Weekly Reading Insights: 

Yitro

BS"D

From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


Ramban

"...and keep My covenant, you shall by My special treasure among the nations…" [19:5]

'and keep My covenant'. I.e., "the covenant that I have made with your fathers to be a G-d unto them and to their seed after them." [Gen. 17:7] Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra explained it as referring to the covenant which Moses was to make with Israel after the giving of the Torah, as he said: "Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Eternal hath made with you in agreement with all these words." [further, 24:8]

By the way of Truth, [that is, the mystic lore of the Kabbalah, the verse is to be understood as meaning] that "you should keep My covenant to cleave unto Me, for if thou shall indeed hearken unto My voice and do all that I speak [see ibid., 23:22] then you shall be Mine own s'gulah (treasure) from among all peoples."[here in verse 5] This means that "you will be a treasure 'in My hand," for a king does not hand over a precious object into the hand of another (for permanent possession). The word s'gulah here is similar in meaning to the expression: "..us'gulath (and treasure) such as kings and the provinces have as their own."[Eccl. 2:8]

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Rabbeinu Bachya

The Ten Commandments

A Kabbalistic approach. The Ten Commandments correspond to the ten emanations you will find in the 613 letters corresponding to the 613 commandments which emanate from the Ten Commandants. The extra seven letters (which we discussed earlier) are an allusion to the seven 'voices' Moses heard, i.e. that he acquired an understanding of the meaning of the seven lower emanations while he experienced the revelation at Mount Sinai. When you add these seven letters to the other 613 letters the total numerical value will be 620, the numerical value of the tenth and highest emanation keter. The seven emanations which Moses had learned to understand were all derived from that highest emanation keter.
Each emanation relates or is relevant to one of the Ten Commandments (continued in text).

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Alsheich

"Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own treasure from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." [19:5-6]

In order now for you to hear My voice personally, all you have to do is listen to My commandments and observe My covenant. The freedom from the angel of death will come only 40 days later. At this stage the most you can achieve is to hear My voice.

Should Israel ask that if they are to be totally spiritual creatures such as angels, why would G'd take the Torah out of the celestial regions, away from the angels, and give it to them? The Torah answers that Israel has two tasks.!) To become a kingdom of priests. 2) To be a holy nation.

When our sages describe the condition of the soul in the world to come, they employ the following hyperbole. 'The righteous are seated with their crowns on their heads". They do not simply say that the righteous wear crowns, but that they wear their crowns on their heads while seated. Angels are always described as standing, never as leaping, or moving forward. See, for example: Isaiah 6, 2; Zachariah 3,7.

We need to view G-d as like a king who has two categories of servants at his command. One category is assigned duty in his palace, a permanent assignment. The reward of these servants is the very fact that they have the privilege of serving G-d. The second category of servants receive instructions to perform their errands on behalf of G-'d outside His palace. Their reward will be that once they have performed their tasks, they will be recalled to the palace and assigned positions of honor near the king, and enjoy the king's company henceforth. They will not be called upon to carry out any further assignments.

There is no doubt that this latter category of servants is the more beloved of the two. The first category referred to in our parable are the malachey hasharet, angels of service, whom G-d employs forever who are busy carrying out assignments as we read in Psalms 103:21 'His servants who are performing His will'

The second category are the Jewish people, whose assignments are limited to the time allocated to them on this earth. After that, they retire to celestial regions, enjoying the peace and harmony that prevails there. The reason they can do so is, that by performing G-d's commandments down here, we have created new agents for G-d. Our crowns are these very angels created by our meritorious acts. It is all this which G'd has in mind when He tells the Jewish people 'you will be for Me etc...' Since angels are not equipped with an evil urge, they cannot receive credit for subduing it, sublimating it.

This is the reason G'd prefers tzadikim over malachim, righteous people over angels.

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Shelah

I shall now attempt to convey some of the mystical dimensions of the Ten Commandments, five of which address themselves to our Maker and five to the well-being of our fellow-man. The entire Torah consists of permutations of the name of G-d…

We are already well aware that the entire Torah consists of permutations of the name of G-d, permutations which extend endlessly in all directions of the universe.

The four-lettered Ineffable Name, yud, hei, vav, hei (Havayah) is the name which symbolizes G-d's essence. All other names are somehow derived from this four-lettered name; these various "pseudonyms" of G-d's name are subordinate to this name, Havayah. There is not a word or letter in the Torah which does not in some form allude, however indirectly, to a name of G-d and which in turn links up with the four-lettered Ineffable Name. This means that the "Torah of G-d is complete", and all its aspects somehow lead back to the Ineffable Name.

Keeping this in mind it is easy to understand that the Ten Commandments contain within them the whole Torah in "capsule form".

The Ten Commandments consist of 620 letters, corresponding to the Crown [in Hebrew keter, which has a numerical value of 620] of Torah. 613 of these letters represent the 613 commandments of the Torah that are addressed to the Jewish people, whereas the other 7 letters represent the 7 Noahide laws, addressed to all of mankind. It is fairly obvious then that the Ten Commandments more than any other part of the Torah contains the mystical dimension of the Ineffable Name

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Ohr HaChayim

"…Who took you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery." (20:2)

The division between the words 'from the land of Egypt" and from the house of slavery" may also be deliberate, i.e. the first expression refers to the Exodus which has already taken place, while the last expression refers to the liberation in the future when the Messiah will arrive.

The words "who has taken you out of Egypt" also provide the answer to the question why G-d did not simply replace the Egyptians in Egypt with the Jews and establish us as the rulers in that land. Why was it necessary to leave the land, to travel through the desert, etc.? Surely the Israelites would have derived greater satisfaction from such a solution to their problems than to have to march to Canaan and there to dispossess a people which had never done them any harm. Moreover, it would have demonstrated G-d's power if He dispossessed the Egyptians of their land!

G-d explained that inasmuch as the very land of Egypt was a house of bondage, this would not have been appropriate. We read in Deut. 32,8: "when the Supreme G-d handed out the inheritance of the various nations, He established boundaries for the peoples in relation to Israel's numbers." The Zohar volume 1 page 108 comments that G-d handed out certain places on earth to the guardian angels of the various nations, and that the only land He did not assign to such guardian angels was the land of Canaan. G-d had reserved the land of Canaan for Himself.

The Torah says 'house of slavery,' describing the place as one assigned to one of G-d's servants (the guardian angel of Egypt). G-d did not want for the Jewish people to live in a homeland which "belonged" to the guardian angel of the Egyptians. He wanted the Israelites to reside in a country which was directly under His personal guidance.

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Sources

Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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