|The Torah Connection-Yitro-Impulsive Nation|
|Written by Rabbi Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg|
In seforim (Jewish books) it’s brought down that there are nun shaarei tumah (fifty gates of pollution, defilement). Klal Yisroel (Israel) was in the forty-ninth gate at the time of the redemption from Mitzrayim (Egypt). If they would have reached the fiftieth gate they could not have been redeemed.
The Arizal states that not only were they in the forty-ninth gate, but they were holding, so to speak, at the boundary of the fiftieth gate. One more moment and it would have been too late.
Why? Nothing happens without Hashem’s guidance. Why was it important that Yisroel remain in Mitzrayim till the last possible moment – the point of no return?
“A certain Tzeduki
saw Rovo studying a Talmudic topic and Rovo had put the fingers of his hand under his leg and, being engrossed in his learning, did not notice that he was pressing them and his fingers were bleeding. He said to Rovo, ‘impulsive nation, who put their mouths before their ears.
You still persevere in your impulsiveness.’ Rovo answered, ‘We who go in the ways of complete faith
… but your ilk who go in the ways of perverseness
… are faithless.’”
It Depends Who Says What
“If anyone else had said, ‘Hevel havolim hakol hevel’ (Futility of futilities all is futile)
I would have said, this person who never owned two pennies in his life disparages and scorns wealth and says futility of futilities. It means nothing and is so much sour grapes. However, this is Shlomo Hemelech of whom it says that he spread out silver in Yerushalayim like stones in the street. If he said ‘hevel havolim’ it already has meaning.”
“If someone else had said, ‘Now I know that Hashem is greater than all the gods,’ I would have said this one who doesn’t know what idol worship has to offer he says ‘now I know’ – it means nothing. But this was Yisro (Moshe’s father-in-law) who sought out every idol in the world and served it and in the end he converted to Judaism – this already is convincing.”
We see from the episode with Rovo that those who themselves don’t want to keep Torah and mitzvos tend to justify themselves by desiring to denigrate those who do, by saying that we are (were) impulsive and naïve when we accepted the Torah and hadn’t thought things out clearly. From the Medrash on Koheles (Ecclesiastes) we see that there is a tendency not to take seriously the opinions of people who haven’t “been there, done that.”
Back to Square One
Our original question was why did Yisroel have to stay in Mitzrayim (Egypt) till the last possible moment before they were redeemed? Let’s add one more question. How do we understand the fact that the Torah often calls Yisroel stiff-necked and rebels.
“Yisroel is a strong-willed nation.”
The Tzeduki argued that Israel was an impulsive and naïve nation to have accepted the Torah without knowing what it entailed. Rovo answered him, “We go in the way of complete faith (trust and love, Rashi) …” How does that answer the Tzeduki’s claim? It is specifically that type of person who might tend to be impulsive.
Rovo’s answer was (to paraphrase), “If it would have been any other nation, they, indeed, might have been naïve and not been fully aware of the wiles and lures of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) … but this was Yisroel who had experienced all forty-nine gates of tumah, to the very last speck. And if it would have been another nation who follows without questioning … but this was Yisroel who were stiff-necked and rebellious – constantly.
Yet, when offered the Torah they indeed accepted it with complete faith, trust and love and said naaseh venishma (we will do and we will listen, hear) “as one man with one heart.”
This is indeed an acceptance. The minus of forty-nine gates of tumah and the minus of being stiff-necked are turned into a plus at Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah).
They ensured that the acceptance was truly an acceptance.
Chadudim Chadudim (Goose Bumps)
“Vayichad Yisro” (And Yisro rejoiced)…
“His flesh became chadudim chadudim (goose bumps). He was aggrieved over the destruction of Egypt. This is what people say, ‘Do not disparage a non-Jew in the presence of a convert up to ten generations.
This is to say that there is still some connection and link to his former roots.
The connection is slight. Yisro did not cry over Mitzrayim. He did not tremble over them. He rather got goose pimples on the skin, something hardly noticeable.
Rabbi Akiva was a son of converts from Edom (Esau). When the Romans sentenced him to death for teaching Torah “they combed his flesh with iron combs. He stated, ‘all my life I was troubled by this verse (that one should love G-d) with all your soul, even if He takes your soul. I said, ‘When will this opportunity come to my hands …’”
Rav Tzadokstates that “since he was the son of converts he could not attain the purity of the ultimate kedushah (holiness) except through dying al kiddush Hashem.” The lack of the ultimate kedushah can be signified by the phenomenon of the goose bumps. Therefore “they combed his flesh with iron combs.”
1 One might ask “Mah Nishtanah” (what is the difference) that in the forty-ninth gate they could still be redeemed but not in the fiftieth gate. There is a Yiddishe nigun (song) that goes as follows, “Vos mir zeinen, zeinen mir, ober Yidden zeinin mir.” (“Whatever we are, we are. But we are Jews.”) On whatever level a Jew may find himself, he is still proud to be a Jew. He does not want to assimilate. If so, there is still hope for redemption. The fiftieth gate is assimilation. They no longer care. If so, redemption is beyond them.
2 Chazal (the Sages) tell us that in the merit of the following the Jews were redeemed. They did not change their name, language or clothing to that of the Egyptians. This was how they showed that they were proud to be Jewish and didn’t want to assimilate even though they were slaves.
3 The Chasam Sofer in Toras Moshe writes that before the coming of Moshiach a portion of Klal Yisroel will be in the fiftieth gate of tumah. But, whereas in Egypt they could not have been redeemed, that was before the giving of the Torah. However, now there are fifty gates of taharah (purity) corresponding to the forty-nine days of Sefirah, and the fiftieth day, on which the Torah was given which therefore corresponds opposite the fiftieth gate of tumah. Therefore, after the Torah was given one can be redeemed even from that gate.
4 See Bais Halevy al Hatorah Parshas Boh; Rav Tzadok Likutei Maamorim 53b.
5 The Tzedukim were a sect during the Second Temple era who only accepted Torah Sheb’ksav (the Written Torah) but not Torah Shebaal Peh (the Oral Torah).
6 They accepted the Torah before they knew what it entailed. This is the essence of their statement “we will do” before “we will hear or understand.”
7 We trusted G-d, as one would out of love, that what He would give us would only be for our benefit (Rashi).
8 Who don’t trust G-d and want to be sure and ascertain for themselves if the Torah will be good for them.
9 Shabbos 88ab
10 There is a question here. Before we get to the question we must first refer to another question. Yisroel willingly accepted the Torah when they said, “…we will do and we will hear” (Exodus 24:7), yet the Gemara (Talmud) Shabbos 88a based on Exodus 19:17 states that Hashem forced them to accept (He held the mountain over them). This seemingly contradicts their willingness to accept. The Medrash Tanchuma (Noach 3) answers that they willingly accepted the Written Torah. The need for force was to accept the Oral Torah. (See there for the reason.)
The question, therefore, is as follows. As stated earlier, the Tzedukim accepted the written Torah but not the Oral Torah. Therefore, what was the argument, “impulsive nation”? If on the written Torah, he also accepted. If on the Oral Torah, the people also had to be “persuaded” to accept?
11 Mankind’s constant striving for fame, fortune, power, pleasure… Ecclesiastes 1:2
12 Medrash Rabah Ecclesiastes 3:13
13 For example Deuteronomy 9:6; 7; 24
14 Beitzah 25b
15 “Every trait we have which is derogatory to Yisroel stems from a good trait except that they are sometimes used not in a good way” (Maharal Netzach chp. 25). “The trait of being stiff-necked when used for good makes great tzadikim. On the other hand, it can produce wicked people also” (ibid chp. 23). The trait of being stiff-necked we have from our father Avrohom. “The whole world was on one side of the river and he was on the other side.” The whole world thought differently than him but he was not deterred. The wonder of Avrohom is that usually, strong-minded (and sane) individuals like that do not suffer “fools” (those who oppose them) easily. Yet Avrohom was the epitome of chesed (kindness) in doing for others and even endangering his life for them (Rashi Genesis 18:23).
16 “From the day I first knew you” Deuteronomy 9:24.
17 Rashi Exodus 19:2
18 A similar line of reasoning is given by the Droshos Horan Drush 3 and Drush 5 as to why Moshe was a kvad peh (couldn’t speak well) (Exodus 4:10; 6:30). He answers that people shouldn’t say that the Jewish people followed Moshe because he was a glib orator.
19 Exodus 18:9
20 Rashi ibid based on Sanhedrin 94a
21 This is only a popular saying and not a posuk (verse) in the Torah. However, to take the saying to its potential possibilities we need to examine two of them. (1) Is “ten generations” definite or does it mean forever as in the case of a mamzer (someone born of a union punishable by death) who can never marry a regular Jewish person? (2) Does this saying apply only to a male convert or also to a female convert? If applicable even to a female then it would apply to Dovid Hamelech (King David) – an impossibility. If longer than ten generations, it would apply to Moshiach – an impossibility to the tenth power.
22 This is not to say that something is missing in their righteousness. Yisro himself proves the point.
23 By my inability to fulfill it.
24 In Shema
25 Brachos 61b
26 Pokeid Akorim 24a