HEARING IS BELIEVING
This week's Torah portion begins by telling us, "And Yitro heard. . . all that Hashem did for Moses and His nation Israel. . ." (Exodus 18:1), but the Torah does not tell us which of the wonders impressed Yitro the most.
This week's Torah portion begins by telling us, "And Yitro heard. . . all that Hashem did for Moses and His nation Israel. . ." (Exodus 18:1), but the Torah does not tell us which of the wonders impressed Yitro the most. What aspect of the Exodus and the ensuing weeks inspired Yitro to join the Jewish people in the desert?
The Talmud (Tractate Zevachim 116a) quotes three opinions of what Yitro heard that impressed him so much. The first claims that it was the Jewish people's victory over the nation of Amalek -- essentially a band of slaves defeating a powerful nation -- that drew Yitro to join them. He had to find out what made the Jewish people so unique that they were capable of winning such a battle so convincingly.
A second opinion argues that Yitro was impressed by the miracles and wonders that Hashem performed for the Children of Israel at the splitting of the Red Sea. Indeed, the Passover Hagaddah tells us that the miracles at the Red Sea were five times more wondrous than the plagues in Egypt.
Finally, the third opinion states that Yitro was attracted by the true greatness of the Torah. Yitro, the former priest of Midian, had tried out every religion known to man and had not found spiritual satisfaction and fulfillment. When he heard about the eternal truths spoken at Sinai in the Torah that Hashem was giving to the Jewish people, he became so awe-struck that he immediately converted to Judaism.
Yitro's greatness lies in his taking immediate action upon receiving inspiration. Even though he had a highly respectable position in the Midianite society, he allowed what he heard to affect him personally. If Yitro, a non-Jew, could become so paralyzed by the beauty of the Torah, so much more should we as Jews be inspired and drawn to learn more about the intricacies and nuances of Jewish tradition.
Ariel Sloan, a native Atlantan, is currently an 11th grade student at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA) in New York.
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