A Parsha of Chesed – Parshat Yitro

Yitro transverses the desert to meet the Jewish people after hearing of the great miracles. What was he feeling at that moment?

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal ,

Traveling the desert
Traveling the desert

The Everlasting Few Seconds

The student body of Mesivta Tiferet Jerusalem had boys from various social-economic backgrounds. Many of them were children of immigrants who struggled financially.

Mr. Friedman, a wealthy and generous resident of the Lower East Side, felt for these boys. He magnanimously decided to provide new suits for the Bar Mitzva boys whose families couldn’t afford to buy them.

The yeshiva administrator arranged a ceremony for the Bar Mitzva boys and invited Mr. Friedman as a guest of honor. During his speech, the administrator asked to beneficiaries of Mr. Friedman’s largesse to stand up in appreciation.

There was an awkward moment as the boys remained seated. They were embarrassed. Who wanted to be singled out as “less fortunate”?

Without hesitation, the great Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Feinstein stood up. When Rav Moshe stood EVERYONE stood up as well. The rebbeim, the boys, the guests. Even Mr. Friedman himself stood. The entire audience applauded.

Rav Moshe’s sensitivity to those boys created an everlasting memory from a potential embarrassment. For Rav Moshe, it took only a second to stand.

That second lasted a lifetime for those who witnessed it.

Perhaps Rav Moshe’s action came from this parsha and the behavior of his namesake.

Imagine, for one moment, the mindset of Yitro, the father-in-law of Moshe.

Yitro had been the leader of Midyan, a country of considerable standing at that time. He had wealth, power and influence over thousands of people.

And yet, in his search for truth, he was willing to trade that away to become a servant of HaShem.

Yitro transverses the desert, daughter and grandchildren in tow, to meet up with Moshe and the Jewish people after hearing of the great miracles done on their behalf.

What was Yitro feeling at that moment?

This former king now humbly approaches his son-in-law to be accepted. The very Moshe, fugitive from Egypt, whom he protected is now the leader of the people he seeks to join.

Despite his pride in Moshe and the desire to join him, one can only imagine that Yitro also felt a bit degraded at the turn of events.
Moshe, the consummate leader, with sensitivity and compassion for all, clearly understood and felt for his father-in-law.

Rather than waiting for Yitro to come to him, Moshe gets up to greet his father-in-law. When Moshe stood up it was only natural for all to rise out of respect and thus similarly honor Yitro.

Rather than feeling like a lowly “newcomer”, Yitro now experiences honor on the highest level.

The effort for Moshe was minimal and natural. The effect for Yitro was eternal.

Each of us has the opportunity to make another feel special, appreciated and cared for.

A smile, cheerful greeting or thoughtful gesture will take but a moment of your time and yet has the potential to make an everlasting impact.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal is the executive director at Lema'an Achai