1. On Shabbos Parshas Yisro we read in the Torah about Mattan Torah — the giving of the Torah. The word “Yisro” means addition, and as such summarizes the concept of Mattan Torah. For the purpose of Torah is to effect an additional effusion of G‑dliness into the world, fulfilling the purpose of the world’s creation — “G‑d desired a dwelling place in the lower (i.e. this corporeal) world.”

The preeminent reason for the creation of this and all the other higher, less corporeal worlds was because “G‑d desired a dwelling place in this world.” There are many other reasons given for the creation; yet each in itself is insufficient, and ultimately we must resort to the main reason — that it was a desire, and “about a desire one cannot question why.” These other reasons are valid, even though they are insufficient by themselves, for not only this world was created, but the entire order of worlds and stages prior to this one. And each world and stage in creation must have a reason unique to itself explaining why each was necessary to the entire creation.

An analogy to this is found in the concept of Torah. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya (Ch. 37) that Torah should be learned with such intensity that “All my bones shall declare;” citing the Talmud (Eruvin 54a) which states that “if the Torah reposes in all the 248 organs, it will be preserved; but if not, it will not be preserved.” Thus, the study of Torah must permeate one’s entire being.

The study of Torah permeates each and every organ of the body according to the unique function of each organ. It relates to the brain through the intellect, the brain’s function; to the heart, through feeling; to the heel, in the form of acceptance of the yoke of heaven, obedience being the function of the heel. Thus, saying that Torah study should reach a level where “All my bones declare” and it “reposes in all the 248 organs” does not mean that it permeates each organ in an identical fashion; but rather each organ is reached in a manner consonant with its unique function.

Likewise with Mitzvos: even though each Mitzvah is included in every other Mitzvah,1 nevertheless, each is special unto itself; and each of the 248 positive Mitzvos corresponds uniquely to one of the 248 organs of the body. For although Mitzvos comprise a general unified entity, nevertheless, as in the study of Torah, each affects one organ according to its function — and hence each Mitzvah corresponds to one particular organ.

This concept of general entity and simultaneously unique particulars, exists in all matters. Shabbos, for example, affects and includes within itself all the previous weekdays, while simultaneously remaining a unique entity unto itself. Similarly, every Shabbos in the year derives its existence from Shabbos Bereishis, binding all Shabbosim together. Yet, each Shabbos has particular qualities differentiating it from every other Shabbos.

2. The unique quality of this Shabbos, Parshas Yisro, is, as mentioned earlier, the fact that it contains the reading about Mattan Torah. And since the essential concept of Mattan Torah is expressed in the name Yisro — an addition of G‑dliness into this world — it is this Shabbos which particularly emphasizes the preeminent reason for the creation of all worlds — “G‑d desired a dwelling place in this world” [i.e. since by effecting an addition of G‑dliness through Torah, the world is made a fit dwelling place for G‑d].

Just as Torah effects an increase (of G‑dliness) into the world,2 so too the world effects an increase in Torah. Rashi explains in the Parshah that he was called Yisro “because he caused a chapter to be added in the Torah.” Thus we see, that even though Torah existed before Yisro, he caused an additional chapter to be added. Both increases are in addition to the perfection which already existed in each of these two things as independent entities. This is alluded to in the name “Yisro” itself; for before Yisro caused an additional chapter to be added to the Torah, his name was “Yeser.” Yeser (and Yisro) are related to the word “Yisron” which means addition, showing that even before he added a chapter to the Torah (causing his name to become Yisro), there was perfection. Thus Torah adds to the world and vice versa, even when perfection has already been attained.

The way Torah receives an increase from being in this world is through the efforts of Torah study within this world. One must strive to make continual progress in Torah study, to understand all possible facets. The souls in Gan Eden also learn Torah; and indeed, being that it is a world of souls and knowledge, the number of different views, opinions and facets of thought far outnumber that in this world. But in that world, the differing opinions are all equally valid — ”these and these are the words of the living G‑d.” It is specifically within this corporeal world, where it is necessary to arrive at a conclusion, to decide which opinion to follow in actual practice, — “the word of G‑d — this is Halachah” — it is specifically then that we penetrate to the inner truth of the Torah. And this is the addition to Torah which comes about specifically through its presence in this corporeal world — the concept of Yisro.

The increase in this world arrived at through our service (through Torah) is stressed in the word Yisron, even more than in Yeser or Yisro; as found in the concept of “Yisron Ho’ or Min Hachoshech — the abundance of light that comes from (prior) darkness.” In Hebrew, the difference between Yisro and Yisron is the letter “final nun,” which is a long downward stroke, extending below the regular line of writing (ן). This symbolizes the extension into the lowest levels — the additional effusion of G‑dliness into the world should extend to the lowest levels, causing the abundance of light that comes from prior darkness (the lowest levels).

This concept reflects the basic goal of man’s service. Man’s task is to bring added perfection to the world, by working in the world and transforming it into G‑dliness — the abundance of light that comes from prior darkness. Through this, man fulfills G‑d’s desire that he should be a “partner with G‑d in creation.” For although it is impossible for man to create ex nihilo, nevertheless, through elevating the matters of this world to ever greater heights,3 he becomes a true partner with G‑d.

We see from this that even when a person has fulfilled all his service to perfection, he must still add further (Yisro) ; and in such a way that he deals with the lowest matters, lifting them up to the highest heights (Yisron). For although one must work to first perfect himself, he must not rest content with his own status, but must go out to help other Jews — “go out, fight with Amalek — go out from the cloud (which protects you) and do battle.” For Amalek could fight only those who were outside the protection of the cloud — those who were not adequately protected by Torah and Mitzvos. A person who is within the cloud, who does keep Torah and Mitzvos, cannot content himself with his own safety but must “go out from the cloud” and help those unprotected Jews to come closer to Torah and Mitzvos, to also be within the cloud.

Through taking action on the above we will merit to “the day which will be all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting” — to the final redemption. We need but do our utmost and “immediately we will be redeemed.”


3. The Jews, in their exodus from Egypt, were called the “hosts (army) of the L‑rd;” “all the hosts of the L‑rd went out from the land of Egypt” and “the L‑rd brought the children of Yisroel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.” Not only then, but throughout the following generations, Jews have been termed the “hosts of the L‑rd;” for our exodus from Egypt, from the straits and limitations that it represents, is one continuous voyage until we reach the Holy Land in the complete and final redemption.4

Today is the time when “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children — through the children,” and so appropriately, the idea of “the army of G‑d” today has been addressed mainly to children. This applies not only to boys, but also girls; for since this is a war against the Evil Inclination, it is a war commanded by the Torah, in which everyone is obligated to participate — even a “bride from her canopy.” In a regular war, women are not exempt, but are indeed forbidden to participate; for “a women shall not wear that which pertains to a man,” and weapons are considered to pertain to men. But in a war commanded by the Torah, such as this one, men, women and children are obligated to participate, for the weapons in this war are Mitzvos, which women must also wear.5 They are obligated to keep all the prohibitory precepts, and all the mandatory precepts not related to time.6

Indeed, not only are young Jewish girls included in “the hosts of the L‑rd,” but they take a prominent position. For when giving the Torah, G‑d told Moshe to first command the women (“Thus shall you say to the house of Ya’akov — these are the women”) and only then men (“and tell the children of Yisroel — these are the men”). Similarly, when constructing the Mishkan to provide a dwelling place for G‑d in this world, the women were more eager than the men — “And the men came close after the women.”

4. In a previous Farbrengen, (Shabbos Beshallach)we explained that in such a war, everyone must participate, similar to the war against Amalek, when everyone who was suitable went to fight. The only one (of those suitable) who did not actually fight, was Moshe Rabbeinu, who instead went up on the mountain and there fasted, prayed, and provided inspiration for the Jews. But let no-one think that just as Moshe Rabbeinu did not actually go out to fight, he or she is also absolved — for no-one can compare to Moshe Rabbeinu, who was special (and therefore did not have to actually do battle).

On this explanation as to Moshe Rabbeinu having a special exemption, a young child has asked the following question. The Torah relates (Shemos 17:11) that during the war, “When Moshe held up his hand, Yisroel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, then Amalek prevailed. But Moshe’s hands were heavy... and Aaron and Chur (who accompanied him) supported his hands.” Rashi comments: “Because he was lax in the commandment (of waging war), and appointed another in his stead (Yehoshua), his hands became heavy.” We see then, that Moshe Rabbeinu should have gone to battle, and when he did not, was punished for his laxity. This seems to contradict our previous assertion that Moshe Rabbeinu was special and did not have to go to war himself (and thus cannot be compared to anyone else).

The answer is simple: There are differing opinions as to whether Moshe was obligated to actually do battle himself. Our first explanation was based upon the opinions that he was not,7 and thus we explained that nevertheless, no-one else may compare himself to Moshe, and everyone else is obligated to do battle (in that or any following war, such as that today in which the “Army of Hashem” is engaged — against the Evil Inclination). According to Rashi however, who is of the opinion that even Moshe should have gone to war — then certainly everyone else is obligated!

We must still understand however, according to Rashi who is of the opinion that Moshe should have gone to war, how could Moshe Rabbeinu possibly be “lax in the commandment?” Moshe had once before been punished for sloth in the fulfillment of a Mitzvah. On the words (Shemos 4:24) “And He sought to kill him” Rashi comments: “i.e. Moshe, because he did not circumcise Eliezer his son; and because he (Moshe) was slothful, he was punished by death.” If Moshe had already experienced the consequences of being slothful — how could he repeat the same mistake?8

The question becomes more perplexing. Later (Bam. 27:16-17), when Moshe asks G‑d to “appoint a man over the congregation (to be his successor) who shall go out before them, and who shall go before them,” Rashi comments: “Not in the manner of the kings of the nations who sit in their homes and send forth their armies to war, but as I have done, for I have fought against Sichon and Og... “ If then Moshe himself is saying that a leader of the Jews must actually go out to war — why, in the battle against Amalek, was Moshe lax in the Mitzvah and did not go out?!9

The answer lies in the difference in meaning between the words “lax in the Mitzvah” (said in our case) , and “slothful “ (said in the case of circumcision) . When a person is lax in doing something, it does not mean that he avoids doing it through laziness, but because he thinks that he is unable to do it — and therefore does not even try to do it. Thus in our case of warring against Amalek, the reason why Moshe did not himself do battle, was not because he was slothful, G‑d forbid, but because he thought he did not have the ability. For we find that when it came to defending Jews, Moshe Rabbeinu had already demonstrated his incredible self-sacrifice to protect them. When he saw an Egyptian striking a fellow Jew, he did not hesitate but immediately slew the Egyptian. In our case, when Amalek was battling against all Jews, not just an individual, Moshe would certainly not be lazy, and would do his utmost to fight.

Moshe did not think he was able to actually do battle himself because he was eighty years old at this time; and warfare demands more youthful combatants. To perform miracles with the “staff of G‑d” is one thing; but to engage in actual physical combat, seemed to Moshe Rabbeinu to be beyond his physical capabilities.

Moreover, besides actual battle, prayer was also needed, and since one person cannot do both, Moshe elected to engage in prayer (as he was indeed the most fitting to do so). He assumed that he could safely leave the conduct of actual fighting to Yehoshua, who as his closest disciple, was a true envoy of Moshe.10

There was yet another reason for Moshe not entering the actual battle: for he, Aaron, and Chur, were fasting for victory; and the Halachah is that when engaged in war, one is forbidden to fast. In addition, the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 29a) explains that the reason Yisroel prevailed when Moshe’s hand was held up, was because when the Jews looked up, they bound their hearts in servitude to their Father in heaven. Thus Moshe stood on the top of the mountain, enabling the Jews to see him and his uplifted hand and thereby be aroused to lift their hearts to G‑d — and so be victorious. But if Moshe would have been on the actual battlefield, only a limited number of Jews, those closest to him, would have been able to see him.

And thus he deemed it necessary that he stay away from the battlefield and be on the top of the mountain, enabling all Jews to see him.11

All of the above reasons why Moshe considered himself unable to join in the actual battle (and not that G‑d forbid he was slothful) poses the inevitable question: Why was Moshe punished (his hands became heavy) for doing something which was seemingly so logical?

Rashi answers this question by saying that Moshe was punished for being “lax in the Mitzvah,” and not for being lax in going out to war. For since the war against Amalek was a Mitzvah, a commandment from G‑d, Moshe should have gone to war, and not entertained any other thoughts to the contrary, no matter how reasonable or logical. A Mitzvah must be such that “we will obey and then we will hear;” first one does the deed without entering into any calculations. And since Moshe was lax in the Mitzvah — he entered into calculations as to what was best for the conduct of the war etc. — he was punished.

But then the question becomes reversed once again. In such a Mitzvah as this, protecting and fighting for Jews, how did Moshe ignore the injunction of doing the deed without entering into calculations? The answer is that this war was not a specific command from G‑d; nowhere do we find stated in the Chumash that G‑d specifically said “Go out, fight with Amalek” (for if so, there is no question that Moshe would have immediately done so). It was Moshe himself who realized that if Jews are being attacked, one must immediately do battle; as he himself had already demonstrated previously, when he slew the Egyptian who was smiting a fellow Jew. And so, because the initiative came from Moshe, he took the initiative to reckon that he himself should not enter the battle (for the reasons enumerated above: age, could do more good in prayer etc.).12

We can derive a lesson from this to apply to our service to G‑d: All of us without exception must enter the battle commanded by G‑d. This war is conducted in a manner of “go out, fight with Amalek — go out from the cloud and battle with them.” There are Jews who are situated outside the cloud, outside Torah and Mitzvos, those who are “weak behind you,” and we must go and protect those Jews, to save them from Amalek, the epitome of doubt and weakness. And when we go out we must be strong and sure of ourselves, as Moshe told Yehoshua: “Choose out men — mighty men and those that fear sin.” To help others we must first increase our fear of Heaven, our protective cloak of Torah and Mitzvos.

To this end, we have the directive first given by G‑d to Moshe after the battle with Amalek: “Write this for a memorial in the book.” One must act not only for oneself, but also for others, such that it will be recorded and published. This then gives great encouragement in our work, to act above all constraints, to put the deed before the calculation. For every person is in some way affected by mundane calculations; many can think that they are not yet at the level where they can dispense with thoughts of material comforts. To such people we present the lesson of “write this for a memorial in the book.” When one realizes that his deeds are recorded for all posterity, he will also realize that all his petty considerations of material comforts are nothing compared to the results of work which will affect generations. He must stop thinking of himself, and realize that such concerns are nothing when his proper deeds can affect others. And “one Mitzvah brings another in its train” — all the good deeds produced by his initial actions are attributed to his merit! With this awareness, all calculations fall by the wayside, and he performs all Mitzvos because G‑d has commanded him so, with joy and a full heart.


5. On the words (Yisro 20:6) “And He shows mercy upon the two thousandth (generation),” Rashi comments: “And He guards the kindness which a man does to pay a reward (for it) until the two thousandth generation; consequently, the dispensation of goodness exceeds the dispensation of punishment (in the proportion of) one to five hundred, for the latter is for four generations [as stated in the preceding verse “He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon children upon the third and fourth generation”] while the former is for two thousand.” An immediate and obvious question is: Rashi’s function is only to interpret and explain difficulties in the meaning of the Chumash. Why then does he feel it necessary here to enter into additional calculations as to the relative proportions of the dispensation of reward and punishment?

The explanation is that through clearly stating such a calculation, Rashi wishes to teach a child a lesson. The child has already learned the verse that states “they shall keep the way of the L‑rd.” He will later learn the verse “and you shall walk in His ways,” about which our sages state that we must conduct ourselves in a fashion similar to G‑d’s ways — “Just as He is called Gracious, so you too be gracious; just as He is called Compassionate, so you too be compassionate.” Therefore Rashi says that one of G‑d’s attributes is that “the dispensation of goodness exceeds the dispensation of punishment (in the proportions of) one to five hundred,” teaching the child learning Chumash that he too must conduct himself in the same fashion.

Thus Rashi sheds light upon a previously obscure point. When Moshe, as a baby, was placed in the river, the Chumash (Shemos 2:4) states that “His sister (Miriam) stood from a distance to know what would be done to him.” It is unclear however, exactly how long Miriam stood there — a minute, an hour, half a day? Rashi helps clarify the exact length of time. For later, when Miriam was smitten with leprosy as a punishment for speaking against Moshe, the verse states: “And Miriam was shut up outside the camp seven days; and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again.” The delay in the journey was an honor awarded to her because of the time she stood waiting for Moshe when he was placed in the river. Since Rashi tells us here that the payment for good outweighs that of punishment by five hundred to one, we now know exactly how long Miriam waited for Moshe — one five hundredth of the time the people did not journey waiting for her. That is, one five hundredth of seven days — approximately 20 minutes.

Another point that needs clarification; it is stated here that G‑d guards the kindness that a person does to reward him until the two thousandth generation. But the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 31a) tells us that “the world is to last six thousand years,” and since a generation is approximately twenty-five years13 — how can there possibly be two thousand generations?

The problem is compounded when we realize that G‑d’s promise to show mercy unto the two thousandth generation does not apply only to those who did a good deed at the time of the Giving of the Torah, but also to every generation — including Rashi’s and indeed our own. Certainly then, there are not two thousand generations from our time till the end of the six thousand years, in which to repay any good done now!?14

The explanation is simple. Rashi wrote his interpretation according to the plain meaning of the verses in the Chumash, directed at the five year old who is at the level of learning only Chumash. And since Rashi in the Chumash makes no mention anywhere that the world is to exist for only six thousand years, then the plain meaning is that there is no such limit; and hence no problem as to there being enough time to repay kindness unto the two thousandth generation.

From here we can deduce Rashi’s stance on a matter that has conflicting view-points. The Rambam and the Ramban differ as to when the true fulfillment of reward by G‑d for man’s service takes place. The Rambam’s view is that the ultimate reward will be given to people’s souls. That is, after the era of the resurrection of the dead, there is an era when the more complete ultimate reward will be awarded to souls as they exist independently — not enclothed in bodies. The Ramban however, is of the opinion that the ultimate reward is given to souls in bodies. That is, after the era of the resurrection of the dead, there will be eternal life for people — souls in bodies.15

Since Rashi states that G‑d pays reward “until the two thousandth generation,” he must be of the same opinion of the Ramban that the ultimate reward is paid to souls and bodies — that after seven thousand years, life as we know it will be eternal. For if he were to be of the Rambam’s opinion that there will be only souls after the era of the resurrection of the dead — it would be impossible to include in the two thousand generations of promised reward that time when there would be souls alone. For that period cannot be counted in the same type of measurement as life on this earth in bodies — for time as we know it is meaningless for souls alone. Thus Rashi must hold that for (at least) two thousand generations there will be people (souls am/bodies) to whom can be paid the promised reward, and hence is of the same opinion as the Ramban.

The five year old learning this Rashi could well ask the following question. If G‑d pays reward for two thousand generations whenever a Jew performs Torah and Mitzvos, surely all Jews throughout all generations should have benefited from this reward and led long lives replete with children and sustenance. For there have been many Tzaddikim (righteous people) — Chanoch, Mesushelach, Noach, our forefathers, Moshe Rabbeinu, etc., etc., not forgetting the thirty-six concealed righteous people in every generation.16 Surely then the accumulated payment for two thousand generations from the deeds of these Tzaddikim should have guaranteed full prosperous lives for all Jews in all generations? And yet, experience has shown that this is simply not true!

The explanation is that it does not state that one person’s good deeds provides reward for every Jew in the generation. It states that the reward extends for two thousand generations — but only to one person in each generation. For just as the performer of the good deeds was an individual, so the receiver of the reward is an individual (in each of the two thousand generations).17