THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT YITRO 5779
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
This week’s Parsha is primarily famous for the Ten Commandments – which are actually 14, but that’s another story.
But in Chapter 19 verses 5 and 6, just prior to the portion describing the 10 Commandments, HaShem seemingly makes a "deal" with us.
"IF you will surely listen to my voice
And keep my Commandments,
And you will be for me special among all the peoples –
For all the land is mine,
And you will be for me a kingdom of priests
And a holy nation."
But bearing in mind that in the Torah, the word “and” does not necessarily connect two sentences or phrases, it's not entirely clear where the "if" ends and the "then" starts. What's incumbent on us? What's the reward? What's the deal?
Rashi explains that the first two phrases are the "if" - listening to Hashem and keeping His commandments. The second two phrases - being special and a kingdom of priests - are the reward.
The Netziv argues that the words "for all the land is mine" seem to separate the "if" from the "then". So there are in effect three conditions – Listening to HaShem, keeping His commandments, AND acting special, for proving that we are worthy of His special love and consideration.
Hashem promises to treat us as kings and holy priests, but only if we can continually prove that we can rise above the other nations; that we can be different. Of course, that can only happen with the acquisition of Torah knowledge and practice attained by adhering to the first two conditions. But once we make the attempt, and we perform specific actions - good deeds, giving charity, treating everyone with respect, helping out when needed without having to be asked, putting others before ourselves - then, and only then, Hashem promises to treat us accordingly.
This divine-given recipe, while defining our ideal relationship with our Creator, works wondrously well within our man-made society. How many friends would we have if we didn’t invest in “good deeds, giving charity, treating everyone with respect, helping out when needed, and putting others before ourselves”?
In His wisdom, HaShem is demanding this for our own good.