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Parshat Yitro

By: Mrs. Rina Zinkin

Ideas in this Dvar Torah are from Rav Meyer Twersky

In this week's Parsha, Parshat Yitro, we are commanded, "Lo Tachmod Beit Re'echa, Lo Tachmod Eshet Re'echa….VeChol Asher Le-re'echa," " You shall not covet your fellow's house; you shall not covet your fellow's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow (Shemot 20; 14).

There is a well-known Ibn Ezra on this posuk which is generally understood to be asking how the Torah can command emotion. In fact, the question that the Ibn Ezra is asking is even sharper: How can the Torah regulate an instinctive reaction? The Sefer Hachinuch formulates the question in this way by giving a parable: A person who is starving and wearing tattered clothes walks by a mansion with servants and delicious food. How is it possible that this person will not react instinctively with the emotions of ta'avah and chemdah (desire)?

Ibn Ezra answers his question with his famous parable of an ignorant, poverty-stricken peasant who might covet his neighbor's daughter, but who would never lust after the queen. She is so lofty and inaccessible that such a thought would simply never enter his mind. This is because people desire only what they believe is in the realm of possibility. Sensible people long to acquire things that are within their frame of reference, not things that are beyond their imagination. If a person viewed the world in light of his belief in Hashgacha Pratit (individual providence), if he believed that Hashgacha Pratit regulates all material gains, then it would be outlandish to desire the house or wife of your friend, because it's simply not meant to be yours. It would be even more outlandish to covet what one did not receive than for a peasant to desire the daughter of the king.

But how did Ibn Ezra answer the question of how the Torah can regulate an instinctive reaction? Chemdah is an instinctive, reflexive reaction, not a calculated, reflective one. How do we prevent that type of reaction? Ibn Ezra is telling us that we must internalize the belief in Hashgacha Pratit to such an extent that even our reflexive, instinctive reactions are governed by it.

This is a remarkable point that Ibn Ezra is making. We often see Judaism as made up of two separate realms: beliefs and actions. The beliefs address how Hashem runs the world, and the mitzvah actions are the "do's and don'ts." Although we believe in both and view them as equally necessary, we tend to separate them in our minds. Ibn Ezra tells us that this cannot be. Many practical mitzvot embody Ikrei Emunah – principles of faith – and Lo Tachmod is an example of this. On the performance level itself, Lo Tachmod is fused with the belief in Hashgacha Pratit.

May we merit to internalize this insight of Ibn Ezra and deepen our emunah in Hashem and our belief in Hashgacha Pratit.

Have a beautiful Shabbat




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