The Lesson of Yisro’s Descendants

After Harav Shmuel, later to be known as the Divrei Shmuel, succeeded his grandfather as Slonimer Rebbe; his own father, Harav Yechiel Mechel Aharon, would regularly attend his son’s tischen. Out of respect for his father, the Divrei Shmuel would make certain to arrive before his father did, so that he should arise when his father walked in, and not the other way around. One day, he leaned that his father had preceded him and was already sitting at the table where the tisch would be held. The Rebbe instructed that a group of Chassidim should form a human wall from the entrance of the room until the end of the table, so he could approach it without his father noticing. He then proceeded to crawl under the table until he reached his regular place…

As we continue to be inspired by the teachings of Chazal, and the example set by the tzaddikim of yesteryear, there are numerous unsung heroes in our generation as well.

During a trip to Eretz Yisrael, a New York resident paid a visit to an elderly chassid, who had personally known some of the great tzaddikim of previous generations. Though very frail and physically infirm, the chassid’s mind was still clear, and the American found his stories so fascinating that he repeatedly made his way back to the man’s small apartment in Yerushalayim. He soon noticed that regardless of whether he came by in the morning or in the afternoon, in addition to an aide, the elderly man’s son — who himself was in his early sixties — was present.

One day, the visitor couldn’t control his curiosity.

“You can take off so much from work?” he asked.

“I couldn’t be at work and with my father at the same time, so I took early retirement,” the son explained.

The visitor was stunned.

“But you had a very prestigious position, one that brought you great personal satisfaction,” he said.

The elderly man’s son appeared surprised by the visitor’s reaction.

“My father needed me,” he said. “Baruch Hashem, I was already eligible for a pension, so I could afford it.”

After his father was niftar some two years later, the son went back to work full-time. It was clear that he had never intended to retire at all — but his father came first.

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This week, we learn the mitzvah of kibbud av va’eim in the Aseres Hadibros. It is noteworthy that the Mechilta in the beginning of the parashah, when discussing Yisro and his descendants, teaches us a very powerful lesson about kibbud av va’eim.

The Mechilta teaches us that the bris that Hashem established with the descendants of Yonodov ben Rachev was greater than the one He made with Dovid Hamelech. For the latter was with a condition, and applied only if the descendants of Dovid would adhere to the bris and walk in the ways of Hashem. But the bris the Ribbono shel Olam made with descendants Yonodov, which included a promise that they that would be members of the Sanhedrin, had no conditions attached.

What is the secret of this family? What did they do to merit such an extraordinary bris?

The Navi Yirmiyah (Perek 35) tells us that Yonodov, himself a descendant of Yisro, instructed his offspring and all their generations to come not to drink wine.

There are different views among the meforshim what Yonodov’s reason was, but at a time that wine was a staple drink, it clearly put his descendants in a difficult position. Yet they steadfastly listened to the will of their ancestor.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed Yirmiyah to put them to a test, and he invited them to the Beis Hamikdash, and placed before them drinking bowls of wine and cups and urged them to drink.

Citing the will of their ancestor Yonodov, they respectfully declined, and earned an eternal reward from Hashem.

According to one view, even after the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed and all the Jews exiled, this family miraculously remained hidden and safe in Eretz Yisrael.

The Merkavas Hamishneh explains that the fact that Yonodov’s descendants merited such a lofty bris, illustrates that Hashem values the mitzvah of kibbud av va’eim even more than His own honor.

It is vital, however, to bear in mind the teaching of the Sefer Chareidim, who tells us that in order to properly fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud av va’eim, we must seek to find the good attributes of our parents, dwell on them and truly think highly of them in our hearts and minds. Only when we will look up to them, cherish them and truly respect them, we will be able to honor them in the way we are obligated by the Torah.