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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Yisro: Seeing is Not Always Believing

וישמע יתרו כהן מדין חתן משה את כל אשר עשה אלקים למשה ולישראל עמו כי הוציא ד' את ישראל ממצרים

Yisro, the minister of Midyan, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard everything that G-d did to Moshe and to Yisroel, His people – that Hashem had taken Yisroel out of Egypt

What did Yisro hear? Rashi citing the various medrashim, says that Yisro was impressed with everything that Hashem did for us- the splitting of the sea, the victorious battle against Amalek, the wonderful manna, and the miraculous well.

There is some ambiguity regarding when exactly Yisro joined up with the Jewish People. On the one hand, we know that Yisro noticed Moshe stretching himself thin to judge and teach the people. This would indicate that Yisro came after the Torah was given. Moshe couldn’t have been teaching the people if the Torah was not yet given.

On the other hand, the Torah places the sequence of events here, before the giving of the Torah, implying that Yisro came before; this is an example of the Talmudic axiom, “the Torah does not follow the chronological order”. The Torah is not merely recounting stories and history, but rather meant to impart lessons; the Torah obviously feels that regardless of when Yisro actually came, it is important to highlight something here.

What is the message that the Torah is teaching us?

Perhaps the Torah in this week’s parsha, is pointing out the contrast between Yisro’s reaction to the miracles that transpired, versus Amalek’s at the end of last week. Both saw and were impressed with the miracles, however they responded very differently; Amalek, who wanted to deny Hashem, and live a life devoid of spirituality, needed to prove to himself and the world that the Jews were not invincible. Yes, it was a pretty impressive victory over Egypt, but it was just ‘good luck’. Nothing special or deeper than that. I am going to fight it, cool it down, and hope that no one gets inspired by it.

Yisro, on the other hand, while sitting in the lap of luxury, saw things differently. “Something special is going on here, and I am willing to give everything up in order to be part of it”.

Two people can see the same thing, but draw two very different conclusions. The difference is if we are open to see the truth and live by it, or not.

We are surrounded by so many lessons and experiences; let’s filter out the wrong ones, and be inspired by the right ones!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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