Friday, January 21, 2011

Yisro 5635 First Ma'amar

Chazal[1] teach us that the world will last for six thousand years.  The first two thousand was chaos.  The second two thousand was Torah.  The third two thousand are the days of the Moshiach.  From here we infer that the giving of the Torah is an integral part of the process leading to the culmination of history with God's ultimate revelation to humanity.  It is, in fact, a necessary rectification without which the Creation would be – to use the words of Chazal – chaos.

If the Torah is so integral to the ultimate purpose of the Creation, why was it not given at the outset of history?  Why did God sustain the world for two thousand years before the era of Torah began?  The Sfas Emes answers that until the nation of Israel left Egypt and stood at the foot of Mount Sinai there was no one to accept the Torah[2].  The nation of Israel subordinated themselves entirely to God and the Torah when we said, "נעשה ונשמע/We will do and we will listen" agreeing to act according to God's will even before knowing what that meant.

Since the Torah was a rectification for the entire world, not just for the nation of Israel, in order for the rectification to be complete all the nations had to subordinate themselves to the children of Israel.  In fact, this happened after the nation left Egypt, "שמעו עמים ירגזון .../Nations heard and trembled …"  The exception was the nation of Amalek.  The nation of Amalek was totally dedicated to the goal of fighting the children of Israel even though they understood the greatness of Israel and the rule of God.  This is why God will blot out their name.[3]

There was good reason to believe that Amalek's fight against Israel would be effective in preventing the subordination of the nations of the world to Israel, if not on the battlefield.[4]  The reasoning was that even though Amalek lost the battle, they fought it.  Maybe some other stronger nation would come along, fight and win. 

Thus, Amalek's purpose was to prevent the giving of the Torah.   For if the nations would not submit to the children of Israel, the Torah would not rectify the world and there would be no point to giving it.

Yisro understood this.  This is why he came after hearing about the war with Amalek[5] and before we accepted the Torah[6].  A giant among the nations such as Yisro, by subordinating himself to God, would cause the nations to follow him instead of Amalek thus repairing the damage Amalek caused.  In essence, Yisro rectified Amalek's corruption. 

This is clearly the message of the Midrash on the pasuk, "לץ תכה ופתי יערים/Strike the scoffer and the simpleton becomes clever." (Mishlei 19:25)  Chazal[7] explain that the scoffer is Amalek.  The simpleton is Yisro.  When Israel struck Amalek, Yisro understood the ramifications and came to subordinate himself to God and the nation of Israel so that the nations of the world would follow him instead of Amalek.  In the words of the pasuk, he "became clever."  He thus rectified the damage caused by Amalek and set the stage for the giving of the Torah.

[1] Tanna d'vai Eliyahu 2
[2] Certainly there were righteous people who were on a level to accept the Torah.  However, the Torah needed to be accepted and practiced by a nation.  Until the nation of Israel left Egypt, there was no nation that could have accepted it.
[3] Based on the Zohar 2:65a
[4] See
[5] Chazal teach us that he heard about the war with Amalek and the splitting of the Red Sea.  The commentaries ask, why specifically these two.  After all, there were many miracles that God performed for the nation including the ten plagues, the manna, the well and others.  According to the Sfas Emes the answer is clear.  After the splitting of the Red Sea the nations subordinated themselves to the children of Israel.  The war with Amalek put this subordination at risk.  Yisro understood and therefore came.
[6] According to R. Yehoshua in Zevachim 116a
[7] Tanchuma Yisro 3

No comments: