He Joined!

Our portion is called Yisro. The Torah identifies Yisro as the minister of the country of Midyan, and the father-in-law of our leader Moshe.

Our Sages tell us that Yisro had previous connections to Egypt. He was actually one of the three main advisors to the Pharoh. When Pharoh asked their opinion what to do with the population surge of the Jewish people in Egypt, one was silent, the other recommended enslavement, and Yisro ran away and disappeared, settling in Midyan.

Our Sages applaud Yisro for doing this and state that he was greatly rewarded.

Yisro had a deep quest for spirituality and connection to a Higher Power. Our Sages teach us that he tried all types of idol worship and found no legitimacy in them. He thus concluded that there is an Omnipotent G-d. Yisro’s rejection of idolatry had a personal consequence; he and his family were ostracized from the community.

The Torah tells us that Moshe lived in the Pharoh’s palace. When he became an adult, he went out to empathize with his fellow Jews. This got him into trouble and he had to run for his life. The Torah does not tell us details of Moshe’s life during the following 60 some years.

Then the Torah tells us that Moshe witnessed Yisro’s daughters being bullied by other shepherds at a well of water. Moshe saved them and gave their sheep water to drink.

After that, Moshe was introduced to Yisro and he gave his daughter Tzipora to Moshe in marriage. They had a son, whom he called Gershom.

A little while later, while Moshe was tending the flock of his father-in-law, G-d appeared to him at the burning bush, and instructed him to return to Egypt as the leader of the Jewish people.

Since G-d Himself appeared to Moshe, obviously Moshe retained his righteousness and devoutness to G-d during his 60-year absence from Egypt!

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m., points out that although Yisro gave his daughter over to Moshe in marriage, recognizing that it was a good Shidduch – match― did not come so easy. Our Sages tell us that before his marriage, Yisro was suspicious of Moshe and he had Moshe jailed for some time. In fact, Tzipora had compassion and provided him with food during that time.

When Yisro fled from Egypt, he took with him a large sapphire staff that was in the Pharoh’s palace. This staff was actually the staff of Adam which had been passed through the generations to Noach, and then to our forefathers and subsequently to Yosef while he was the viceroy in Egypt.

When Yisro came to Midyan, this staff got stuck in his yard and it became impossible to remove until Moshe removed it. In fact, it was the staff with which he performed all the miracles. Yisro was impressed and gave his daughter over in marriage. With all this pointing to Moshe as a man of G-d, Yisro still did not let go of his past. One of the conditions he made with Moshe was that he give his child the opportunity to choose his own religion.

The Torah tells us that Yisro was the only person outside the Jewish encampment in the desert who came and joined and converted to Judaism. The Talmud asks what propelled Yisro to join? There are various opinions; the splitting of the red sea, the war the Jews fought against their nemesis Amalek, and that he heard of G-d giving the Torah to the Jewish people.

The Talmud tells us that Yisro wasn’t the only one to hear about G-d’s Revelation. The prophet Bilaam also did so and when people came to Bilaam to ask what was going on, he told them about the Jews accepting the great treasure of G-d, the Torah. Yet, Bilaam, nor those who inquired, came to join the Jewish people, only Yisro. What gave Yisro the impetus to join?

Says Reb Moshe, indeed while Moshe was living with Yisro it does not seem that he inspired Yisro. However, when Yisro heard of G-d’s Revelation, he was the only one in the entire world to travel and come to convert. Why? Because Yisro was the only one who had previously been influenced by the righteous Moshe!