Pearls of Rashi – Yisro

This week’s Torah portion, Yisro, tells us of the historic moment that Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish Nation. The Torah tells us that Hashem told Moshe (Shemos 19:6) that “… these are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Rashi cites the words from the verse “these are the words,” and explains that it means “no less and no more.”

This presents us with a difficulty. Why would it enter anyone’s mind that Moshe would add to or subtract from G-d’s words? If that was a realistic concern, why wasn’t he told the same regarding other matters which he was commanded to transmit to us?

The explanation is, that these words come as a continuation of what Hashem told Moshe several verses earlier. The Torah said (Shemos 19:3) that “Moshe ascended to G-d. The Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘So shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell the sons of Yisroel.’” Rashi comments that the “house of Yaakov refers to the women. You should speak to them gently.” On the other hand, Rashi wrote that telling the “sons of Yaakov” means that he should “tell the males the punishments and the details (of the laws); things that are as harsh as sinews[1].”

From this we see that Moshe was not commanded to parrot what he heard from G-d in the precise manner in which Hashem said them. Rather he was to transmit Hashem’s word to everyone in a way which would suite them. He was to speak to each one in a manner which he/she would find most acceptable.

This might (mistakenly) give us the impression that Moshe was given latitude not only in the way in which he transmitted Hashem’s words. We might also think that Moshe was to teach individual as much of G-d’s commandments as they person would find agreeable. He would teach each individual as much as he felt they could tolerate. Therefore Rashi explains to us here that Moshe transmitted to the Jews exactly what Hashem told him; no more and no less. The entire Torah was given to each and every one of us without exception.

Wishing one and all Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

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