Parshas Yisro - Thrice Torah Themes, The Missing Tov, To Talk or Not To

By Rabbi Yosef Tropper

Posted on 01/24/19

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1) Established as a Special Nation

VaAtah shamoah tishmau b’koli” (Shemos 19:5), if you listen to My voice, says Hashem, “usamartem es brisi”, and you follow my covenant, referring to the mitzvos, the covenant with Hashem then “v’hiyisem li segulah mi’kol ha’amim”,  you will be a unique nation, you will be my treasure among all the other nations.  Klal Yisrael will be different and special.  “Ki li kol ha’aretz”, because I own the whole world, [but you will be my special nation.] With the acceptance of the Torah, Klal Yisrael became a special nation.

Three Aspects Hinted

Gra points out that there are three aspects of Kabbalas HaTorah.  Three times that the Jews accepted the Torah, and three aspects. What is that? The first is here. “V’hiyisem li segulah” refers to, “You will be my treasure” because you accept to do my mitzvos.  The umos ha’olam have sheva mitzvos Bnei Noach, the Noahide Commandments, but the Jews accepted the 613 mitzvos of the Torah. The second time was at Har Sinai itself, and the third time is when Moshe made a bris with them, a covenant. They accepted the Torah. We find in Shabbos (88b) the idea of the three-fold concept relating to Torah, see there for more.

Says the Gra, these are hinted to in the bracha of birchas HaTorah that we say every morning. We refer to these three aspects of kabbalas HaTorah.

1- He explains that “asher bachar banu m’kol ha’amim”. Hashem, You chose us from all the other nations.  That refers to this pasuk, “V’hiyisem li segulah mi’kol ha’amim”, that we were chosen and we are special Klal Yisrael because we accepted the mitzvos.  

2- “V’nasan lanu es Toraso,” that refers to the great event of ma’amad Har Sinai, where we were powerfully given the Torah through an electrifying spiritual event.  

3- “Baruch Atah Hashem nosein haTorah,” is the third thing.  What’s “HaTorah”?  Why the hey hayediyah? Because it’s the most important part of the Torah, so to speak.  The Torah She’Baal Peh that gets passed from rebbe to talmid, and that is the Torah that is nosein, says the Gra, it’s in the hoveh, it’s in the present, it’s always being passed from rebbe to talmid currently, like the first mishna in Pirkei Avos says that Moshe kibeil Torah m’Sinai u’mesaruhah l’Yehoshua, etc., etc., all the way down to us.  And, so that’s “nosein HaTorah”, and those are the three aspects of Kabbalas HaTorah.

Three parts of Torah Correspond to Eyes, Ears and Heart

Gra says another thing elsewhere, and he actually ties into the Haftorah, but I’m not going to go into that specifically now because it’s very detailed, but he says: In general, Torah SheBichsav, you’re not allowed to say it ba’al peh the gemara in Gittin tells us, and he says that’s k’neged the ayin, the eye. Your eye has to read the Torah SheBichsav. Osiyos machkimos, like Chazal tell us. (We don’t actually know where that Chazal is. There’s different disputes about what the source of that is.) That’s the eye.  “Torah SheBa’al Peh lo nitan l’hikaseiv”, the Oral Torah can’t be written down.  Of course, we know that it was written down later because of “eis la’asos laHashem heifiru Torasechah”, so that the Torah will not be forgotten.  If we can imagine if we had to memorize 2711 pages of Shas which is how many pages we have today in out print. That would be a lot.  So, we have it written down. But in essence it corresponds to the ears because your ears have to listen to the Torah. The secrets of Torah, the final part, corresponds to your heart, and so, says the Gra: When you learn, you have to elevate and make holy your eyes, make holy your ears and make holy your heart.  That’s how we learn with those three aspects.

2) Why does it say “Tov” only in Dibros Achronos?

When you look at the Aseres Hadibros there’s a lot of beautiful ideas, and I’m going to share a few. One of them is an ever perplexing Gemara in Bava Kama (54b). It says that Rav Chanina ben Agil asked Rav Chiya bar Abba: Why is it that in the Dibros Rishonos, in the first version of the Aseres Hadibros which is in our parsha of Yisro, it doesn’t say the word “tov”, whereas in the dibros achronos, the ones in V’eschana it does say “tov”.

Let’s just explain, he’s referring to V’Eschanan (5:16), “L’maan yitav lach al ha’adamah”. This is the word tov, good, which is omitted from the first dibros in our parsha. He asked why this is. Interesting question.  So, Rav Chiya bar Abba answered: Before you ask me why the word “tov” is used in the second dibros, why don’t you first ask me whether or not it actually does say “tov” because I don’t know if it says “tov” or not.”

Now, this a difficult to understand comment. Tosfos says the thing that we don’t really want to say which is he says that there were some great people that didn’t even know all the pesukim. But, that’s very odd because Chazal darshen all the pesukim, and it’s hard to understand what Tosfos even means by that.  So, there is a Ba’al HaTurim on these pesukim that actually has his p’shat which is very fascinating, and I believe if you study it well, it ties into the Gra.  But, I’m going to focus on the Gra right now.

“Tov” refers to the good of Olam Hazeh that a person Merits for Kibud Av V’Aim

Gra says: We’re not trying to compare the pesukim because there’s many, many differences between the dibros rishonos and dibros achronos, the ones in Yisro and the ones in V’Eschanan.  For example, whether it says “zachor” or “shamor” for Shabbos, or whether it says “sheker” or “shav”.  There’s all different types of differences.  That’s not what’s being asked. 

What’s being asked is the following: The gemara darshens that “L’maan yitav lach” means that you should fulfill kibud av v’aim, so that you’ll have a good life in Olam HaZeh, this world, and “v’arachta yamim”, you’ll have a long life in Olam Habah. In the second dibros both this world (yitav) and the next world (haarachta yamim) are stated, whereas in the dibros rishonos it doesn’t say anything about good in this world. It doesn’t say the word “tov”.   It just says regular promise you’ll get arichus yamim, a good reward in olam habah. This was the question asked.

No Reward Here

So, what happened was, Rav Chiya bar Abba said back:  Hold on.  I hold like Rav Yaakov, and Rav Yaakov in the gemara says very clearly, “Schar mitzvah b’hai alma leka”.  There is no reward in this world for mitzvos. Thus, I wouldn’t read any words in the tune of darshening to be offering reward in this world. Therefore, I don’t agree with you regarding your interpretation of the word “tov” in the second dibros to refer to Olam Hazeh in the first place. That’s what he told him to go to Rav Tanchum bar Chaniluy because he’s the Aggadatah man, and he’s a talmid of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi who’s an expert in Aggadeta and both of them, probably, will read it that it does refer to Olam Hazeh, and then they’ll give you an answer.

Allaying a Misunderstanding

He went there and asked them this question, and he was told that the answer is why doesn’t it say “tov” in the dibros rishonos?  Because those were going to be smashed, and, therefore, it would look like that that tov, that good, was lost forever. People would say, “paska tova m’Yisrael”, all good has been pulled away from Klal Yisrael.  What does that mean?

Further explains Gra: The luchos were smashed and they went back up to shamayim, so when it says the words “arichus yamim” that’s referring to Olam Habah. The letters went back up to heaven and thus the first set only referred to olam habah, because when smashed, people saw clearly that the promise of olam habah was still in tact. However, had it made mention of olam hazeh, people would worry that the luchos referring to good in this world have been retracted and it no longer will be granted.

3) “Yafeh sh’ah acha b’Olam Hazeh m’kol chayeiy Olam Habah.”

Obviously this needs to be digested, but I just want to point out a couple of ideas.  One of them is that we read a gemara that the Gra has a beautiful explanation of what’s going on in the gemara itself, but the second one, is just an interesting idea, and that is that when it comes to Olam Hazeh, why does it use the word “tov”?  “L’maan yitav lach”.  Why does that refer to Olam Hazeh?  And, I believe that the answer is because the mishna in Pirkei Avos says that “yafeh sha’ah achas” in Olam Hazeh more than “kol chayeiy Olam Habah”.

Opportunity that one has in this world is amazing

Now, what does that mean?  It doesn’t mean that the pleasure in this world is worth more.  It means that the value of opportunity that one has in this world is amazing because one second of hirhur teshuva can change a person for life and for eternity.  And, because our time here is so valuable, that is why it says the word “tov”.  Of course, the yom she’kullo tov, yom shekull is Olam Habah, but when you’re going to use the word “tov” to a human being who is living in this world, we want him to understand and appreciate that this is a great opportunity.  How valuable and precious life is every moment. 

“Mah yisonein adam hachai”.   “Daye lo sheyeish lo chayim", the gemara in Kiddushin says and Chazal (Kiddushin) say. How could the live person complain?  It’s enough that he’s alive.  Life is an opportunity to connect to Hashem.  That’s the tov.  We should always remember that we’re in a time period of tov no matter what’s happening.  This is an opportunity to perfect ourselves, and the Rebono Shel Olam is giving us that opportunity which is “Yafeh sha’ah achas” more than all Olam Habah because we’re creating our Olam Habah at every moment.  And, when we live life with that perspective and realize the opportunity of every moment of our life, it becomes a lot more meaningful.

Accept Book and Protect from Sword

Rav Dessler has a p’shat brought down from the Alter of Kelm that it says, “Hasayif v’hasefer yardu keruchim zeh bazeh.” There’s a Midrash that says that the sword and the book came down together to express that  if you accept this then you won’t have that.  Or visa versa.  What does that mean? The Alter explains that it means that if a person is mekabel ol malchus Shamayim, he learns Torah, that’s a sefer, he learns the ultimate sefer, the ultimate book, The Rebbono Shel Olam’s daas, so then his life is worthwhile and he’s safe from the sword because he lives forever.  He lives in the Torah, but if he goes for the sword, he goes for Olam Hazeh, he gets distracted, then he has nothing. 

To me, that’s the p’shat in tov that we should recognize the opportunity of life.  Every moment that we’re alive, every moment that we’re here is the greatest opportunity of building our nitzchiyus and that’s the p’shat, that we’ didn’t want to say “paska tova m’Yisrael”, that maybe Hashem took away that opportunity. Each person’s life has a purpose and there’s what to accomplish.

4) “Lo sirtzach” – kamatz or patach?

There’s an interesting Gra, moving on in the pasuk of “lo sirtzach”.  Now, we know that there’s taam elyon and taam tachton.  When you read it do you pronounce it, “lo sirtzuch”, with a kamatz, or “lo sirtzach”, with a patach? There are two different ways to read it.  So, the Gra, of course, explains it because every word of Torah is important.  He says that there’s a difference. The reason that it’s written this way and pronounced in two different ways depending on where it’s being read, etc.  Different minhagim as well is because there are two lessons that are being said here.

Two Types of Murderers: patach and kamatz

What is that?  It’s being merameiz to a gemara in Avodah Zarah (19b). The gemara says  that a person who doesn’t know how to pasken should not be paskening, and a person who does know how to pasken and refuses to help others is also a churban. The gemara says, “Ki rabim challalim hipilah”.  He miscarried many, and caused a lot of death.  That’s a talmid, a student, that doesn’t know how to pasken, but yet does so anyway.  So, he’s considered a murderer.  And, “v’atzumim kol harugah”, and it is a large mascare. That’s a talmid she’higiyah l’horaah, who’s able to pasken and yet doesn’t share.  

So that’s the p’shat: that there’s two types of murderers.  One who is someone who doesn’t have knowledge, and yet opens his mouth anyway and thinks he has wisdom, and the other one is someone who has knowledge and could share and could inspire others, but he closes his mouth and doesn’t share. Says the Gra that’s what’s being said over here too.

A kamatz means a person who squeezes closed his mouth and doesn’t talk. He’s oveir on a spiritual lo sirtzach, murder prohibition, so to speak, because he could be inspiring other people by opening his mouth. The patach, is the one who opens his mouth and he doesn’t know how to pasken, doesn’t know what he’s saying, and yet he’s saying things and misguiding people and hurting them, so he’s a person that should be quiet, and, yet, he’s patach, he opens his mouth up, he’s hurting others.  He’s killing others, and those are the people that lo sirtzach is hinting to.

Our purpose is to share Hashem’s Torah

I just want to say one more thing about the kamatz.  The man who is withholding and not sharing with others. First of all, there’s a famous vort from the Binah L’Ittim. It’s a chassidish vort, but it says, “Im lamaditah Torah Harbeih”, if you learned a lot of Torah, “al tachzik tova l’atzmicha”.  The simple translation is: Don’t be haughty.  Don’t think that you’re so great.  But, he said the Binnah L’Ittim says, “Al tachzik tovah l’atzmicha”, means if you learned a lot of Torah, don’t hold it in.  You have to share it with others.  The purpose of life is to share with others, to care for others.  

The greatest thing that we could do it to take care of other people and share the Torah.  And, that’s what the Rebono Shel Olam wants.  He wants us to share with other people. And, if you love someone, you care about them, we love Hashem, we love His Torah, then you want to share it with other people.  Just like we talk about what’s important to us, what’s precious to us: our family, our relatives, etc.  A father, a mother is always looking to show other people and talk about their children’s merits and how great they are because they love them.  So too, someone who loves Torah is always wanting to study more, and they can’t get enough of it and wants to share it with other people.  That’s what ahavas Hashem is, to share.  That’s what Hashem is looking for.

The kamatz, the person that is a kamtzan, the person who is stingy about sharing Torah , is not fulfilling his purpose in life. Our purpose is to share with other people.  And, of course, it’s not murder as far as we talk about killing someone, but it’s a spiritual murder because he’s withholding the greatness that he could be sharing with other people.

We should be zocheh to take these lessons and to be mekabeil the Torah and to learn to love the Torah and to connect to the Torah and share the Torah with everyone.


Rabbi Yosef Tropper is a rabbi and psychotherapist. Subscribe at ParshaThemes.com