Yitro

Some thoughts on the parsha:

18:1 Vayishma Yitro — He came, he heard, he converted.

18:9 Vayichad Yitro — Rashi puns on vayichad, saying that Yitro broke out on goosebumps (chadudin) when he heard that the Egyptians had suffered. Even though his mind was happy for Bnei Yisrael, his visceral reaction was a sense of horror at the Egyptian suffering. He was, after all, not one of us….

19:4 Al Kanfei Nesharim — God is romanticizing the Exodus from Egypt. In truth, it was not such smooth sailing (I mean, flying), but this is how God retells the story in an effort to seduce His bride.

19:17 Vayotze Moshe – Aviva Zornberg points out that according to the midrash, Moshe had to forcibly lead BY out towards God like a reluctant bride who is urged along by her accompanying bridesmaids. The midrash explains that on the night before Matan Torah –the night before their wedding to God– BY were sleeping soundly. This is why we have a tikun leyn shavuot — l’taken for BY’s having slept.

20:14 Va’yanu’u va’yamdu m’rachok – Rashi comments that BY were so startled by God’s kolot that with each commandment, they moved back startled twelve miles, which was a distance equal to the entire length of the camp. AZ, as she is wont, concludes that BY therefore moved a distance of 240 miles during Matan Torah, in an oscillating movement that may be the origin of “shuckling” when davening. I instead see it as an enacting of the entire historical cycle of sin, repentance, sin reptentance — an oscillating movement of straying and returning.

20:14 Kolot — What were they? What are these voices of God? I think they were waves coming from all parts of the spectrum — including those parts that we cannot hear. Don’t they say that dolphins are always emitting high-pitched sounds that are inaudible to human ears? Well, maybe God is too — it’s just that at Matan Torah, we were able to tune in to a few of those extra wavelengths. Are there audible waves as well on the electromagnetc spectrum? E.g., can infrared be HEARD even if not seen? That would explain the synesthetic “ro’im et ha-kolot”….

B. Talmud Sanhedrin 89a — “But he who suppresses his prophecy, or disregards the words of a prophet, or a prophet who transgresses his own words is slain by heaven, for it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not harken’ — now this may be understood as implying ‘to proclaim’ and ‘hearkening himself’ unto my words, and the verse proclaims ‘I will require it of him,’ i.e., he shall be slain by heaven.”
Will he really be slain by heaven? No, rather a part of him will die if he does not actualize his talents. As Milton wrote: “And that one talent which is death to hide / lodged with useless though my soul more bent / to better serve my maker….”

Shmot Rabbah (can’t remember where) — At the moment of giving over Torah, God held two tfachim of the luchot, Moshe held two tfachim, and there were two tfachim between them. The need for this degree of specificity reflects the tremendous erotic intensity between God and Moshe at this moment, as if they stood “palm to palm in holy palmer’s kiss.”

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