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Yitro 5767

By: Shprintzee Rappaport

In Parshat Yitro, we are told (18:5-6) "And Moshe's father-in-law, Yitro,

came with Moshe's sons and his wife to the desert, to the mountain of

Hashem. And he sent word to Moshe saying 'I, your father-in-law, and coming

to you with your wife and her two sons with her". The Midrash Mechilta

gives us a bit of background on Yitro by telling us that he had served every

idol that there was and after coming across some evil or injustice

associated with each idol, he rejected all of them in favor of serving

Hashem. As a result of this choice, Yitro and his family were shunned by

their fellow Midianites, to such a degree that when his daughters went out

to draw water, the Midianite shepherds would chase them away. At one point,

Moshe, who had fled from Egypt, came across the well where the daughters

were being harassed, and helped them draw water. As a result of that

kindness, Moshe was allowed to marry Tziporah. Interestingly however,

according to the Midrash Mechita, before Yitro gave his final consent, he

told Moshe "You may marry her on one condition. The son who will be born to

you must be brought up in idolatry first and only afterwards, in the worship

of Hashem". Surprisingly, Moshe's response was to agree.

Two questions come to mind. First of all, if Yitro had already rejected all

other idols, why did he make Moshe's marriage to Tziporah contingent upon

the sons being brought up in idolatry? Secondly, and more importantly--how

could Moshe agree to bring up his sons in idolatry, even if temporarily?

The Chiddushei Harim (the first Gerrer Rebbe) says "Any man who has set

himself a goal in life and a way to accomplish that goal, once he is

successful, he regards his path as the ideal one for achievement and will

encourage others to follow". In other words, people often think that if

something worked for them, it will certainly work for everyone else because

it is obviously the only correct way to do things (does anyone personally

know someone like this?). Similarly, Yitro felt that the surest and most

rewarding way to perceive the truth about Hashem was to come to it after

examining everything else. I have often heard students suggest that the

only way they can truly believe in Judaism is by studying other religions as

a basis for comparison, at least to be better able to refute arguments made

by people of other religions. But as the Gemarra says (Shabbos 104a) "Truth

stands, falsehood does not". Learning about falsehood does not reinforce

your truth. Instead, it will only chip away at your belief in your truth.

This touches on another famous idea from an event in this week's parsha. In

chapter 20 of Parshat Yitro, the Jews receive the Torah on Har Sinai. The

Midrash says that before Hashem gave the Torah to the Jews, he went to all

the other nations and asked them if they wanted the Torah. Each nation

asked what was in it. Hashem responded by showing each nation a law which

went against the very essence of that nation. For example, Yishmael, who is

known for thievery, was told "Do not steal". Esav, known for murder, was

told "Do not murder". Moav, known for immorality, was told "Do not commit

adultery". As a result, each nation rejected the Torah.

The classic question asked is"How could Hashem tell each nation the very

thing that He knew would make them unable to accept Torah? Is that fair?

And on a Philosophical level, doesn't that completely sabotage their Bechira

(free choice)?

The truth is, even before Hashem told the nations what was in the Torah, it

was already over. Or as R. Akiva Tatz puts it "The moment the nations asked

'what's in it' they failed the test". In other words, in asking that

question, the nations were measuring Torah against THEIR barometer of truth,

to see if it was something they wanted to accept. But of course, since

their barometer of truth was based in falsehood, it could only make them

reject the Torah which is the ultimate truth.

Yitro used his barometer of truth to try to advise Moshe to rear his sons in

idolatry first before they came to Hashem, because that is what worked for

him. But Moshe understood that Yitro's true intent was not really about the

idolatry, rather it was about raising his children to fully appreciate

Hashem and His Torah. Essentially, Moshe was agreeing to the truth behind

Yitro's request, as opposed to the request itself.

May Hashem grant us all the wisdom and merit to raise our children to fully

appreciate Hashem and His Torah, through teaching them the truth and keeping

them far away from falsehood.

Shabbat Shalom,

Shprintz

 

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