Jewish Unity – Weekly Words of Torah, Parshat Yitro 5774

Insights into Parshat Yitro of Mr. Avrumi Blisko (in the name of Mr. Marc Eichenbaum) of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.

Last week we read about the Jews crossing Yam Suf, the beautiful shira they sang afterwards, and the victory over Amalek. It would seem fitting that after such a tremendous moment the following parsha would go right into the climax of Yetziat Mitzrayim- Matan Torah, where Hashem chose us as His special nation, privileged to receive the Torah. However, asks Rav Boruch Simon, why does the seemingly minute story of Yitro and the establishment of the courts precede the pinnacle of Jewish history? Secondly, why does the Torah refer to Yitro as “Kohen Midyan”; what is the importance of that title? Finally, the halacha rules that we do not accept converts in the days of the Moshiach or in the era of King David and King Solomon, because the favorable conditions of the Jewish People at those times raises suspicion to the motivation of potential converts for joining the Jewish People. This being the case, why was Yitro accepted at this time, when the Jewish People were on top of the world? Subsequent to the 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, the defeat of Amalek, the entire world was terrified of the Jewish People. Why was the timing of Yitro not questioned?

Rav Simon answers the second question as follows: The title of “Kohen Midyan” expressed the stature of Yitro; a chief and worldwide leader. He had reached the peak; he had nowhere to go but down. Thus, his intentions for joining the Jewish People were not to achieve honor or respect. To the contrary, he had to take a step down from his position of glory to join The Jewish People in the desert as an ordinary man. Therefore Yitro was allowed to join the Jewish People.

For this reason the story of Yitro is recorded prior to Matan Torah. Yitro teaches us how to accept the Torah- Lishma, wholeheartedly, without any ulterior motives. We must have love and passion for Torah and Hashem; we don’t accept the Torah merely for acclaim or accolade.

May we be privileged to accept and learn Torah everyday lishma, and may our love of Torah grow exponentially everyday and bring the Moshiach quickly in our days.