Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yisro by Reb Jay

In this week’s parsha, Moshe is reunited with his father-in-law, Yisro.

While Yisro is there, he observes Moshe as he carries out his role as judge of the Jewish Nation. While observing he notices that the people are standing all day and waiting their turn for Moshe to judge them. Yisro asks Moshe: “What is this thing you do to the people? Why do you sit alone with all the people standing by you from morning to evening?” (Shemos 18:14).

Yisro was concerned both about Moshe and the people. He worried that Moshe would soon be worn out, and that the people were waiting too long to receive justice. Yisro proposed that they establish a court system with lower courts and higher courts, thus easing the burden on Moshe and the people.

What does it mean “from the morning to the evening”? The Gemara in Shabbos (10a) asks, “did Moshe literally sit and judge the entire day? When did he have time to study Torah?” The answer given is that whoever involves himself in proper judgement for even one hour, it is as if he is a partner with Hashem in the act of creation.

We learn two fundamental concepts from this Gemara.

One is the importance of Torah study. That as important as judging other Jews is (important enough to be considered a partner with Hashem) and the kindness Moshe was doing for the community, nonetheless, the thought that he would go the whole day without Torah study is considered inconceivable.

The second thing we learn is that it is possible for a person to perform an act that will place him on the level of being a partner with Hashem.

What does this mean?

The level of judgement is an extremely high level. Without justice the world is not able to exist, as we see from the story of Noach (in the time of Noach thievery was normative, which bespoke the terrible lack of justice, thus necessitating the destruction of the world). Rashi in the first parsha of the Torah explains that Hashem first “thought” to create the world in judgement, and then added mercy.

This does not mean Hashem thought, the way a human being has a thought process, and then changed His mind and added mercy. Rather, it means that for the world to exist solely by virtue of judgement is ideal. A level which, for the most part, man is unable to aspire to, thus the need for mercy. However, judgement is such an important virtue that for Hashem to will the world through judgement (the world only exists by virtue of Hashem’s will) even if it never came to fruition (for man would be unable to survive), nonetheless shows the importance of judgement.

So a person who is involved in judgement is attaching himself to the ideal level of the creation of the world.

What is one to do who is not a judge, how does such a person become a partner with Hashem? There is one other action a person can do that makes him a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world. That is the recital of the “Vayichulu” prayer (Bereshis 2:1-3) on Friday night. These are the verses that speak of the first Shabbos after the six days of creation. The reason being that a person who says this believes Hashem created the world. Even if we are unable to live up to the ideals of Midas Hadin (judegment), at least on Shabbos we can acknowledge that Hashem created the world. And when we put this belief into action, we have begun to fulfill our mission on this earth.

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