This week we learn, live and read the Torah portion Yisro, the portion of the Giving of the Torah.
Shabbos is 22 Shevat, the 29th Yahrzeit of Rebbitzen Chaya Mushka Schneerson, may her merit protect us.
Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk explained what was unique in Yisro "hearing" about the great wonders Hashem performed for the Jewish people.
Surely, he wasn't the only one who heard about these miracles! The commentaries mention how the whole world (long before the internet etc...) heard about the splitting of the sea etc!
Says Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk: Someone can hear about something without internalizing whatsoever what they hear. When Yisro heard about Hashem's miracles on behalf of the Jewish people, he internalized what he heard in his heart and in his soul.
It internalized him to the point that he converted to Judaism.
The Rebbe's father Rabbi Levi Yitzchok says that the name Yisro - יתרו - is related to the word יתרון - Yisron - in the verse in Koheles - Ecclesiastes, (2:13) כיתרון האור מן החושך, as the advantage of light over darkness.
Kabbala and Chassidus explain this verse to mean, in a deeper sense, that the light is far more profound and intense, when it follows and "comes from" (מן החושך) darkness.
This perception explains how this weeks' Torah reading is not called "Mattan Torah", the "Giving of the Torah", nor is it called "Moshe", but rather for all generations it is called Yisro.
Why would the central Torah reading in the entire Chumash - Pentateuch, where the Revelation at Sinai takes place, be named after someone who was a priest of idolatry and an expert in all forms of idol worship?
Says the Rebbe: The whole purpose of מתן תורה, the Giving of the Torah, when וירד ה? על הר סיני, Hashem descended on Mt Sinai, was to transform the mundane and even the profane!
As the Midrash explains, until the Giving of the Torah, there was a decree, that the spiritual and upper realms, עליונים, remain spiritual, and the physical and lower realms, תחתונים, remain physical.
All this was abolished at Mt Sinai. The decree was annulled. Physical and spiritual became fused through the performance of the Mitzvos.
The Mitzvos before Mt Sinai did not and could not accomplish this fusion.
So when someone the likes of Yisro, who came from a place of extreme darkness, and transformed his life to reject all forms of idolatry and to accept the One G-d and His Torah, this was the quintessential יתרון האור מן החושך - the ultimate transformation of light that came from darkness, and the prime inspiration for all generations of the power and purpose of מתן תורה - the Giving of the Torah, to transform the most physical and lowly world, for the good.
As Yisro internalized what he heard, and transformed his life, we too should internalize each day the good and the miracles Hashem does for us every moment - and transform our lives in becoming a better person and closer to Hashem each and every day.
Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus
THE MOSHIACH WATCH: The exodus from Egypt led to the Giving of the Torah.
It was in the merit of Jewish women that we were redeemed from Egypt.
Hashem told Moshe to approach the women first when Giving the Torah.
The Midrash says that all redemptions, including the final redemption with Moshiach, will be in the merit of Jewish women.
The women will also be the first to hear the wondrous teachings of Moshiach.