G-D IS MY CO-PILOT
This week's Torah portion relates the spiritual journey on which its title figure, Yitro, embarks. Formerly an idolatrous priest in the land of Midian, Yitro catches up with Moses and the Jewish people in the desert for the purpose of joining them and Hashem.
This week's Torah portion relates the spiritual journey on which its title figure, Yitro, embarks. Formerly an idolatrous priest in the land of Midian, Yitro catches up with Moses and the Jewish people in the desert for the purpose of joining them and Hashem. After hearing about the splitting of the Red Sea and the battle against Amalek, Yitro realizes that Hashem is in fact the one and only G-d, and he goes to convert to Judaism. He gives up everything that he had in Midian to join the Jewish people. Why would someone do this? Why would someone give up fame and fortune to join up with a group of people in which he would be just an average member? The answer to this question can be found in the following story summarized from Shabbos Stories by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman.
Alon had worked for many years in the Israeli army to become a pilot. A pilot was the top position one could obtain in the army, and they received many honors. After serving as a pilot for a number of years, Alon felt that, even though he had achieved this great feat, his life was still very unfulfilling. He decided to take a leave from the army to search for happiness.
After a short period of time, Alon landed in the Yeshiva Ohr Somayach, a place of Torah study in Jerusalem for those returning to Judaism. When his leave from the army expired, Alon was enjoying the study of Torah so much that he asked for another leave. By the end of this period of time, Alon had become a full-fledged ba'al teshuvah (returnee to traditional Torah observance). He then requested to be released from the army so that he could learn Torah full-time.
The officer who was handling his case was in shock. He could not understand why anyone would want to give up a position as a pilot in the Israeli army. The position was so sought out, and the pilots received so much honor. The man asked Alon, "Don't you feel that you've gained anything from the army?"
Alon responded, "Certainly. If I had been a tank driver, I also would have been miserable, but I would have thought, 'If only I was a pilot, then I would be happy.' If I had been a paratrooper, I would have had the same thoughts. But I was already at the top, yet I was still unhappy. This led me to seek the true happiness in the world, which is living a life of Torah. Thank you for leading me to the Torah!"
Similarly, Yitro was already on the "top" of society, yet his life was still unfulfilled. Not until he accepted the Torah did he find the true path for life. We should take these lessons to heart. How often do we see Jews who unfortunately do not live in the ways of the Torah? These people are often unhappy, and look towards other people who are above them on the social ladder and assume that they are happy. It is our job to first clarify this understanding in our own minds, and then help others realize that they will not find true happiness in this world without the Torah.
Hashem created this world, and He created an instruction book for how to live happily. Only when one follows these instructions can true happiness be achieved, and they can be found in only one place - the Torah.
Pinchas Landis, a native Atlantan, is in his first year at the Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchonon (Yeshiva University) in New York.
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