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GET A LIFE

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Behind every great man, it has been said, there is an astonished mother-in-law! Apparently, there is also a supportive father-in-law, as Moses had in Yitro.

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Behind every great man, it has been said, there is an astonished mother-in-law! Apparently, there is also a supportive father-in-law, as Moses had in Yitro.

Not only did Yitro give Moses wise advice on how to lighten his workload, he also rallied to his side in the desert and became a righteous gentile.

Our sages tell us that Yitro deserved to be part of the Jewish people because of something he once did. Yitro, Job, and Bilaam were advisors to Pharaoh. When Pharaoh sought options for solving his "Jewish question," he consulted these advisors. Bilaam advised Pharaoh to massacre the Jews; Job, in shock, remained totally silent; Yitro ran away to Midian.

Each was paid back measure-for-measure: Bilaam was himself killed. Job would suffer great tragedies, rendering him speechless in the face of his grief. Yitro, who ran away, would ultimately run to the desert to rendezvous with Moses and the Jewish people. Hashem records every act we do and, in time, we receive full payment.

One might ask why Bilaam experienced a quick death, yet Job had to suffer countless hardships. Certainly, Job was more righteous than Bilaam. Why did he not deserve the quick death instead of suffering so much?

The answer is that although Job suffered greatly, he still lived, while Bilaam ceased to exist. And life—even a life of pain and hardship—is of inestimable value, while death is the greatest punishment of all.

We live in a world where the value of life has become radically devalued in recent years. We almost casually abort fetuses; we routinely put aged, sick patients "out of their misery." We speak of killing by using verbs like "to waste" someone, or to "blow someone away" as if life is a waste, or death is as harmless as a wisp of wind. No wonder that violence is so rampant in our societies, where life is so seemingly cheap.

But our Torah places the ultimate value on life. All the mitzvot—from the ten commandments to the many enactments by our sages—are meant to safeguard and enhance life. The very word for life, chayim, encapsulates the name of Hashem, the source of all life. For he who dignifies life is the true image of G-d.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana’ana, Israel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Yitro articles.

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