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Shiurim & Adult Education
THOUGHTS ON PARASHAT YITRO BY PAUL KOSLOVER
In his online resource Aleph Beta Rabbi Fohrman has a fascinating perspective on this week’s Parasha which I would like to share with you.
Rabbi Fohrman considers the encounter between Moshe and Hashem at the Burning Bush which he compares with the giving of the Ten Commandments. At the Burning Bush we are told: “Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of Hashem.” The mountain of Hashem is Mount Sinai. Therefore, when Moshe leads Bnei Yisrael to Mount Sinai this is not his first visit to this place; forty years earlier he had a personal conversation with Hashem at the very same place. Then he was shepherding sheep now he is shepherding Bnei Yisrael. Then the bush was not consumed even though it was on fire. Now, the whole mountain is on fire but is not consumed. Then Hashem warns Moshe not to get closer as the ground is holy. Now, Hashem warns the people not to encroach as the whole mountain is holy.
Another connection between these momentous events is that at the burning bush Hashem told Moshe to take off his shoes. The Kabbalists describe how the soul fits into the body like a body fits into shoes. Therefore, we can understand this to mean that Moshe was being asked to step out of his body, have an out of body experience. At Mount Sinai all of Bnei Yisrael had an out of body experience, leaving their body-shoes, when Hashem spoke to them.
Delving deeper into the text we can find further remarkable insights. At the burning bush, Hashem introduces himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In Parasha Yitro the first commandment states: I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage”. The point being emphasized it that in Moshe’s first encounter, Hashem could not claim that He was “your God” because He hadn’t done anything for “you”. He made promises to Moshe’s forefathers. In this week’s parasha Hashem has taken Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. He can now declare, “I am your God because I have done what I said I would do. I saw your pain and I responded. I took you out of Egypt.”
In the second exchange at the burning bush Moses said to Hashem “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain”. In the Ten Commandments, this become ‘there shall not be for you other gods.’ Do not have allegiance to other gods, only to the one God. The rationale is that Hashem was there when Moshe was down, Hashem was there for the entire people when they were down at their spiritually lowest point in Egypt. Hashem said you are never a nothing, I am with you, and you are a something.
Rabbi Fohrman demonstrates a further parallel with the first five commandments. In the third exchange at the burning bush Moshe asked Hashem his name. The answer was “Ekyeh-Asher-Ekyeh”. This can be taken as: Hashem will always be with you in your time of trouble. This is an expression of ultimate empathy from the Master of the Universe. This can be compared with the third commandment of not taking Hashem’s name in vain. “If God’s name is His empathy for you, don’t take that name lightly.”
A fourth example of the mirroring of the burning bush with the Ten Commandments is found in the signs Hashem showed Moshe at the burning bush compared with the mention of Shabbos, the fifth commandment which is stated to be a “sign between me and you”.
The fifth example of parallels relates to Moshe using the phrase:
כְבַד־פֶּ֛ה וּכְבַ֥ד לָשׁ֖וֹן אָנֹֽכִי at the burning bush; the same letters now mean honor, honor your father and your mother.
Finally, Hebrew word for bush: סְּנֶֽה. It is remarkably close to סִינַי֙. The Hey in Bush has a numerical value of 5; the yud in Sinai 10.
Moshe’s encounter at the burning bush is an intriguing template for the Ten Commandments themselves. When Moshe was appointed by Hashem to be the leader of Bnei Yisrael he was given a supernatural, Divine revelation, a mini Sinai experience. This was the original flash of inspiration which enabled him to guide us out of Egypt. The final culmination of that inspiration happens at Mount Sinai. The mussar we can take from this is that when we are given a flash of inspiration, a moment in life which gives us a spiritual uplift, it is up to us to build on it and own it thereby fulfilling our potential.