Rabbi Haim Cassorla dvar TORAH

19 Shevat 5770

This week we read Parashat Yitro, the fifth Parasha of the Second Book of the TORAH. Yitro, with several variant spellings both in English and in Hebrew, is always described as both the Father-in-Law of Moshe Rabbeinu and as a priest of the Midianites, or perhaps the Priest of the Midianites.  We do know that Moshe Rabbeinu and Yitro had a pretty good relationship.  At this point in the story just after the crossing of the dry bed of the sea by the Israelites and the drowning of the Egyptians in the sea Yitro comes to visit the Israelite camp bringing Moshe Rabbeinu’s wife with him.  The interaction between the two is quite interesting in that Yitro seems quite at ease with Moshe Rabbeinu and he sits down to a meal and begins asking Moshe Rabbeinu about “all the good that HaShem did for Israel.” Moshe Rabbeinu on his part insists on telling Yitro “all that happened.” One might say this is a subtle difference and yet it indicates the great divergence in the point of view of the two men.  Remember, Yitro was not asking for a “highlights reel,” but appeared to be truly only interested in that GOOD that HaShem did for Israel.  This specific aspect of their conversation reminds me of when I lived in Israel and I learned that the Bedouin tea was highly sugared and Bedouin coffee was served bitter.  I also learned that the Bedouin coffee was served first and unless you drank of the coffee you were never served the tea.  The philosophical lesson of this simple cultural device was that if you did not choose to share the bitterness of their lives you could not share in the sweetness of their lives.  Yitro apparently wanted no part of the bitterness even in the recounting.

Moshe Rabbeinu, the gracious host and son in law of his guest offered Yitro a position of honor and respect in the Israelite band.  Moshe Rabbeinu showed great respect for Yitro’s knowledge of the desert, and asked Yitro to help guide the Israelites on their journey.  In a most magnanimous offer, Moshe Rabbeinu told Yitro, “if you stay with us, whatever reward we will receive you will have a share in it.” Despite this offer, Yitro decided to leave and return to his people.

The Sages asked a question, “Why did Yitro come at the specific moment?” The answer that they give is that after seeing the parting of the sea and the crossing of the Israelites on dry land and the closure of the sea on the totality of the Egyptian army Yitro had no choice but to accept that “The GOD of the Israelites was also The GOD of Nature.”  For this reason Yitro found it incumbent on himself to come to the Israelite encampment and offer sacrifice to HaShem.  That Yitro came to this realization is wonderful.  That Yitro decided to act upon his newfound knowledge come to the Israelites encampment to sacrifice to HaShem, nothing short of miraculous.  That after coming to this knowledge and acting upon it Yitro decided to get up and leave is beyond comprehension, or maybe not so much beyond comprehension.  My guess is that like many of us Yitro saw the truth, acted on the truth and then returned to his old habits and ways.

How many of us wake up momentarily from our lives and decided it is time to change for the better?  We run off and join a health club we see a dietitian we begin to live a better life we even pledge to quit smoking, and then we see that all of these choices though they will bring joy, goodness, righteousness and health in the long run will require us to work hard and suffer some in the short run.  Yitro had his epiphany and surely will never be the same after his meal was his son in law, but still he goes back to his own people, to his own land and we can assume to his own life.

Because after Yitro rises and leaves the Israelites encampment we immediately progress to the reading of the 10 Spoken Commands, known generally as the Ten Commandments, most of the lessons and sermonic material to be delivered this week will deal with those 10 spoken commands and yet this week’s reading is named Yitro after the man we just spoke about.  In so many ways in our lives each of us make the decisions that Yitro made.  We see the light, we see the truth, we are even willing to make sacrifices and then we get up and go home.

For you and not for me, for you and your children and your grandchildren, this week when you come to worship the G-D of the Israelites; the G-D of Nature stay even after the meal, stay and change your life just a bit.  You won’t change all at once; that’s impossible, but slowly you can turn. Step by step bit by bit slowly you can turn.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Haim Cassorla




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Content (c) 2010 Rabbi Haim Cassorla

The Rabbi is Currently Residing in:

Jacksonville, FL 32257