Class Notes on ‘Parshat Yitro by Shira Smiles’

9 02 2009

One of the most prominent aspects of Parshat Yitro is that it contains the
Aseret Hadibrot, the Ten Utterances. The first and last of these, “I am the
L-rd your G-d,” and, “Thou shalt not covet,” seem to form bookends to
encompass the essence of all ten. How is “Thou shalt not covet” an
appropriate summation to this cornerstone of our Judaism?

Coveting is one of the most universal of feelings, yet we are told we must
rein in this emotion and stop it cold. Contrary to current culture which
values total freedom in all we do, say, or even wish, the Torah tells us
that the way to true growth is through placing limitations and boundaries on
ourselves and rising above them. I once heard a secular, business tape that
pointed out that in order to be a true DISCIPLE, one must practice
DISCIPLINE, one cannot learn without self control. This is precisely what
the Torah teaches us with Matan Torah and with the Aseret Hadibrot. First,
set boundaries of time – three days – and of space – around the mountain.
Then set boundaries to your beliefs, your actions, and even your emotions.
If we can restrain our covetousness, we will come to no other sin.

We are given the opportunity to rise higher than the angels who were
hesitant to let Moshe bring the Torah down to earth. We have the opportunity
to sanctify everything on earth and, through how we use them, raise
ourselves up so that we continue to grow spiritually, as no angel can. But
we can only do this if we understand that “Anochi Hashem… ” comes first,
and all that we have on this earth actually belongs to Him. It is lent to us
so that we can use them in our unique mission on earth. In this context,
whatever was not given to me is unnecessary for my mission and may in fact
be harmful to me, much like taking someone else’s prescription. If we can
achieve this mindset, we will not fall into the trap of coveting that which
belongs to another while failing to appreciate that which we have and can
utilize effectively for all our needs. We will also understand that by
desiring that which belongs to my neighbor, I am upsetting the equilibrium
necessary for the unity of Am Yiroel and may be hindering my fellow from
accomplishing his mission.

There are several approaches we can take to overcome covetousness. First, we
can put the object of our desire out of our mind and pretend it doesn’t
exist. Then we can say that it is so beyond our reach that it would be
unnatural to continue to desire it, like a peasant wanting to marry a
princess. Or, in an about face that renews our pride and dignity, we can
reaffirm that we are children of Hashem, princes and princesses, and
desiring these insignificant objects is beneath our dignity.

These are the values we want to pass on to our children, the knowledge that
each of us has a unique mission on earth and that Hashem has given us each
the tools necessary to accomplish our mission, and everything else is
extraneous and therefore unworthy of our desire.

Chanie Stein  West Hempstead, NY

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