Yisro: Seeing is Believing!
Rabbi Yonah Burr
וישמע יתרו כהן מדין חתן משה את כל אשר עשה אלקים למשה ולישראל עמו כי הוציא ד' את ישראל ממצרים
And Yisro heard everything that Hashem did for Moshe and his People.
After hearing everything that Hashem did for the Jewish People, Yisro was so inspired that he decided to give everything up to join them in the desert.
But why, after all that Hashem did, was he the only one among the nations who was moved to action?
There is a principle in Halacha that hearing something cannot be better than seeing it. If a Bais Din sees someone commit a crime, there is no need for witnesses to testify -- because of this rule: Hearing is not better than seeing.
In fact, seeing is more powerful than just hearing.
Even the greatest Navi of all, Moshe Rabeinu himself, was more affected by what he saw than what he just heard. When Hashem told Moshe that the Jewish people were worshiping the golden calf, he certainly believed it. Still, he was not moved to act. But seeing it with his own eyes affected him so much that he smashed the Luchos!
During Hashem's revelation at Har Sinai, our Sages tell us that the people saw the thunderous voice. Voices are, of course, sounds, which are normally only heard. The sounds at Matan Torah were not only heard but seen, as well. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that the message of Har Sinai was felt with all of our senses so that we would feel its full impact. To hear would have been insufficient, because we had to absorb every fiber and experience every angle. The sense of sight is "high definition": stronger, clearer, and deeper.
This is perhaps a lesson for us, as students of Torah. When he hear something, we should try to hear it and understand it as though ‘seeing' it with our own eyes.
The reason that most people were not affected by the miracles of the desert was because they only heard about it. It was of interest -- for sure! But it was so abstract. It did not directly apply to them.
Yisro was extraordinary because he took what he heard, and really listened. He thought about it and saw its truth. That's why it moved him to want to become part of it.
May we all be inspired by what we hear, learn and see!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!