Yitro: The Top Ten Plus

Why the difference in the fates of Ruth and Yitro?

Rabbi S. Weiss,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

There are two most-celebrated converts in our history: Yitro and Ruth. Interestingly, their names share the same
There is also a significant difference between these two personalities.
three Hebrew letters (tav, vav and raysh - which make up most of the word Torah!), while Yitro's name has an extra yud (more on that later). Each has a revered place in the Tanach: our sedra is named for Yitro; and Ruth has a book all her own.

Yet, there is also a significant difference between these two personalities. While Yitro was a wealthy, influential celebrity who advised Pharaoh, and was spiritual leader of the nation of Midian - he later would advise Moshe and become one of just six people to have a sedra in his name - he ultimately disappears from the annals of Jewish life. Ruth, on the other hand, establishes herself in Israel and becomes the progenitor of David HaMelech and, ultimately, Moshiach.

Why the difference in their fates? Three possibilities:

1) It is highly questionable that Yitro accepted Moshe's urging that he join Bnei Yisrael in Israel, returning instead to his native Midian.

2) Chazal tell us that Yitro came to his decision to embrace Judaism not out of an unswerving faith in an all-knowing G-d; instead, he first sampled all the other religions and idolatries, indulging in a kind of "spiritual smorgasbord" from Astarte to Zeus, before finally deciding that Judaism was the best approach to G-d.

3) I might also suggest that Yitro focused his beliefs on the "big" mitzvot of the Torah, while ignoring the more (seemingly) minor commandments. Perhaps this is the significance of the added yud in his name, implying that he was attracted to the (top) 10 Commandments - with all their pop and pizazz - but not necessarily to the more "mundane" laws and rules.

Ruth, however, was different. She lovingly, avidly embraced the totality of the Torah. She accepted each and every mitzvah as equally important, since they all emanate from HaShem; and she clung tenaciously to Eretz Yisrael. Chazal interpret Ruth's famous declaration of faith to Naomi thusly:
She lovingly, avidly embraced the totality of the Torah.

"Where you go, I will go" - I will not travel beyond the t'chum Shabbat of 2,000 amot, and I will live in Israel; "Where you lodge, I will lodge" - I will not seclude myself with a man (yichud) and I will have a mezuzah on my door. "Your G-d is my G-d" - I will not seek any other G-d, but will believe only in HaShem. "Where you die and are buried, so shall I die and be buried" - I will die and be buried in the holy soil of Israel.

Pointedly, Yitro is featured in the same parsha which contains the Aseret HaDibrot. The first of those ten commandments is more a statement than a command: "I am the Lord your G-d." The implication of this initial word of G-d is clear: the primary reason for keeping the mitzvot is not because they feel good, or that they seem more moral, more noble, or more fulfilling than those of other cultures or religions. We keep them because we accept HaShem and His authority.

That includes the Top Ten - and beyond.