A discerning eye for truth and reality

Dr. Joseph Frager,

Dr. Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager
Courtesy of Dr. Frager

"Yitro, the minister of Midian, the Father-in-Law of Moshe, heard everything that Hashem did to Moshe and to Israel, His People-that Hashem had taken Israel out of Egypt."(18:1)

So what did Yitro indeed hear that Hashem did? Rashi says he heard about the Splitting of the Sea, and the War with Amalek. We are told (to follow) that the whole world heard about these events (Shemot 15:14-15, Yehoshua 2:10, Zevachim 116a) yet only Yitro joined the Jewish People. The Torah is obviously stressing the greatness and uniqueness of Yitro.

What indeed did Yitro hear and see that distinguished him from the rest of the world? These traits it is fair to say enabled his descendants to become members of the Sanhedrin(Sanhedrin 106a). In the Shirah (Song at the Sea) we are told that the whole world heard about the splitting of the sea but their reaction unlike Yitro was fear and trembling. Panic set in except for Amalek who did not fear G-d and attacked instead. "Peoples heard-they tremble; terror gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.

Then the chieftains of Edom were confounded, trembling gripped the mighty of Moab, all the dwellers of Canaan melted."(15:14-15) Rabbi Shimshon Pincus Z'L provides a powerful insight into what Yitro in point of fact saw and heard that inspired him to join the Jewish People. Yitro as many have pointed out was a "professional idol worshipper". He studied each idol. He knew more about idols than anyone else. This was the state of affairs in Egypt at the time of the Jewish enslavement.

It is why Pharaoh says when he first speaks to Moshe, "Who is Hashem that I should heed His voice to send Israel out? I do not know Hashem, nor will I send out Israel." (5:2) Pharaoh only knew idols. In Kabbala each nation of the world has a "Sar" and each of the forces of Nature have a "Sar". A Sar is an angel that protects and oversees. We learn of this concept when Yaakov fights the Angel of Esauv (Genesis 32: 25-31). A "Sar" or an angel can only perform one type of task. An angel can only control one activity, one force, one assignment. The Egyptians assigned an idol to each of these forces. Yitro was very much involved in the study and assignment of these idols.

There was an angel for fire, another for water. The ten plagues, the miracles surrounding Moshe's rise to power, and the splitting of the sea with the subsequent drowning of the Egyptian Army showed that Hashem was Omnipotent and had dominion over all the forces of nature.

The aspect that convinced Yitro the most according to Rabbi Pincus was G-d's control via "Mida Keneged Mida" (measure for measure)of the entire Freedom from Egyptian Bondage. For example, the Egyptians wanted to drown all the men of Israel, so the Egyptian Army was destined to be drowned in the Yam Suf. Each of the Plagues was a punishment Mida Keneged Mida for what the Egyptians did to Bnei Yisrael.

On top of that G-d in His Omnipotence combined forces of nature unlike the world has ever seen. The Barad "Hail" was made of fire and water, for example. The angels that control fire and water could not have done that. Only G-d Almighty who controlled the angels could do that. This completely obliterated the system of idols that Yitro and the Egyptians had set up. Their belief system was destroyed in front of their eyes. All of the miracles that G-d performed completely overturned Egyptian Theology. The idols were shown to be worthless. Only Hashem controlled the world.

This is what Yitro saw and recognized. He realized he was totally wrong in what he had believed his whole life. Rabbi Pincus Z'L says further that Yitro saw the "Yichud" (the oneness, the unity , and the togetherness) of G-d Almighty. Yitro saw all of the incredible events and interpreted them correctly. The others did not. Yitro saw how G-d used Pharaoh to defeat Pharoah. He saw how Moshe was raised by Pharaoh and later overcame Pharaoh. G-d controls the world.

G-d used Pharaoh to prove to the world who really controls the world. Hence the constant refrain, "And I shall harden Pharaoh's heart and I shall multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt."(7:3) What struck Yitro the most according to Rabbi Shimshon Pincus Z'L was the Mida Keneged Mida aspect of Hashem. No other power in the world can do this. Because Yitro had a discerning eye he was able to see the unbelievable miracles that took place.

Ultimately, the rest of humanity will emulate Yitro and recognize G-d's Yichud and Omnipotence. We all pray that day comes soon.