Newsletter Parashat Yitro – Aseret Hadiberot

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Aseret Hadiberot

‘Aseret HaDiberot – The Ten Commandments

It is the minhag of all Jews from North Africa, as well as Ashkenazim, to stand up during the reading of the ‘Aseret HaDiberot (the
Ten Commandments) on Shabu’ot, Shabat Yitro, and Shabat VaEthanan,
to commemorate the time when Yisrael stood at Har Sinai as if we are once again
welcoming the face of the Shekhina (Divine Presence) and accepting the

However, Rambam[2] writes not to stand for
the ‘aseret hadiberot because the heretics will claim, “we only
attribute importance to these ten misvot as they are the only ones that are
true; the rest of the Tora is not true,” has veshalom

The reason
we continue to follow this
minhag, is because the heretics at the time
of Rambam were much different then the heretics of today as heretics of today
do not make such claims.
[3] Ribi Shalom Messas[4] is also of this opinion
and explains further that whether we were to remain seated or we stood during
‘aseret hadiberot it would not change the perception of the
heretics; either way they would find ways to deny the
Tora. Also, it is clear
that since we continue to read the remainder of the
parasha – and not solely
‘aseret hadiberot – there is no reason to worry about such claims.[5] Ribi Yehuda ‘Ayash of
Algeria is also of this opinion and writes that the claims of the heretics
could only persuade an ignoramus of nowadays using such logic.
[6] Furthermore, Maran HaHida[7] explains that since we
berakhot before and after each ‘aliya latora – and not just
‘aliya of the ‘aseret hadiberot – we have no worry that
heretics will make a claim that the rest of the
Tora is untrue.

Maran Ha
Hida[8] cautions us, however, to
stand from the beginning of the ‘aliya in order to show that we stand for other
pesuqim as well. He also adds that it is very important that if the
majority of the congregation is standing, one is NOT allowed to sit, as this
illustrates a belittlement of the
‘Aseret HaDiberot, G-d forbid.
Nonetheless, the majority of Moroccan
posqim write that the common
minhag is to stand only upon reaching the
‘Aseret HaDiberot for we are
not concerned about the claims of the heretics at all.

It was the tradition to gather women together and read them these Ten
Commandments, in Arabic “
‘Asr Klmat,” along with its explanation
according to

Certain parts of the
parasha are read in a special tune, among them the ‘Aseret
and the Shirat HaYam in order to ascribe special
importance to these sections of the
Tora as they speak about the high spiritual
level of
Bené Yisrael and not, has veshalom, to say that
they are more important than the rest of the


 The Minhag in Moor Lane is to STAND during the Aseret Hadiberot

[1] As the Tora says “they were standing at a
distance.” This minhag is cited by Dibré Shalom VeEmet (Heleq
2, p.72). Sefer Mamlekhet Kohanim records that this was also the minhag
in Djerba and mainland Tunisia, Noheg BeHokhma p.143, QS”A Toledano
(Siman 442:9), Yehavé Da’at Hazan (Heleq 3, O”H,
Siman 13), Maté Yehuda ‘Ayash (Siman 1:6), Dabar Shemuel
by Ribi Shemuel Abuhab (Siman 276), Kapé Aharon (Siman 39), and Sedé Hemed
(Kelalé HaPosqim, Siman 5:14). In Shemesh Umaghen (Heleq 1, O”H,
Siman 57, p.130) Ribi Shalom Messas solidifies our custom to stand based on the
fact that today we do not have the same type of heretics that they had in the
times of Hazal and because of whom this minhag was spoken out fiercely against.
Maran HaHida (LeDavid Emet Siman 7:5) further says that one should
stand in order to stir feelings of fear and trepidation as were felt at Har

Those who speak out against this practice do so because to a foreigner it might
seem as if the ‘Aseret HaDiberot are more important than the rest of the
Tora. This gives reason for the heretics to believe that only the ‘Aseret
were given at Har Sinai and not the rest of the Tora which
is not the truth, has veshalom.

[2] In his handwritten responsa that was compiled
along with approximately 367 other responses in 1934. (Siman 46).

[3] Ribi Moshé Feinstein’s response, Igerot Moshé
(Heleq 4, O”H Siman 22).

[4] Shemesh Umaghen (Heleq 1, O”H
Siman 57 p.130-1) and (Heleq 3, O”H Siman 55:3).

[5] Maghen Abot (Siman 1, p.53-4): Diné
Hashqamat HaBoqer.

[6] Maté Yehuda (Siman 1:6).

[7] LeDavid Emet (Siman 7:5).

[8] Toub ‘Ayin (Siman 11).

[9] Ribi Yehuda ‘Ayash of Algeria (Maté Yehuda
Siman 1:6), Ribi Yishaq Hazan (Yehavé Da’at, Heleq
3, Siman 13), Ribi Yosef Messas in Osar HaMikhtabim (Heleq
3, §1859), and HaMalakh Refael Berdugo as quoted by the QS”A of Ribi
Refael Barukh Toledano (p.174), all say that the common minhag is to
stand only once we reach the ‘Aseret HaDiberot. This is also the minhag
of Tunisia (Mamlekhet Kohanim) and Libya (Netibot HaMa’arab,
Shabu’ot §12).

[10] This is to make the Tora more pleasant to them,
and with this they should be more helpful to their husbands in facilitating
their Tora learning. See Nahagu Ha’Am (Shabu’ot §5, p.57) as the
source and for the lyrics in Arabic.

[11] See Noheg BeHokhma (p.145 §13).


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Q & A on Parashat Yitro

All references are to the verses and Rashi’s commentary, unless otherwise stated.

  1. Yitro had 7 names. Why was one of his names Yeter ?
    18:1 – Because he caused a parsha to be added to the Torah. Yeter means addition.
  2. News of which two events motivated Yitro to come join the Jewish People?
    18:1 – The splitting of the sea and the war against Amalek.
  3. What name of Yitro indicates his love for Torah?
    18:1 – Chovav.
  4. Why was Tzipora with her father, Yitro, and not with Moshe when Bnei Yisrael left Egypt?
    18:3 – When Aharon met Moshe with his family on their way down to Egypt, Aharon said to Moshe: "We're pained over the Jews already in Egypt, and you're bringing more Jews to Egypt?" Moshe, hearing this, sent his wife and children back to Midian.
  5. Why does verse 18:5 say that Yitro came to the desert — don't we already know that the Bnei Yisrael were in the desert?
    18:5 – To show Yitro's greatness. He was living in a luxurious place; yet he went to the desert in order to study the Torah.
  6. Why did Moshe tell Yitro all that G-d had done for the Jewish People?
    18:8 – To draw Yitro closer to the Torah way of life.
  7. According to the Midrash quoted by Rashi, how did Yitro respond when he was told about the destruction of Egypt?
    18:9 – He grieved.
  8. Who is considered as if he enjoys the splendor of the Shechina ?
    18:12 – One who dines with Torah scholars.
  9. On what day did Moshe sit to judge the Jewish People?
    18:13 – The day after Yom Kippur.
  10. Who is considered a co-partner in Creation?
    18:13 – A judge who renders a correct decision.
  11. "Moshe sat to judge the people, and the people stood before Moshe…." What bothered Yitro about this arrangement?
    18:14 – Yitro felt that the people weren't being treated with the proper respect.
  12. Why did Yitro return to his own land?
    18:27 – To convert the members of his family to Judaism.
  13. How did the encampment at Sinai differ from the other encampments?
    19:2 – The Jewish People were united.
  14. To whom does the Torah refer when it uses the term "Beit Yaakov "?
    19:3 – The Jewish women.
  15. How is G-d's protection of the Jewish People similar to an eagle's protection of its young?
    19:4 – An eagle carries its young on top of its wings to protect them from human arrows. So too, G-d's cloud of glory separated between the Egyptians and the Jewish camp in order to absorb Egyptian missiles and arrows fired at the Jewish People.
  16. What was G-d's original plan for Matan Torah ? What was the response of the Jewish People?
    19:9 – G-d offered to appear to Moshe and to give the Torah through him. The Jewish People responded that they wished to hear the Torah directly from G-d.
  17. How many times greater is the "measure of reward" than the "measure of punishment"?
    20:6 – 500 times.
  18. How is it derived that "Don't steal" refers to kidnapping?
    20:13 – Since it is written immediately after "Don't murder" and "Don't commit adultery," it is derived that "Don't steal" refers to a crime carrying the same penalty as the first two, namely, the death penalty.
  19. In response to hearing the Torah given at Sinai, how far backwards did the Jewish people retreat in fear?
    20:15 – They backed away from the mountain twelve mil (one mil is 2000 cubits).
  20. Why does the use of iron tools profane the altar?
    20:22 – The altar was created to extend life; iron is sometimes used to make weapons which shorten life.
Halachot from Maran Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Ztz'l    

שאלה: האם מותר להניח בשבת מכשיר "אינטרקום" בחדר שיש בו תינוק, כדי שיוכלו הוריו לשמוע את בכיו ולדעת מה מצבו, ולהעניק לו כל צרכיו?

תשובה: הנה לכאורה יש לדון בזה מצד שמכשיר האינטרקום דומה מצד פעולתו למכשיר הרם קול שכבר אסרוהו כל גאוני הדורות האחרונים מכמה סיבות, ומהם, מפני שמכשיר הרם קול הוא כלי המיוחד להשמעת קול, שאסור מדרבנן להשתמש בו ביום השבת. וכן האריך בזה מרן הרב זצ"ל בספר יביע אומר (ח"א סי' יט) לאסור השימוש ברמקול בשבת מכמה טעמים.

אולם לענין אינטרקום בחדר שיש בו תינוק, לכאורה יש לדון בזה להקל מטעם שתינוק נחשב כחולה שאין בו סכנה גם כאשר הוא מרגיש טוב, (שהרי מצבו רגיש וכל הזמן הוא נזקק לטיפול של הוריו) ולכן, באיסור דרבנן שלא נעשה על ידי ההורים, רק על ידי התינוק שמשמיע קולו, לכאורה יש להקל. ואף שבזמן שנכנסים ההורים לחדר התינוק בכדי לטפל בו,  נשמע גם קולם ברמקול בזמן שהם מדברים שם, מכל מקום מותר הדבר, לפי שאינם מתכונים שישמעו קולם, ואין להם כל תועלת מכך, וגם אינם עושים מעשה בידים כלל, על כן יש להקל בזה באיסור דרבנן.
אלא שיש אומרים שעיקר איסור השימוש ברמקול או באינטרקום בשבת אינו רק מדרבנן, אלא איסורו איסור גמור מן התורה, מפני שבזמן שעוברים גלי הקול, נוצרת פעולה חשמלית המביאה לזיקי אש במוליכי הזרם החשמלי, ויש בזה איסור תורה. וכן כתבו כמה מגדולי הרבנים בדור שלפנינו. אולם מרן הרב זצ"ל העיר על דבריהם, כי מזה זמן רב דיבר על כך עם ידידו הגאון רבי שלמה זלמן אוירבך זצ"ל (שהיה נודע בהבנתו בעניני חשמל בהלכה) והלה הודיעו באופן ברור כי דברי הרבנים שכתבו כך אינם נכונים במציאות כלל, ושאין הדיבור מעורר זיקי אש, רק הגברת הזרם, שאין בו שום חשש של הבערה וכיבוי, וכל דברי המומחים בזה הם רק על הגברת הזרם, אבל האש או האור, לא מתגבר ולא מתמעט בזה כלל. והרבנים שכתבו כן בזמנים עברו, הוא מפני שלא היה ענין החשמל ברור בזמנם די הצורך.
ולפיכך הדבר ברור, שאין איסור בשימוש ברמקול בשבת, אלא מדרבנן, ולפיכך בנדון דנן שהוא לצורך תינוק, וגם לא נעשה מעשה בידים ממש, המיקל בשימוש באינטרקום בשבת, יש לו על מה שיסמוך.

Baby Monitors on Shabbat

Question: May one place a baby monitor (intercom) in a baby’s room on Shabbat in order to be able to hear if the baby cries and to be able to adequately care for his/her needs?

Answer: At first glance, it would seem that the baby monitor is similar in the way it works to a microphone which has already been prohibited by the greatest luminaries of the past several generation for several reasons, including the fact that it is a vessel designated for making noise whose usage on Shabbat is subject to a rabbinic prohibition. Indeed, Maran zt”l writes lengthily in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 1, Chapter 19) to prohibit the usage of a microphone on Shabbat for several reasons.

Nevertheless, there seems to be more room for leniency regarding a monitor placed in a baby’s room, for an infant is considered to be “an individual ill with a non-life-threatening illness” even when he is healthy (since a baby’s condition is very sensitive and he is constantly in need of his parents’ care); thus, there is room for leniency regarding a rabbinic prohibition not being performed by the parents and which is only a result of the raising of the baby’s voice. Although the parents’ voices are heard on the intercom as well when they enter the baby’s room in order to care for him and speak there, nevertheless, this is still permissible since they have no intention for their voices to be heard and they gain no benefit from this in addition to the fact that there is no physical action. Thus, regarding a rabbinic prohibition, there is room for leniency.

On the other hand, some claim that the usage of a microphone or baby monitor on Shabbat is not only a rabbinic prohibition but is actually a Torah prohibition, for the sound waves create an electrical function whereby sparks of fire are emitted via electrical conduction. Several great luminaries from the previous generation rule likewise. Nevertheless, Maran zt”l disagrees with this opinion, for after having spoken this matter over with his great friend, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (who was known to be an expert in the Halachot regarding electricity), the latter informed him that it is clear that the opinion of the aforementioned luminaries is completely incorrect and one’s speech does not create any kind of sparks and only causes an increase in the sound waves which has no connection to the forbidden works of igniting or extinguishing a flame. All experts in the field of electricity point to an increase in the sound waves but no fire (electricity) is increased or decreased as a result. The reason why some Poskim wrote this way in previous generations is because the mechanics of electricity were not yet clearly understood by all.

Thus, it is clear that using a microphone on Shabbat is only a rabbinic prohibition and regarding our situation which is a necessity for an infant and where no physical action being performed, one who is lenient and uses a baby monitor on Shabbat surely has on whom to rely.

Shabbat Shalom

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