The Torah intentionally writes the episode of Yisro coming to the camp of Bnei Yisrael preceding the event of Matan Torah even though there are opinions that it chronologically occurred after Matan Torah (Rashi 18,13). What lesson is the Torah teaching us with this abnormality? The episode of Yisro ends with him returning back to his homeland (18,27, Bamidbar 10,29). Why did he refuse the gracious invitation of Moshe to remain within Am Yisrael from whom he will benefit? The answer is that by his adamant resolve to return home was teaching Yisrael a vital lesson for those individuals who desire to come closer to Hashem. The Yetzer Harah deceives a person into thinking that if he seeks to change himself and upgrade his avodas Hashem he must first change his dwelling place and wait for an opportune time to make the move of a new start. This distortional thinking follows a person throughout his life if he doesn’t take heed to realize that such thoughts originate in the yetzer hara. For instance a person learns in yeshiva and it is not going so well. He makes peace with himself by saying I will wait until the end of the zman and then I will change yeshivos. When he leaves the yeshiva and gets married and feels a weakness in his avodas Hashem, the thoughts of I will wait until I get another job and start improving my Yiddishkeit. Many a time these new opportunities and starting points never actualize. And if they do, then sooner or later he will be seeking a new job or situation in order to start again his campaign for inspired Yiddishkeit. The plan to put off the upgrade until the time and place will make one’s change more successful is only doomed to fail as it stems from the yetzer harah. The lashon of Chazal אם לא עכשו אימתי applies to this situation as well.
The Zohar says אין דבר עומד בפני הרצון that nothing stands in the way of will. If one takes the time to make the resolve to change with a clarity and immovable conviction he can begin now and in the same place where he is at. The Yitav Lev interprets the words of Chazal who commented on this passuk ואהבת את ה’ אלהיך בכל לבבך שלא יהא לבך חלוק על המקום Rashi. The Yitav Lev interprets this to mean that your heart should not be separated from Hashem because of the place you are at. Don’t say I can serve Hashem only in a particular place which is more nurturing to the avodah. No! One must serve Hashem with love at any time and in any place.
Yisro left his dwelling place to convert and join Klal Yisrael, which was not only a change of a lifetime but also a lifetime change. He left his former life his community his beliefs etc. behind, in order to join an environment which was more conducive to forge an intimate relationship with Hashem. What then was motivating him to return and be the only Yid outvoted and outnumbered by everyone else who was an idol worshipper? The Shemen Rosh answers that Yisro believed that it is so much easier to be a Yid amongst a community of only Yidden. It’s almost no challenge at all especially with peer pressure. Yisro wanted to demonstrate that to fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah one does not need to change his place of dwelling or wait for a new start. One can begin immediately in the place where he is at as long as his conviction is strong and very clear. Yisro returned to the place of his former life and there immediately started living the life of being a servant to Hashem and His Torah.
This is the reason why the story of Yisro is fixed in the Torah before Matan Torah in order to teach that to receive the Torah or to increase one’s relationship with Hashem he doesn’t have to wait for a change of place but rather for a change of heart which he already possesses. It is his new fortified conviction and commitment to Torah that will make it or break it and not his geographic surroundings. Don’t put off an inspiration for a later time or place but rather become determined to make it work here and now, period. Yisro in the same place of his avodah zarah threw off his past and put on his new present to become a true oveid Hashem
The above message can be gleaned from the Haggadah when we recite ברוך המקום ברוך הוא ברוך שנתן תורה. The words ברוך המקום refers to Hashem. Why did the Baal Haggadah use Hashem’s name of מקום rather that other personal names such as יהו’ or אלהים? As we mentioned above, that when one is inspired to receive the Torah anew with an upgrade of observance, he should not procrastinate with the excuse I am waiting for the right time to make the leap or waiting to move to a better environment. He should start right now because Hashem’s presence is also with him at this time and place. As the sefarim explain that the name מקום of Hashem comes from a unique gematriah that each letter of the Name of Hashem יהו’ times itself. Yud times yud equals 100, Hey times Hey equals 25, vov times vov 36 and Hey times Hey 25 together amounting to 186 the same as מקום . This conveys that the name יהו’ which stands for above time היה הוה יהיה is also the source of every place. It is only the false claim and seduction of the yetzer harah which pushes one to procrastinate in the actualization of his inspiration.
This is hinted in the passuk דורשי ה’ לא יחסרו כל טוב . Those individuals who darshan the name of יהו’ which conveys that Hashem is above time and above makom will never lose out on all that is good (Torah and Mitzvos). They never wait to bring about change like others who procrastinate for the “magic moment” or “segula”, or a more comfortable environment in order to make the move. Such delay can leave one’s life void from many opportunities of aliya, a more meaningful life, and relationship with Hashem.
The Baal Haggadah by saying ברוך המקום ברוך שנתן תורה is conveying the same message of the Torah displayed by writing the episode of Yisro before Matan Torah – that one does not need a special place or time to renew dedication to Torah and Mitzvos. Hashem is waiting for your upgrade at this very moment and at this very place.
In last week’s parsha there was also another individual who taught a similar lesson, Yosef Hatzadik. Moshe Rabbeinu extricates Yosef’s metal casket from the Nile River He was fulfilling the oath that was taken before Yosef’s death to remove his bones from Mitzrayim and bury them in Eretz Yisrael. While Moshe was preoccupied with this mitzvah the rest of Klal Yisrael were busy fulfilling the mitzvah of emptying out Mitzrayim from all its wealth and treasures. Our Chachamim in the Medrash portray Moshe’s choice of the mitzvah of retrieving the coffin of Yosef as one who possesses a חכם לב of having wisdom in his heart. What wisdom are Chazal referring to with this title given to Yosef? The answer is in another Chazal (Avos 2,Rashi Tamid 32) איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד the wise person is the one whose heart sees the future. Moshe Rabbeinu chose this difficult and challenging mitzvah because he foresaw the impact Yosef will impress on future generations. Chazal say (Sotah 13) that all the years in the desert two arks were carried side by side, one that contained the two Luchos and the other the bones of Yosef. They were carried in such a manner to demonstrate that the person in one fulfilled everything that it says in the other.
Yosef, who was sold as a slave in a totally gentile depraved country filled with avoda zarah, the decadence of arayos and licentiousness, was nevertheless able to keep the Torah and mitzvos. He did not let his yetzer harah deceive him into saying I will wait until I get out of this forsaken place to become a better oveid Hashem. Yosef didn’t waste a second and he started immediately which eventually gave him to power to overcome the great superhuman test with the wife of Potifar.
Moshe possessed the futuristic wisdom and vision of what will help Klal Yisrael the most, by enabling them to endure the galus and still come out unscathed. True with wealth one can build mosdos and beautiful shuls but who can ensure that the wealthy will be inspired to enhance the Torah with their money. Rather, it was the character and tzidkus of Yosef who was a living testimony that to accept Torah and Mitzvos one does not push off because of place and time. Hashem is present in every place and in every time simultaneously.
Once a mechaneich came before the Chazon Ish ztl and presented him with the dilemma that there is a urgency to open another kindergarten right away but no financial backing is available. In the neighborhood there is a Mizrachi kindergarten that has extra spaces and the teachers are also Mizrachi, what should the parents do? The Chazon Ish answered if on the walls there are hanging pictures of Gedolim, it will be fine for seeing them every day will inspire them as models.
True the makom was somewhat compromised however the here and now took precedence for the children to go to school as long as there is daily inspiration by the pictures of gedolim.
It is interesting that we find in the beracha of Yosef given by Moshe Rabbein, the mentioning of theסנה the burning bush in which Hashem appeared to Moshe to command him to redeem Am Yisrael from Galus. I feel that Yosef merited to this mention and association because he personified the presence of the Shechinah even in Mitzrayim with the total absence of another Yid. Theסנה above all other vegetation merited to the Shechina because it is a low bush representing humility. It also characterizes pain and challenges because of its thorns. Yosef all alone in Mitzrayim did not have the leisure of placing down his guards even for a moment for there was no group support and protection and yet he kept the Torah meticulously nevertheless.
Yosef like Yisro demonstrated to Klal Yisrael that one should not put off the acceptance of the Torah on a higher scale and level than before even though he thinks that another place or time in the future will be more productive in this endeavor. When one realizes that the word מקום is gematriah the name of הויה he must act “here and now” with a clear commitment and conviction to his new level of avodas Hashem.
Both Yosef and Yisro set examples for Klal Yisrael which means both of them possessed the midah of איזהו חכם הרואה את הנולד not to consider to put off but rather to put into action these two variables of מקום עכשיו whose gematriah with the two words spell chachmah with its inner letters חת כף ממ הא.
The extra neshama of Shabbos also connects us to this higher level of חכמה, to be inspired and not wait, but rather to actualize the here and now. The ability of באותו זמן ומקום equals בשבת. That is also the reason why השבת with the word, equals רואה את הנולד. On Shabbos, to act here and now comes naturally. Let us take full advantage on Shabbos to use this segulah to its fullest.