This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Yithro is being sponsored by Dr. Dov and Debbie Rosen and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for hatslocha for children of Ramat Beit Shemesh.. To the Rosen family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat HaShevua Yithro continues in a similar vein to Parshat Beshalach but with emphasis on both Yithro, and those two bad boys, Dasan and Aviram.
On Parshat Beshalach, this author cited Rav Aba Wagensberg who discussed the translation of “V’amar Pharaoh L’B’nei Yisrael…” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3); about the disparate translations as rendered in Chumashim vs based on Yonasan ben Uziel, i.e. “And Pharaoh will say about the Children of Israel…” (Chumashim) or “And Pharaoh said to the Children of Israel…” (based on Yonasan ben Uziel).
Based on the rendering of Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 3 as R’ Wagensberg cited Yonasan ben Uziel and renderings of translation of Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 22 and posuk 29 we find the following:
“The B’nei Yisrael came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 22)
“The B’nei Yisrael went on dry land in the midst of the sea; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 14, posuk 29)
According to these translations, and R’ Wagensberg citings of Yonasan ben Uziel which indicate; there seem to have been two crossings of the Reed Sea: the crossing by almost all of B’nei Yisrael, and a second crossing where Hashem apparently parted the sea to enable Dasan and Aviram to cross and join with the rest of B’nei Yisrael.
Again, as R’ Wagensberg cited commentary of Yonasan ben Uziel:
Pharaoh was talking to Dasan and Aviram who remained behind. They were also the B’nei Yisrael. However, later we find Dasan and Aviram together with the Jewish People in the desert during the story of leaving the Manna overnight (Sefer Shemot, Perek 16, posuk 20) and during the episode of Korach’s rebellion (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 16, posuk 27).
On our Parshat, R’ Wagensberg also spoke a number of years ago regarding how Yithro, destined to be the architect of B’nei Yisrael’s Judiciary system (in order that Moshe not himself have to rule on all the myriads of halachic issues and disputes among B’nei Yisrael, thus freeing Moshe to teach Torah and to rule on only the most major issues), sought to become a Jew.
As R’ Wagensberg related years before, Yithro, who had saved the young child Moshe from possible death at Pharaoh’s hand after an incident involving Pharaoh’s crown, and who had taken leave of counseling Pharaoh and left Mitzriyim when Pharaoh began plotting against the Jews and had provided Moshe with asylum and with a wife, was aware of Hashem’s parting of the sea and B’nei Yisrael’s victory over Amalek.
Yithro, who had tried every conceivable avodah zora in search of the one true belief, understood that the Jews would be very particular as to who could join their ranks. But he recalled the evil nature of both Dasan and Aviram in Mitzrayim and, when he heard that Hashem had again parted the sea — for Dasan and Aviram, he felt that he had a good shot at joining the B’nei Yisrael.
In a previous vort on Parshat Yithro, this author cited from sefer “Ner Uziel: Perspectives on the Parsha,” Rabbi Uziel Milevsky z’l writes on our Parsha Yithro (p. 380-383) indicating that were Yithro to have come to join the Jews after the singular events of Yetziat Mitziyim or the K’riyat Yam Suf, it would have been unlikely that he could have been accepted by the B’nei Yisrael due their concern as to what his true motivations might be; i.e. whether his motivations were sincere, or whether he was just anxious to be on a winning team, or on the right side. This latter type of motivation is not unlike many athletes who, when reaching free agency status seek the best remuneration deal, i.e. to earn more than their peers, or to join onto the team which has either gone all-the-way or is perceived as “the team to beat.”.
This concern for one’s true motivations in converting seems to this author to be why Rabbi Milevsky cites indications that B’nei Yisrael didn’t accept G’erim during the reigns of David HaMelech and Shlomo HaMelech when B’nei Yisrael was at the zenith of prestige and power in the world.
But when Yithro came to join with the B’nei Yisrael after their difficult war with Amalek, one could reckon that the B’nei Yisrael saw that his motivations were true, pure and sincere to throw his lot with B’nei Yisrael out of recognition that their connection with Hashem was the one true path.
A commentary of R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman), on page 304, Sefer Shemos, Perek 18, posuk 11 provides some background behind Yithro’s joining B’nei Yisrael:
“Now I recognize that Hashem is greater than all the gods; for I recognized Him precisely in the evil that they [the Mitzriyim] plotted against them.”
…Yithro recognized Hashem’s greatness precisely in those miracles that showed the Mitzri’s hidden machinations against Israel [which] were well-known to Him. Yithro now recognizes that all of the plagues… were closely related to the poverty, slavery and the status of strangers that the Mitzriyim had intended to inflict upon Israel….
The makkos [plagues] thus revealed to Yithro not only Hashem’s omnipotence, but also His omniscience. He sees the inner thoughts of men, nations, princes and fashions their fate so as to teach and educate them.
“Measure for measure” is our sages’ expression of Hashem’s way of repaying a person for his deeds (citing Sotah 8b) and it is this way of Hashem that Yithro now recognizes.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parsha Yithro, page 179) explains further noting and expanding on a Rashi citing of Gemora (Zevachim 116a):
What did Yithro hear to make him come to join the Jewish people? The miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek.
What was unique about what Yithro heard, didn’t all of the other surrounding nations hear about this also? The answer is, said Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman (Ohr Yohail, Vol. 2, Vayakhail, page 139), that they heard and remained the same. Yithro, however, didn’t merely hear, he took action…. Yithro picked himself up and changed his life.
Yishai Chasidah’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Jewish Personalities (pages 306-309) cites a Midrash HaGodol on BaMidbar (Perek 10, posuk 30) which gives insight into Yithro’s righteousness, kindness and integrity. After a drought year in Midian, Yithro stated;
This has been a year of drought, and I borrowed money which I used to support the poor. If I don’t go and pay my debts, I will be desecrating the Name of Heaven.
And so today, there are lessons we can take from the Yithro model of teshuvah, chesed and wisdom.
Chasidah also cites Yerushalmi Brachot (Perek 2, posuk 8 ) which writes of Yithro and his merit and place among B’nei Yisrael;
When B’nei Yisrael do Hashem’s Will, HaKodesh Borchu searches throughout the world, and if he finds a righteous person among the nations, he brings him and attaches him to B’nei Yisrael. One of the examples given was Yithro.
On this last citing of Chasidah, can we also see in our times one or more stark examples of Hashem bringing B’nei Yisrael “a righteous person among the nations”, should we merit it by doing Hashem’s Will, even should this person’s true righteousness be obscured from the view of the nations? Do we comprehend that such “a righteous person among the nations” can only be as righteous and affirmative toward B’nei Yisrael as we are collectively and governmentally righteous and affirmative toward each other and toward the governed? This author thus repeats again that “a new American president and his administration can only be zionistic as the government of Israel.”
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.