Friday, February 10, 2023

both sides of the equation

 וַיִּשְׁמַ֞ע יִתְר֨וֹ כֹהֵ֤ן מִדְיָן֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֵת֩ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹקים֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא הֹ׳ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

What did Yisro hear?  The pasuk seems to repeat itself:

1) אֵת֩ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹקים֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ 

2)  כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא הֹ׳ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם

Sefas Emes (in the likkutim) explains that יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל at the end of the pasuk refers to "Yisrael sabba."  Hashem released the Jewish nation, יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ, from the Egyptian bondage, but this it was also a release of the Jewish identity, the Jewish spiritual character and essence, that had been forged by Yaakov Avinu.  

Last week we read about the war Bn"Y fought against Amalek.  Moshe designated Yehoshua, from sheivet Ephraim, to lead the people in that battle.  The gemara in Baba Basra writes that we have a tradition that Amalek will fall only at the hands of decedents of Yosef.  Why should this be so?  Once upon a time I suggested that Amalek did not take issue with G-d's power to perform miracles.  The world had heard about the exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the sea.  The Midrash connects "Az Yashir Moshe" with the establishment of G-d's kisa, throne, "Nachon kisa'acha mei'AZ."  The word "AZ" is spelled with a zayin=7, like the seven days of the week, the normal routine cycle, but there is also an aleph=1.  There is a +1, there is something that transcends the routine, the normal cycle of events.  Amalek is OK with that.  G-d can have his throne in Heaven, in the world of miracles.  But if that's all there is, then "ain ha'kisei shaleim," Hashem's throne is not really complete.  Most of life is just the 7 of routine, not the +1 part.  Miracles are few and far between.  Most of life is day to day mundane drudgery and there is no supernatural cavalry on the way to help with the challenges.  Amalek's position is that G-d has nothing to do with that part of life.  Nature runs its course and we don't really see the yad Hashem.  The antidote to Amalek is Yosef, who dressed like an Egyptian, spoke like an Egyptian, managed to rise to the heights of Egyptian society, but behind that façade remained Yosef hatzaddik.  Nature too is just a façade.  Just because you don't see the yad Hashem on the surface doesn't mean it's not there.

Rashi comments וישמע יתרו – קריעת ים סוף ומלחמת עמלק.  The Berdichiver explains that Yisro saw both sides of the equation.  He witnessed the splitting of Yam Suf, the miraculous, the supernatural, the overt yad Hashem, but he also heard of the battle against Amalek, the idea that G-d is present, albeit in a concealed way, in every day life as well.   וַיִּ֣חַדְּ יִתְר֔וֹ עַ֚ל כׇּל־הַטּוֹבָ֔ה -- the word וַיִּ֣חַדְּ, says the Berdichiver, is like we say "l'shem yichud..."  The G-d of miracles is one and the same as G-d hiding behind the scenes in every day life.  

So maybe there is nothing extraneous in that opening pasuk in the parsha, and in fact, maybe it's this doubling which, based on the Berdichiver's reading, Rashi is helping resolve.  כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא הֹ׳ אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם -- Yisro heard about the open miracles that were revealed (as we read in parshas Va'Eira) through the shem Havaya in yetzi'as Mitzrayim, but he also heard about  כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹקים֙, that G-d was immanent in nature (Elokim = gematriya of teva), in the mundane and day to day, as well.

2. I'll throw this out there, but it's admittedly a stretch, so consider it al derech derush: the difficulty with Rashi, וישמע יתרו – קריעת ים סוף ומלחמת עמלק, is that the pasuk seems to require no explanation of what Yisro heard since it tells us the answer - כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹקים֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ.  What is Rashi explaining here?

There is a Gur Aryeh that the Shev Shmaytza discusses in his hakdama (letter cheis, tes) which says that the din of ger she'nisgayeir k'katan she'nolad only applies when there is a choice whether to convert or not.  However, at maamad Har Sinai there was no choice.  The gemara says that Hashem held the mountain over the heads of Bn"Y -- it was accept the Torah or be crushed.  Therefore, relationships and the issurei arayos that stem from those relationships remained intact.

Perhaps what was bothering Rashi is that Yisro here is called חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה.  Yisro converted and get she'nisgayeir k'katan she'nolad, so how can he still be called חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה?  The answer is that an event makes such an impression on a person that they are forced to react in some way.  The gemara writes that in the days of Shlomo they would not accept converts.  People would see the greatness of Shlomo's kingdom and want to convert, but it was not a real kabbalas ha'mitzvos.  What kind of event could elicit such a reaction?  Rashi answerrs --  קריעת ים סוף ומלחמת עמלק.  Yisro saw the greatness of yad Hashem in those events and it hit home in his heart and it forced him to react, it coerced him to react no less than as if a mountain were held over his head.  That's why he is still called חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה.  

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