maharsha, since these synagogues and Batei Midrash will later become part of Eretz Yisrael, when one prays or studies in them it is as if they are in the Land of Israel and therefore they deserve a long life even if technically they are not in the Land.

We already see some of this vision taking place in our time. The Mir Yeshiva, the largest yeshiva in the world is based in Jerusalem with 9000 students. It was originally founded around the year 1814 in the small town of Mir (now Belarus). It remained in that same location for about 100 years. During World War I and World War II the yeshiva moved around to Poltava (Ukraine today) and later Keidan, Lithuania. Whoever was left at the yeshiva fled to Shanghai. After the war, many of the students joined the Yeshiva in Jerusalem which opened in 1944 with ten students.

The Mir is just one example of a yeshiva that was uprooted and is now flourishing in Israel.

May we merit to bring more yeshivot to Israel, not based on the need to flee persecution but based on the ideal that Israel is the best place to live and study Torah  as it says in Yishayahu 2:3:

Ki Metzion Tetze Torah u’Dvar HaShem m’Yerushalayim

For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.

Where was Tziporah at the time of the Exodus? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 January 2022

In Parshat Yitro, Shmot 18:2-4 we read:

Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, took Moshe’s wife, Tziporah, after Moshe had sent her back home along with her two sons. The name of one was Gershom, because he (Moshe) had said, “I was a stranger in an alien land.” The name of the other was Eliezer, because the God of my father was my help, and rescued me from the sword of Pharaoh.

In Shmot 4:19-20 it looks like Moshe brought Tziporah with him to Egypt so how did she end up in Midian with her father?

God said to Moshe in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt, for they have died- all the men who had sought your life. Moshe then took his wife and his sons, set them to ride on the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt...

Rashi explains what happened: When God said to Moshe in Midian: “Go and return to Egypt,” Moshe took his wife and his two sons…When Aharon went out towards him and met up with him at the Mountain of God (Shmot 4:27), Aharon asked Moshe, “Who are these?” Moshe replied to him, “This is my wife whom I married in Midian and these are my children.” Aharon said to him, “And where are you taking them?” Moshe answered “To Egypt.” Aharon said to him, “We grieve for the earlier (enslaved) ones and now you come to add to their numbers!”

At that point, Moshe told Tzipora to return to her father’s house in Midian.

According to Siftei Chachamim, Moshe was worried that the Egyptians would enslave Tziporah if she came with him to Egypt. Therefore, he sent her back to Midian.

Since Tzipora and their sons were safe, there was no point in endangering them in Egypt.

We now see how Tziporah and their sons ended up meeting up with Moshe after the Exodus from Egypt, just in time for the Revelation at Sinai.

Will the entire people arrive at their destination? Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2021

Sponsored by Steven Toberman and Bonnie & Micky Kamel

in blessed memory of their mother, Marion Tomsky Toberman,

Miriam bat Yaakov Hirsch Halevi and Devora,

in commemoration of her 12th yahrzeit anniversary כ"ו בשבט

In Parshat Yitro, Moshe’s father in law advises Moshe to bring judges to help him out so that he doesn’t have to serve the entire nation alone. In this way, Moshe can share the burden as the smaller disputes will not have to be brought to him and he will be able to focus on the major issues.

Yitro then tells Moshe (Shmot 18:23):

If you do this—and God so commands you to do so—you will be able to endure; and this entire people, as well, shall arrive at its destination in peace.

Why does it say “and this entire people”, rather than “each person will arrive at his destination in peace.”

Kli Yakar answers that the verse refers to a general place that is unique to the entire nation as a whole; and that can only be the Land of Israel.

It says in Dvarim 16:20: "Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord, your God is giving you."

Rashi explains: The appointment of honest judges is sufficient merit to cause Israel to live and to settle them securely in their land. This is why it does not say "This entire people will dwell in its place in peace" rather it says "will arrive in peace." It informs us that by virtue of appointing proper judges, this entire nation will arrive in peace at the place that is special to the entire nation- that is the Land of Israel.

It says "will arrive" because they had not yet arrived there. The verse teaches that injustice corrupts the Land. The generation of the flood proves this. The Jews of the First Temple were exiled because of lack of justice, as it says, "Your rulers are rogues and associates of thieves, every one avid for presents and greedy for payments; They do not judge the case of the orphan and the widow’s cause never reaches them" (Yishayahu 1:23) and in the future "Zion will be redeemed with judgment, and those that return to her with righteousness" (Yishayahu 1:27).

In regard to Moshe, the verse says "You will be able to endure" (here in the desert). But the end of the verse "And also this entire people will arrive in its place in peace" excludes Moshe because it was already decreed that he would not enter the Land in any event, as it says (Shmot 6:1) "You will see what I will do to Pharaoh: For with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand will he shall drive them from his land."

Rashi comments: You (Moshe) will see what will now be done to Pharaoh, but you will not see what will be done to the kings of the seven nations of Canaan when I will bring them (the Israelites) into the Land (of Israel).

We see from here that Moshe is unfortunately left out. While he started the process of bringing them out of Egypt, he is not able to bring them to their final destination.

We once again have the privilege to live as a nation in the Modern State of Israel. Some take it as a given while others spent their lives yearning to get here and appreciate every minute. The recent airport closures made us contemplate the fact that just as Moshe couldn’t get in even though he wanted to so badly, so too we can’t always take getting into Israel for granted.

Shabbat Shalom from Yerushalayim,

Sharona Margolin Halickman       

The message of the fig Print E-mail
Friday, 14 February 2020

In Parshat Yitro, B’nei Yisrael received the Torah as a community, yet each individual’s relationship with the Torah is personal and unique.

In the Talmud, Eruvin 54, Rabbi Yochanan asks why the words of the Torah are compared to a fig tree as it says in Mishlei (Proverbs) 27:18, He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit.” Rabbi Yochanan’s answer is that in the case of the fig tree, every time a person handles it, they find a ripe fig, the same is true for the words of Torah: Every time a person studies them, they find flavour in them.

Every time that we study Torah, we can always find a new idea. We just need to know where to look. Some find new ideas by reading the text more closely, others study commentaries that they have not read before while others choose to study with a teacher with whom they have not yet studied, who can give them a whole new perspective.

While we celebrated Tu B’Shvat this past week, we were reminded to internalize the messages that the seven species of Israel, including the fig, teach us.

The compilation of midrashim, Yalkut Shimoni Yehoshua 2, presents a similar question to the one mentioned in Eruvin: Why is the Torah compared to a fig? Because most fruits contain something inedible- dates have a pit, grapes have hard seeds and pomegranates have a peel. But every part of a fig is good to eat. So too with the Torah- every part of it contains wisdom.

I have been writing a Dvar Torah (short sermon) about the weekly Torah portion each week for the past fifteen years and I have found the words of this midrash to be true. There is always something new to find and ideas that one may have overlooked in previous years can suddenly become relevant.

One idea about the fig that I especially find meaningful this year is in Micha 4:2-5:

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken it. For let all people walk everyone in the name of his god and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.

Just a few weeks ago, delegates from around the world came to Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of the fulfillment of Micha’s words, hoping for a time when the nations of the world will be at peace with Israel and when members of all religions will have respect for one another while enjoying the beauty of Israel’s grape vines and fig trees.

Where are the exemplary leaders? Print E-mail
Saturday, 26 January 2019

In Parshat Yitro, Moshe is overwhelmed with judging the nation on his own. Yitro, Moshe’s father in law noticed this and told Moshe that he will wear himself out if he continues to do everything on his own.

Yitro’s suggestion is found in Shmot 18:21-23:

You must seek out from among all the people “anshei chayil”, capable men, “yirei Elokim”, God fearing men, “anshei emet”. men of truth, “sonei vatza” who despise unjust gain. You must then appoint them over the people as officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Every major problem they will bring to you, and every minor problem they shall judge by themselves. It will thus be easier for you since they will bear the burden with you. If you do this and God commands you to do so, you will be able to survive, and also this entire people will come to their place in peace.

Moshe listened to his father in law (Shmot 18-25-26):

Moshe chose “anshei chayil”, capable men from among all Yisrael and appointed them leaders over the people; officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens. They judged the people at all times. The difficult problems they would bring to Moshe, and the simple problems they would judge by themselves.

Rashi explains the meanings of these characteristics:

“Anshei Chayil”, capable men who are wealthy and do not need to ingratiate themselves nor show favoritism.

Chizkuni adds that they were brave men who were able to handle the work and not be afraid of the people.

Ramban points out that “Anshei Chayil” are strong and quick just like the “Eshet Chayil”, woman of valor in Mishlei (Proverbs) who is strong and quick with taking care of her household tasks.

Rashi continues:

“Anshei Emet”, men of truth who command confidence, who are trusted and listened to.

“Sonei Vatza”, hate unjust gain, they “despise” their own property when they can obtain it only through litigation. As it says in Bava Batra 58b, “Any judge from whom property is taken through litigation is not fit to be a judge.” A judge should be extremely sensitive to the possibility that he may be in possession of something that he is not entitled to, that the case should never even get to court.

Rashbam adds that bribery and robbery are always called vatza.

We see from here that Moshe sought out good and honest leaders and judges and he found many who were able to help him in judging the nation.

Why is it that today we are having such a difficult time finding honest leaders and judges?

There are so many scandals in the news that even if there are some good leaders, we don’t hear about them because when you are a law abiding citizen, you don’t usually make the news.

With the Israeli elections coming up soon, we really need to search out good candidates and focus on the prayer of “Hashiva Shofteinu”, “Restoration of Justice” and hope and pray that good, honest people will lead us:

Restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first, remove from us sorrow and groan; and reign over us- You, God, alone- with kindness and compassion, and justify us through judgment. Blessed are You, God, the King Who loves righteousness and judgment.

God spoke to each individual at Mt. Sinai Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments, were declared to B’nei Yisrael as a group while they stood at Mt. Sinai.

If the commandments were told to B’nai Yisrael as a group, then why are they written in singular form?

Let’s take the first commandment for example (Shmot 20:2):

“I am HaShem, Elokecha, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves.”

Why does God say “Elokecha”, your God (singular) and opposed to “Elokeichem”, your God (plural)?

The answer is that God is a personal God.

Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel ben Rav Shmuel of Apt (1755-1825) known as the Ohev Yisrael explains: It says “Elokecha”, your God (singular) since at Mt. Sinai God spoke to each and every person individually according to their understanding, according to the depth of their knowledge, according to their strength and according to their level. In this way, each member of B’nai Yisrael was able to appreciate God’s glory.

This past week, I had the honor to conduct six Tu B’Shvat seders for different populations in Tel Aviv, Yafo, Jerusalem and a Kibbutz near Hadera: teenagers at a special needs boarding school, senior citizens with special needs, mothers who attend Torah classes with their babies, two groups of at risk elementary school students and a group of independent senior citizens. Each seder was tailored to the needs of the group that was attending and although they participated as a group, each individual connected to the holiday in their own way. Some connected through song, others through dance, the readings or the eating of the fruits.

Receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai was a communal miracle. B’nai Yisrael received the Torah as a group. However, it was also a personal miracle since each individual in attendance formed a personal relationship with God and felt as if He was speaking directly to them.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad: Why Yitro Waited to Convert Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016

In Honor of Melitta Oppenheim’s Bat Mitzvah

In Shmot 2:16-17, we see that Yitro’s daughters were treated disrespectfully by the shepherds: “The Kohen of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water (from the well) and fill the troughs to water their father’s sheep. Then the shepherds came and chased them away. Moshe got up to their aid and watered their sheep.”


Yitro was a revered Midianite Priest, so why did the shepherds disrespect his daughters?


According to Rashi, Yitro was the most prominent of the Midianite Priests. However, when he abandoned idol worship, the Midianites shunned him.


We see from here that Yitro had already stopped worshipping idols even before he met Moshe yet we only see him speak about God after the exodus from Egypt when Moshe returns in Shmot 18:10-11: “Yitro said: ‘Blessed is God who rescued you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of Pharaoh; who rescued the people from under the hand of Egypt. Now I know that God is greater than all the gods, because the very thing they plotted came upon them.’”


Rashi comments that Yitro was saying: “I was aware of God in the past but now, all the more so.” Yitro was acquainted with all forms of idol worship in the world.


Ramban explains that we see Yitro’s official conversion in Shmot 18:12: “Then Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and peace offerings to God. Aharon and all of the elders of Yisrael came to eat bread with Yitro, Mosh’s father-in-law, before God.”


Why did Yitro, wait until now to convert?


Rashi ties Yitro’s choice to convert to the first words of Parshat Yitro (Shmot 18:1) “And Yitro, Kohen Midian, Moshe’s father in law heard about all that God had done for Moshe and for his people Yisrael, when God brought Israel out of Egypt.” The Mechilta states that he chose to convert after hearing about the splitting of the Red Sea. Rabbi Yehoshua taught that Yitro came because he heard about the war with Amalek (Zevachim 116a).


Rabbi Kazryel Fiszel Tchorz, 1896-1979, a founder of HaPoel HaMizrachi, comments: The splitting of the sea showed the Mesirat Nefersh (martyrdom) of B’nai Yisrael as they jumped into the water up to their necks and saw miracles that even Yechezkel the prophet did not see. The attack by Amalek showed a nation attacking B’nai Yisrael when they were weak, spilling innocent blood. At that time, Yitro took it upon himself to stand with B’nai Yisrael and to join them.


Yitro understood that we will experience miracles but we will also have to fight many wars in order to defend ourselves. He was ready to commit in the good times as well as in the bad times.


Living in Israel is also a mixed bag. We see miracles being performed on a daily basis while at the same time our enemies are attacking innocent men, women and children. Whether one converts to Judaism or makes aliya, they have to understand that there will be easier times as well as more difficult times and that is the reality of being part of the Jewish people. 

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut, Sometimes You Don’t Print E-mail
Friday, 17 January 2014

Parshat Yitro describes God’s revelation to B’nai Yisrael at Har Sinai.


According to Yalkut Shimoni, Shir HaShirim 992, B’nai Yisrael who were sanctified at Har Sinai are compared to a nut. When the shell is broken, the nut emerges. When the Jewish people are sanctified and their evil inclination is broken they become soft and gentle to both God and other people.


Midrash Shir HaShirim Raba 6:11 explains: There are three types of nuts. The first kind has a shell that is very simple to open and it is easy to remove the nut. The second type has a medium shell, if you bang it hard then it will break open. The third variety is very hard to crack and you need a tool such as a nutcracker to smash it open. So too are the Jewish people: Some give Tzedaka by themselves, some give when asked and others don’t give even when asked. Fortunately most of the Jewish people are like the first two types of nuts.


Rav Azariya taught: If a nut (that is still in its shell) falls into the dirt, then it can be wiped clean, washed and restored to edible condition. So too the Jewish people, they may get tainted by wrongdoing and sin during the year but when they return to God before Yom Kippur and do Tshuva (repent) their sins are forgiven.


The same Midrash also explains that the Jewish people are like a pile of nuts. If one nut is removed from the pile, all of the other nuts are disturbed.


We saw this idea very clearly last week when a high school student from Boston was missing and Jewish people from around the world offered their help to look for him. The Boston police said that they never saw such an outpouring of concern for a missing person.


Just as the pile of nuts was shaken, the Jewish community was unable to sit comfortably until the boy was found.


With Tu BiShvat behind us this is a good opportunity to examine our deeds and see if in fact we are acting as the right kinds of nuts. Do we give Tzedaka generously? Do we do Tshuva and apologize if we hurt our fellow person? Do we open our shells to the teachings of the Torah? Do we go out of our way for others even if we may not know them personally?

What Does Bais Yaakov Have to do with the Giving of the Torah? Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2013
In Parshat Yitro, Shmot 19:3 we read: “Moshe went up to the Presence of God and God called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Ko tomar liveit Yaakov v’tagid livnei Yisrael’, This is what you shall say to Beit Yaakov (the house of Yaakov) and tell to B’nai Yisrael.”


Rashi comments that Beit Yaakov refers to the women. Moshe was asked to speak to the women (before the men) in a gentle voice.


How do we know that “beit”, “the house of” refers to the women?


In Vayikra 16:17 we read: “He shall atone for himself and for “beito”, “his wife”.


How do we know that the word ‘tomar’ refers to a more gentle voice?


Rashi explains in Bamidbar 12:1 when he comments on the words “Vatidaber Miriam”, where Miriam spoke negatively about Moshe: “Dibur (the pronunciation of the words) always connotes harshness but amira (the ideas underlying speech) connotes softness and pleading.”


In Yishayahu 2:5 we read: “Beit Yaakov, come and let us walk in the light of God.”


The “Beit Yaakov” school system which was founded by Sara Schenirer in Cracow in 1918 got its name based on the fact that the words “Beit Yaakov” in the TaNaCh referred to the women.


How was Sara Schenirer able to institute formal religious and secular education for girls?


At that time, the boys were only receiving a Torah education while the girls were only receiving a Polish education. Many of the girls started moving away from their Jewish roots. Sara Schenirer realized that something needed to be done to save these young women.


Shoshana Pantel Zolty in her book And All Your Children Shall Be Learned (1993 Aronson p.67) quotes the Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Israel Meir HaKohen Kagen) in his Likutei Halachot:


“Nowadays, when parental tradition has weakened and we find girls who do not live close to the parental environment, and especially that there are those who have been given a secular education, certainly it is required to teach them the TaNaCh and the ethical instructions of our sages as in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers)… so that the principles of our holy faith will be strong for them. Otherwise they may stray from the path of God and transgress all the precepts of our religion.”


Today there are hundreds of Beit Yaakov schools in Israel and throughout the world.


Many girl’s as well as boy’s schools including Yavneh and the Telshe Yeshiva were founded around the same time as Beit Yaakov and followed the Beit Yaakov model of combining a secular and religious education.


The Day School movement today is also an offshoot of the great work that Sara Schenirer began almost 100 years ago.


Just as at Har Sinai, the women were spoken to before the men, so too the women were the trailblazers in setting up a formal education system which was later replicated by the men as well.



Is Having Kavana in Prayer One of the Ten Commandments? Print E-mail
Friday, 10 February 2012


The first time that the Ten Commandments appear in the Torah is in Parshat Yitro.


The Third Commandment is found in Shmot 20:7: “Do not take the Name of Hashem, your God in vain. For God will not acquit the one who takes His Name in vain.”


The Talmud in Brachot 33b states: He who pronounces an unnecessary benediction  violates the prohibition of “Do not take the Name of Hashem, your God in vain.”


Rabbi Kasher in the Torah Shlemah explains this commandment: “Whoever pronounces an unnecessary benediction or says his prayers without devotion or at the wrong time takes the name of Heaven in vain. Regarding him the text states: He will not acquit him.”


What Rabbi Kasher is saying is that if someone prays without kavana, without being focused, without paying attention to what he is saying, without understanding the meaning of the words, without being aware that he is standing before God- then he is actually taking God’s name in vain.


How many people would take prayer more seriously if they thought about this concept?


There are many observant Jews who would not dare to utter God’s name outside of the recitation of prayers and blessings yet while praying their minds may wander, they may involve themselves in conversations with people in the room (instead of with God) during the course of the davening or they may be so tuned out that they may not even realize which prayers they have already recited.  


Every time that God’s name is uttered it should be for a purpose.


When we look at the third commandment from this perspective, it seems even harder to observe than the normative explanation of this commandment, not swearing falsely using God’s name. Prayer is said three times a day and blessings are said throughout the day so not taking God’s name in vain has to be something that we are aware of every day, all day long.


As we read the Ten Commandments this week, let’s take it upon ourselves to have more kavana each and every time that we recite God’s name in a prayer or a blessing.

Send Mishloach Manot/ Matanot L'Evyonim

(Gifts for Purim and Gifts for the Poor)

to Jerusalem ’s Impoverished Elderly

Torat Reva Yerushalayim will once again be preparing Mishloach Manot/Matanot L’Evyonim packages which will be hand delivered by the Midreshet Devora students to the neglected elderly of Jerusalem in two nursing homes in Talpiot as well as to the homebound elderly in East Talpiot on Shushan Purim (the day that Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem ). The packages will include healthy snacks, gifts and Purim treats.

The packages that Torat Reva Yerushalayim delivered over the last few years to Jerusalem's elderly were the ONLY gift packages that these individuals received!

According to the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah: “gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the seudah (festive meal) and mishloach manot (gifts for friends) because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”

A donation of $18 covers one package, $180 covers packages for an entire floor of a nursing home.

Please click on the following link to donate on line
Or mail a check payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim to:
In the US
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue, Yonkers NY 10705
In Israel
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 12 Israel Eldad #19, Jerusalem 93399


Why Only Ten Commandments? Print E-mail
Friday, 21 January 2011

 Check out the Midreshet Devora Video at www.midreshetdevora.org!


In Parsha Yitro, we read about the revelation at Sinai when God gives B’nai Yisrael the Ten Commandments.


Why were there only Ten Commandments given at Mt. Sinai? After all we know that there are 613 commandments all together in the Torah.


The ten should actually be looked at as a preview or chapter headings for all of the other commandments. For example, from the mitzvah of observing Shabbat we can derive all of the mitzvoth having to do with Shabbat as well as the holidays.


As it is, it was overwhelming for B’nai Yisrael to hear the first ten. How much more overwhelming if all 613 were given on one day!


Why were they written on two tablets?


The first tablet contained the mitzvoth between a person and God. The second tablet contained the mitzvoth between a person and their fellow person. This shows that God cares as much about our relationship with him as about our relationship with others. We learn from here that it is impossible to have a religious thief.


Rabbi Benjamin Blech says that the tablets were God’s prescriptions for a sick society. They were meant for spiritual health and well being of the world. Just like doctors today, God was advising us to take two tablets and call Him in the morning!


May we all merit to observe the commandments as God has prescribed and may they spiritually as well as physically heal us.

The Seven Names of Yitro and His Seven Daughters Print E-mail
Friday, 05 February 2010

By Molly Geller, a student at Midreshet Devora (www.midreshetdevora.org)

Parshat Yitro opens with Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law having an interest in all of the miracles that Hashem performed for B’nai Israel.

Rashi on Shmot 4:18 comments that Yitro had seven names- "Sheva shemot hayu lo: Reuel, Yeter, Yitro, Chovav, Chever, Keni, and Putiel.”

Why does Yitro possess seven names?

In Shemot 2:16 we learn that Yitro had seven daughters: "U'leCohen Midyan sheva banot". The only daughter whose name is mentioned in the Torah is Tziporah, who will later become the wife of Moshe.

I would like to suggest that Yitro's seven names can correspond to the seven daughters that he had. The meaning of each of Yitro’s names can represent a characteristic trait that he held and wished to pass down to one of his daughters. Or his name can come to foreshadow an event or action that Yitro himself and his daughters will do in the future.

The first name that Rashi lists is Reuel. The name Reuel first appears in Shemot 2:18 when Yitro's daughters come back home to Reuel. Rashbam comes to teach us that when the pasuk writes Reuel it really means that the daughters came back to their grandfather and that it is not uncommon for one to refer to their grandfather as their father, so therefore it may not have actually been Yitro. Since the name Reuel is seen as a family name, chances are that Yitro gave his first daughter this name since it represented the lineage of his family.

The 2nd name mentioned is Yeter, which Rashi says means to add. The name Yeter was given to Yitro because he added an extra section/ Torah portion to the Torah. His daughter's name could be Yetera, showing us that he hoped that she would add to the Torah and the Jewish people.

Yitro is the next name and can be linked to his daughter Tziporah. Yitro did not recieve this name until he became a prophet. He had been known as Yeter before and only when he started to prophesize did Hashem give him the merit of having another letter added on to his name. While Tziporah was not a prophetess she did have the ability and connection to Hashem to know when to step in and do the right thing. This can be seen when Moshe sets out to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and Tziporah steps in and circumcises her son. She follows in Yitro's path by seeing how important it is to be close to and follow Hashem's words.

The next name that comes up is Chovav which according to Rashi means lover of the Torah. This name symbolizes the later period of Yitro's life as he took an active role in learning about Hashem's miracles and the Jewish people. The name Chovav could have been given to his last daughter since he became interested in the Torah and the Jewish people later on in life.

The next three names- Chaver, Keni, and Putiel are not defined by Rashi. However, the definitions found of their root or shoresh was very interesting. Chever which means friend, represents Yitro in such a great way. He was a caring man, who was never recorded as having been hostile to anyone and he reached out to people, as he was the Priest of Midyan. His daughter, whose name could have Chavera, was blessed with a natural ability to reach out and look out for others as her father clearly did. An example of Yitro looking out for others can be seen in this week's parsha as Yitro saw Moshe working himself too hard for the Jewish people and told him he must appoint other men to help out and Moshe will handle the biggest issues.

Keni is from the same root as Kinian- meaning property or possesion. Yitro had many sheep and we know that his daughters would take out and watch and water his flock. It is very possible that he owned lots of land and possessions as he was of high stature being the priest of Midyan. He therefore gave the name of Kiniana to one of his 7 daughters hoping she would grow up to own land and be a hard worker like her father.

The last name mentioned by Rashi is Putiel, which is similar with the word Putam. In the dictionary, Putam is defined as fattened and stuffed. This daughter, Putam, could have been the daughter who brought out the food and prepared the meal when in Shemot 2:20Yitro asks his daughters why they did not invite Moshe to come over and break bread. The next pasuk says how Moshe did come over and break bread, so therefore Putam could have been the daughter to prepare the meal. 

According to Rashi and Chizkuni, in Shemot 2:16 since Yitro had stepped down from his role as priest of Midyan to believe in One God, he and his daughters were ostracized from their community. They were not welcomed and had to remain strong together and keep their emunah, faith.

We can come to learn from Yitro and the names that he possessed how significant one's name can be. Names hold a special meaning as they represent who we are and who we can become.

Molly (Tziporah) Geller, 19 is a student at Midreshet Devora (www.midreshetdevora.org). Molly is originally from Dallas , Texas . Molly is the daughter of Paul and Miriam Geller and a graduate of S.A.R. High School in Riverdale , NY . Molly plans to attend Stern College for Women next year in New York City . She is having an awesome time in Israel!


Send Mishloach Manot/ Matanot L'Evyonim (Gifts for
Purim and Gifts for the Poor) to Jerusalem ’s Impoverished Elderly!

 According to the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah: “gifts for the poor
deserve more attention than the seudah (festive meal) and mishloach  manot
(gifts for friends) because there is no greater, richer  happiness than bringing
joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans,  widows and proselytes.”

Torat Reva Yerushalayim will again be delivering mishloach manot/ matanot
laevyonim packages to elderly residents in Jerusalem’s nursing  homes on
Shushan Purim (the day that Purim is celebrated in  Jerusalem ). The packages
will include healthy snacks, gifts and Purim  treats.

Our goal is to provide packages for residents of two full nursing  homes
in Jerusalem who study Torah with Torat Reva Yerushalayim. A donation of $36
covers one package, $180 covers packages for an  entire floor of a nursing home.
Please click on the following link to donate on line
Or mail a check payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim to:
In the US
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue, Yonkers NY 10705
In Israel
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 12 Israel  Eldad #19, Jerusalem 93399
Apples, Grapes and Our Acceptance of the Torah Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 February 2009

In Parshat Yitro (Shmot 19:8) before the Ten Commandments were given we find B’nai Yisrael proclaiming the words “All that God has spoken, we will do (naaseh)”.


In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 24:7) we read “He then took the book of the covenant and read it in the ears of the people. They said “All that God has spoken we will do and we will listen (naaseh v’nishma)”. According to Rashi these words were declared before the giving of the Ten Commandments as well, following the principle of “ein mukdam u’meuchar batorah”, “the sections of the Torah are not necessarily in chronological order”.


A few days ago, we celebrated Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, when it is customary to eat different types of fruits, nuts and grains from the Land of Israel and study about their spiritual significance. Both the apple and the grape have spiritual interpretations which lead us back to the words “naaseh v’nishma”.


In Song of Songs 2:3 we see an allusion to the apple tree: “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons; in his shade I delighted and sat and his fruit was sweet to my palate”.


In the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat 88, Rabbi Chama ben Chanina asks why the Jewish people are compared to an apple tree? They are compared to an apple tree to teach us that just as in the case of an apple tree, its fruit precedes its leaves, so too did Israel precede ‘we will do (naaseh)’ to “we will hear (nishma)’.”


In Hoshea 9 we see an allusion to grapes “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness”.


Shmot Raba 44:1 asks the question: “Why is Israel compared to a grapevine? When you want to improve its fruit, you dig it up and replant it elsewhere and it improves. So too when God wanted to make Israel known in the world, what did he do? He uprooted them from Egypt and brought them to the wilderness where they flourished. When they began to receive the Torah, they said “All that God has spoken we will do and we will listen” and they became known throughout the world.


As the Jewish people continue to reside throughout the world as well as in Israel, we must remember the importance of following the mitzvoth and sanctifying God’s name the way that we did at Mount Sinai .


Opportunity to Send Mishloach Manot/ Matanot L'Evyonim to Jerusalem's Impoverished Elderly


According to the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah: “gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the seudah (festive meal) and mishloach manot (gifts for friends) because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”


Torat Reva Yerushalayim will be delivering mishloach manot/ matanot laevyonim packages to elderly residents in Jerusalem’s nursing homes on Shushan Purim (the day that Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem). The packages will include healthy snacks and Purim treats.


Our goal is to provide packages for residents of two full nursing homes in Jerusalem who study Torah with Torat Reva Yerushalayim.  


A donation of $18 covers one package, $180 covers packages for an entire floor of a nursing home.


Please click on the following link to donate on line


 Or mail a check payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim to:
In the US
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue, Yonkers NY 10705
In Israel
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 12 Israel  Eldad #19, Jerusalem 93399 

Keeping Shabbat in Mind All Week Long Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 January 2008

Each Friday night when we recite the famous “Lecha Dodi” prayer we say the following words: “Shamor v’Zachor b’dibur echad, ‘safeguard’ and ‘remember’ in a single utterance…”

The song is referring to the miraculous way that the mitzvah of Shabbat, the fourth of the Ten Commandments was given to B’nai Yisrael.

In Parshat Yitro, Shmot 20:8 we find the words “Zachor et yom haShabbat l’kodsho”, “Rememder the Shabbat day to sanctify it”, while in Devarim 5:12 we find the words “Shamor et yom haShabbat l’kodsho”, “Safeguard the Shabbat to sanctify it”.

The Gemara in Masechet Shavuot 20b explains the when God gave the Ten Commandments He caused B’nai Yisrael to hear the words “Shamor” and “Zachor” at the exact same time. Shamor refers to the injunction not to desecrate Shabbat (mitzvat lo ta’aseh) while Zachor reminds us to keep Shabbat in our hearts and give verbal expression to its holiness (mitzvat aseh).

According to Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, God combined both Zachor and Shamor at Sinai to show that they are inseparable. Shabbat is not just a day where we refrain from doing work, Shabbat is a spiritual day to sanctify and enjoy.

Zachor also reminds us that throughout the week we should be thinking of Shabbat and preparing for it. Rashi, quoting the Mechilta says that if you happen upon especially appetizing food then you should set it aside for Shabbat (this is where the custom of serving sugar cereals only on Shabbat is derived).

Sforno’s view is that throughout the week we should think about Shabbat while we are working so that we can push ourselves to accomplish what we need to before Shabbat starts. In that way, our minds will be clear and free of worries by the time that Shabbat comes along!


The Importance of Unity Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 February 2007


In Parshat Yitro, God told Moshe to convey to B.nai Yisrael His love and promised them that if they accepted the Torah, they would be privileged. However, this privilege carries responsibility as well. In Shmot 19:8 we see that B.nai Yisrael accepted God.s offer: "All of the people responded in unison (yachdav) and said, .All that God spoke, we will do. (na.aseh)".

According to HaGaon Rabbi Simcha Meir MiDvinsk, it is impossible for a person to observe every mitzvah in the Torah. Some mitzvoth are only for the Kohanim, others are only for the Levi.im. Other mitzvoth only apply to a king, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), a person who owns a house or a person who owns a field etc. B.nai Yisrael answered "na.aseh", "we will do" in unison since the 613 mitzvot can not be observed by one individual. Rather, they must be collectively observed by the entire nation.

Pardes Yosef adds that this teaches us the concept of "Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh LaZeh" all Jews are responsible for one another. When there is unity among the Jewish people it is as if all of the Jews observed all of the mitzvoth.

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 24:7 we read: "Moshe took the Sefer HaBrit, Book of the Covenant and read it in the ears of the people. They said, "All that God has spoken, we will do (na.aseh) and we will listen (venishma)."

Here the word "yachdav" (in unison) is left out while the word "venishma" (and we will listen) is added.

According to Pardes Yosef, all of the 613 mitzvot can be observed through Torah study. The word "venishma" is referring to Torah study. Each person as an individual can reach the level of observing all 613 mitzvot by studying Torah. Therefore here the word "yachdav" is omitted.

Let.s work on integrating into our daily lives the concept of taking responsibility for all Jews as well as the importance of Torah study.

The Connection Between a Jewish Wedding and the Revelation at Sinai Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Ma'amad Har Sinai, The Revelation at Sinai which we read in Parshat Yitro is actually the wedding between God and the Jewish people and is in many ways similar to a wedding between a bride and groom.

Before their wedding, the bride and sometimes the groom spiritually prepare themselves by ritually immersing in a mikvah. On the wedding day, both the bride and groom fast in order to disassociate themselves from the physical and direct their consciousness toward the spiritual aspect of marriage. Their love is so strong at that moment, they can't even think about food.

The stage is set and the guests are surrounding the chupah. The parents of the bride and groom hold candles as they escort them to the chupah. There are instruments playing and voices singing. The bride and groom are shaking and nervous.

Standing under the chupah is the moment of truth where the bride and groom affirm their total commitment to each other. The groom writes and gives the Ketubah, the marriage contract, to his bride showing that this is a long term commitment and he will provide for all of her needs. She accepts the Ketubah as well as the ring which represents the endless bond between husband and wife.

Ma'amad Har Sinai was a similar experience.

The Jewish people prepared themselves spiritually. They immersed in the mikvah and fasted. The proof that they immersed in a mikvah: (Shmot 19:10) "Sanctify them today and tomorrow and they shall wash their clothing". Ramban, quoting the Mechilta comments: When the Torah talks about washing clothing, it is referring to ritual immersion.

There is proof that they fasted (Shmot 24:11) "The people had a vision of God and they ate and drank". According to the Zohar, they didn't eat physical food. Rather, their vision of God was their nourishment. They didn't have to eat physical food. They were fully able to concentrate on the spiritual.

At Mt. Sinai, there was an atmosphere. (Shmot 19:16) "There was thunder, there was lightning, a heavy cloud covered the mountain, the sound of the shofar was very powerful, the people shuddered. In this very pasuk, we have the lights, we have the music, we have the chupah and the people are nervous.

Moshe escorts the Jewish people to greet God (Shmot 19:17) "Moshe brought the people out from the camp towards God and they stood at the bottom of the mountain".

At this point, the mountain was above their heads, literally like a chupah. In the words of the Gemara in Shabbat: God covered them with the mountain as though it were an upturned vat.

At this wedding, instead of a ring being given, God gave the Jewish people the Torah. The Torah is actually like a ring, it is endless. As soon as we finish reading it, we begin again. The Torah is the endless bond between God and the Jewish people.

Even the Ketubah has a parallel in the Torah, the Sefer HaBrit. (Shmot 24:7) "Moshe took the book of the covenant and read it in the ears of the people". According to Chizkuni, the Sefer HaBrit was the list from Sefer Vayikra of God's obligations to the Jewish people and the Jewish people's obligations to God. The people responded: "All that you have spoken, we will do and we will listen". The Jewish people expressed their commitment to God, the Torah and the mitzvoth.

Every Jewish wedding, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, small or large, lavish or simple has something in common it's similarity to Ma'amad har Sinai. As the Jewish people committed themselves to God at Sinai, so too do bride and groom commit themselves to each other under the chupah.

One more thought. After the first luchot, tablets were broken Moshe ascended Mt. Sinai for another 40 days and nights. Then God gave the second set of luchot. The way that the luchot were given the second time was different than the first. There were no kolot u'vrakim, there was no thunder and lightning. Although this revelation was far simpler, it was more lasting---the second luchot, unlike the first, were never broken.

This sends us a message that a wedding should have a certain amount of humility in both the way that the wedding and celebration are conducted as well as in the way that the bride and groom commit themselves to each other. To remind us of the importance of weddings being humble, there was an ancient custom where a table at the wedding was set up for the poor to come and eat. This parallels the broken pieces of the first luchot which received a permanent place in the ark. This teaches us that even on one of the happiest days of our lives we should not forget those who are less fortunate. The broken ones should also be included.

The breaking of the glass under the chupah evokes Moshe's breaking of the tablets under the mountain and our responsibility to those whose lives have been broken.

I will never forget when on the morning of her elegant wedding, a bride called me to find out how she could donate the flowers from her wedding to a nursing home. I was so moved by the fact that amidst her last minute preparations, instead of just worrying about her hair, make-up and dress, she was concerned about brightening up the day of people she didn't even know. She understood the message of the broken glass.

This Shabbat, when we read the Aseret HaDibrot, we will in fact be simulating the moment of Sinai. When we witness a wedding ceremony, that Sinaitic moment is re-enacted again.

The challenge for all of us is how to bring the revelation at Sinai into every day of our lives.