A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County

Parshat Yitro          22 Shevat 5764              February 14, 2004              Vol.13 No.21

In This Issue:

Dr. Joel M. Berman
Sam Reinstein
Uri Carl

Rabbi Chaim Jachter

This week's Kol Torah has been sponsored by Barbara and Ken Strassman and family
in memory of Ken's mother Henya bat Shlomo.


Wake Up, Punchy!
by Dr. Joel M. Berman, Science Department

I might not be writing this Dvar Torah if it wasn't for one Russell Streigel.
My father, Ad Meah Viesrim, graduated Brown University in 1940. Soon afterward, he enlisted in the American Army - Air Force (the two were combined in those days). "Only a fool couldn't see that a war was coming," my father told me, "and I didn't want to be drafted into the infantry." He went to flight school where he failed the course because he had problems negotiating landings. It later turned out that he needed glasses. The Air Force next sent him to train to be a tail gunner on a B17 - one of the most dangerous jobs in the Air Force.
In those final days before World War II, Sunday was still a day off in the American armed forces. My father shared a barracks with a number of other soldiers. "Wake up!" one of my father's bunkmates, Russell Streigel, shouted at my still sleeping father early one Sunday morning on base. My father didn't stir. "Wake up, Punchy!" he continued to shout (since my father was a boxer). "It's time to go to church!" My father rolled over away from Russell and told him to get lost. Russell Streigel was not a soldier to ignore. He was a six-foot, two-hundred-pound, well-fed farm boy from the Midwest. He grabbed one side of my father's cot and flipped my father onto the cement floor. "C'mon Punchy," Russell said, "time to go to church." "I'm Jewish!" my father told him, while rubbing his side where he hit the floor. "Leave me alone!"
Russell's face became ashen. He walked over to his cot and sat down, shocked. "If I knew you were Jewish," he told my father, "I never would have left my watch and walled out when I took a shower. I would have taken them with me." My father pointed out to him that several other soldiers in the barracks were Jewish. Russell, still in shock, told my father how he grew up in a small farm town in the Midwest composed of German immigrants. He never met a Jew in his life. He was taught that Jews were thieves and were entirely untrustworthy.
After that incident, my father and Russell became fast friends. I still have pictures of the two of them - Russell towering over my father. Some time after the war started, my father and Russell spent seventy-two sleepless hours in a B17 patrolling for Japanese subs. They were absolutely exhausted. When they finally returned to base, they learned that candidates were being accepted for officers' school that day and that day only. "Punchy," Russell said to my father, "you're a college graduate, go sign up for officer's school." "I can't," my father said, "I haven't slept in three days. I have to sleep." With that, Russell threw my father over his shoulders, carried him to the place where the officer candidates were signing up, steadied my father's hand, forcing him to sign.
We learn how Yitro, a High Priest for Avodah Zarah, heard about what transpired with Klal Yisrael, and changed his ways after a life seeped in idol worship. Sixty-five years ago, Russell Streigel also heard and changed his ways. Imagine an anti-Semitic, nineteen-year-old farm boy, totally rejecting his upbringing in only a few minutes.
Yitro was rewarded by having descendants sitting in the Sanhedrin. Russell Streigel was also rewarded. There was an extremely high attrition rate amongst B17 tail gunners. It is likely that Russell Streigel saved my father's life early in the war by getting him into officers' school and out of the B17. Whoever saves a life, the Torah teaches us, saves the whole world. Russell Streigel was certainly rewarded for this. Thank you, Mr. Streigel.

Was Moshe Scared?
by Sam Reinstein

The Torah tells us that during the six weeks period between Kriyat Yamsuf and the Matan Torah, Amalek attacked Bnei Yisrael at Refidim. As the leader of the Jewish people, one would expect Moshe to lead the battle against Amalek. Yet, Moshe tells Yehoshua, who is mentioned for the first time in the Torah, to select an army and lead Bnei Yisrael in battle. However, why does Yehoshua lead the fighting instead of Moshe?
The Ramban says that Moshe did not fight in this battle because he needed to be on top of the hill where he could oversee the battle and pray for Bnai Yisroel. In addition when Bnei Yisrael would see Moshe praying and they would be inspired and ask Hashem for help. However, later, in Parshat Chukat, Moshe does lead the battles against Sichon and Og himself. Therefore why here does Moshe take a backseat and let Yehoshua lead the battle?
One possible answer is that Moshe did this as an educational experience for both Bnei Yisrael and Yehoshua. Unlike the wars to come, Moshe saw this battle as the ultimate cultural war between good and evil, with Amalek representing pure evil, and with the Torah and Hashem representing good. Moshe wanted to show that by praying to Hashem, good will always triumph over evil. Conversely, when Bnei Yisrael do not follow Hashem's guidance, they will not succeed and they will be punished. In Parshat Shelach, the Maapilim decided to go into Canaan before Hashem allowed it, and were therefore massacred by Amalek. Here Moshe is showing Bnei Yisrael here that in addition to using their physical weapons, they have to look to Hashem in order to succeed. As a result, Moshe was able to strengthen Bnei Yisrael's self esteem and confidence in Hashem.
Moshe appointed Yehoshua to lead Bnei Yisrael, not because of his own weakness, fear, or old age, but rather because of the need to train Yehoshua in the conduct of war. Through prayer and confidence in Hashem, Bnei Yisrael will succeed. These are skills that will be required when Yehoshua leads Bnei Yisrael final into Eretz Yisrael and they conquer the land. The victory in this battle also heightened Yehoshua's self esteem, which would aid him in his future leadership of Bnei Yisrael.

Which Day is the Next Day?
by Uri Carl

In the beginning of the Parsha, Yitro arrives with Tzipporah, Eliezer, and Gershom, and a whole family reunion takes place. Everyone is happy to see each other and there is a big feast with korbanot to Hashem. Then, in Pasuk 13, the Torah records "Vayehi Mimacharat" "And it was on next day." There is a famous question asked on this, which day is this is next day after?
Taking the simple Pshat of the Pasuk, the Ibn Ezra says that it must be the day after the arrival of Yitro. However, Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says that it refers to the day after Yom Kippur. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik HaLevi explains the phrase as meaning that when Moshe first sat in judgment, it was "the day after" the first judgment. Moshe had to learn how to judge, so he learned different Halachot such as Pshara, compromise based on what Hashem did on Yom Kippur. It only makes sense that the day after Moshe saw Hashem judge Bnei Yisrael, he, Moshe, learned the manner in which to judge others.
Additionally, much support can be given to both Rashi and the Ibn Ezra. First, in support of the Ibn Ezra, it is very logical that it was the day after Yitro's arrival because it flows with the order in the Pasuk. However, in support of Rashi, one may say there is an indication in Pasuk 12 that it was a day after Yom Kippur because the Torah mentions that people ad bread and a feast, as if it was food before the fast. Additionally, it is possible to say that this is a source in the Torah to have a Seudat Mafseket before Yom Kippur, as they had some food before Yom Kippur.


Staff at time of publication:
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