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Parashat Yitro

The greatest sin a parent can be guilty of is not making a child aware of the power he possesses. There is no power in the world that can cure like saying the blessing Asher Yatzar after using the WC. The Seder Hayom (time of Arizal) wrote that if a person would say each word of Asher Yatzar carefully, he would never get sick and would not need a doctor, nor his medicines… There is no power in the world that can bring you a better Parnassah than saying Birkat Hamazon from a siddur, with intent. The Sefer Hachinuch (430) writes in the name of his teacher (the Ramban or the Rashba) that anyone who is careful in Birkat Hamazon will have a respectable Parnassah available for him, a whole life long (Mishna Berura 185).

But most people have a hard time in believing in the power they have. They prefer to be humble. But R Ben Tzion Aba Shaul would teach us that this is not a place to be humble. Hacham Ben Tzion would point to the seeming contradiction. תּוֹעֲבַ֣ת יְ֭קֹוָק כָּל־גְּבַהּ־לֵ֑ב   All haughty people are abominable in HaShem’s eyes (Mishlei 16;5) וַיִּגְבַּ֥הּ לִבּ֖וֹ בְּדַרְכֵ֣י יְקֹוָ֑ק  …and his heart was lifted up in the ways of G-d (Divrei Hayamaim 2;17:6) The answer is that we should be humble in regard to things of the past, everything that happened until now, the things we cannot control or change. Regarding the future, a person needs to believe in himself. (Or Ltzion 242)

The Talmud in Sanhedrin says something that is mindboggling. וַיֹּאמֶר֘ יִתְרוֹ֒ בָּר֣וּךְ יְקֹוָ֔ק אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִצִּ֥יל אֶתְכֶ֛ם מִיַּ֥ד מִצְרַ֖יִם וּמִיַּ֣ד פַּרְעֹ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר הִצִּיל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם מִתַּ֖חַת יַד־מִצְרָֽיִם And Yitro said, Blessed is G-d, Who saved you from the hands of Egypt and from the hands of Pharaoh, Who saved the people from under the hand of Egypt. –  It was said in the name of R’ Papayus that it is was a disgrace for Moshe and the 600,000 Jews that they did not say Baruch- Blessed, until Yitro came and said Baruch Hashem (Sanhedrin 94a).

What? Moshe? Aharon? Yehoshua? Kalev? Chur? Pinhas? Anybody? How could it be that none of them thought of what Yitro thought of, to say Baruch? Isn’t it enough that they said Shirat Hayam, Az Yashir? Doesn’t Az Yashir have the power to bring forgiveness from all one’s sins, when a person says it with happiness, as if he had gone through the sea himself (Sefer Charedim)? Didn’t they bring the Korban Pesach, and accompany  it with Hallel ? What, exactly, were they missing? What, exactly, was the shame here?

Here is how R Nevantzel, the Rav of the Old City,  answers the question. There is a big difference between the Shira and Hallel, all that they did and said… and the magical word Baruch. Baruch is a totally new dimension. How so?

Rabenu Bachye has two explanations of the word Baruch. The first is that Hashem is the Mekor Habracha, the source of all blessings. The second explanation is that the word Baruch comes from the word Berecha, or pool, or connecting to an original source. When you take a branch and connect it to another tree, to give it the ability to grow from the bigger tree, that is called Habracha. (Rabbenu Bachye Devarim 8:10)

By saying the word Baruch, one is adding to the pool of blessing, connecting the hose or pipe to the faucet, so that the blessing of G-d goes to the right addresses. As great as Shira is, it is not like the word Baruch. Baruch does something that the greatest Shira cannot do. Baruch is from the word to make greater; each of its root letters is a multiple of two.  ב is two. ר is two hundred. ך  is twenty. Adding to the pool of blessing in the Universe. You are not only admitting that what you got came from G-d. You are adding to the Bracha in the world by saying the word Baruch.  Yitro was telling them, now is the time to say that G-d is blessed, so that He continue to bring blessing to the world. You are much more powerful than you think.

This concept of R Bachye, of the Nefesh Chayim, is something that is so hard for us to understand. After all, even for the ability to bless, to move our lips, we need G-d. אֲד’ שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ  And still, G-d says to each and every one of us, תְּנוּ עֹז לֵאלֹקים , Give strength to G-d (Tehillim 68:35).  בֵּֽאלֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־חָ֑יִל  In G-d, we will make strength (Tehillim 108;14) ועתה יגדל נא כח ד’ And now, may the strength of G-d become great (Bamidbar 14) ( see Eicha Rabbah 1; 33). Of course, we cannot change G-d. But G-d allows us to direct His Shefa, His Source of Plenty, through our good deeds, and through our Berachot (Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 430). As we find that Hashem told Moshe, היה לך לסייעני, you should have helped me (Shabbat 89a).

And this is exactly what the Jews did not yet realize, until Yitro came along. The Jews did not recognize the power they had. They did not realize that HaShem designed the world in such a way that we are empowered to “help” Him, as it were, to bring blessing to His creations, and that He awaits our “help”. When Yishmael the Kohen Gadol met G-d in the Holy of Holies, G-d asked Yishmael Kohen Gadol to bless Him (Berachot 7a). How can anyone bless G-d? The answer is that G-d gives us the power to give Him the power.

Yitro explained to the Jews that the words of their prophecy at the Sea,  זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ , means that G-d set up creation in such a way that He and the Jews run the world together! וְאַנְוֵ֔הו אני והוא – . As G-d refers to the Jews in His eternal Song of Songs, G-d called the Jews,  יוֹנָתִ֣י תַמָּתִ֔י My Dove, My twin. As the Midrash learns this to mean, that I am not above you, and you are not above Me. And the Torah Temimah expounds on this with what we know: Yisrael, the Torah and G-d are one. And as we see, anyone who says ויכלו on Friday night – it is as if he is a partner with G-d in the Creation.

The power to literally bring Hashem down into our daily lives is in your hands. It’s up to us to connect Hashem to everything we do. This is what Yitro added to the Jews. Something that we forget to often…

About the author, Yosef

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