This Month’s Torah Portions
April 3: Chol HaMo’ed Pesach (Exodus 33:12-34:26)
April 10: Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
April 17: Tazria/Metzora (Leviticus 12:1-15:33)
April 24: Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (Leviticus 16:1-20:27)
Upon hearing of the miracles that God did for Bnei Yisroel, Yitro (Jethro) rushed to join them in the wilderness. Rashi asks an obvious question: Why did he do it?
Yitro was a moral giant and, although he was a prince, he went into the wilderness to be with God. The Torah shows us the great sacrifice he made and also shows us his reward. The pasuk says “and Moshe came out to greet him. Aaron, Nadav and Avihu went out as well, and therefore, so did the entire population.
Yitro’s entire life illustrates this concept that no sacrifice is left unrewarded. When Moshe first came to Midian, he saved Yitro’s daughters from the shepherds at the well. When we consider that the girls were the daughters of the Priest of Midian — the highest authority in the area — how is it that these lowly, poor shepherds should dare to bother these princesses?
Rashi gives us the answer: “Yitro rejected avodah zara (idol worship), and therefore the people ostracized him.” Yitro’s desire for truth led him to become alienated from his own people and unable to find husbands for his daughters. Once again, his sacrifice was not left unrewarded. “Moshe arose and saved them” and through this, Yitro gained a son-in-law who led him to the truth he sought.
It is critical to understand that, at the moment of sacrifice, the prospect of reward is not apparent! The definition of sacrifice is the ability to give all to God without any expectation of reward. To expect remuneration for selflessness would be categorized as false and calculated. As we can see in the case of Avraham in refusing to worship the idol that Nimrod set before him, he was steadfast in his refusal. However, his brother Haran waited to see who would win this test of wills — Avraham or Nimrod — in order to align himself with the victor. Avraham was saved while Haran was consumed.
Weapons of Choice
In discussing, above, Yitro’s adherence to the moral high road, we can address the issue of gossip and slander as a sophisticated weapon in the world today.
The Midrash refers to lashon hara (evil talk) as a sword. There is a counter opinion, however, that says it is more like an arrow. The originator of the latter simile gives the following explanation for his analogy: A person who raises his sword to kill his enemy can always decide to stop this brutal act, even when the sword is already on the enemy’s neck. An arrow, on the other hand, the moment it is shot, leaves the bow, is propelled and cannot be retracted until it reaches its target. So it is with lashon hara. The moment the words leave the lips of the slanderer or gossiper, they cannot be interrupted and brought back. They continue at the speed of sound while causing damage and destruction.
It has been noted that the Torah can be compared to “God speaking to man” while tefilah (prayer) embodies the concept of “man speaking to God.” During the reading of the Torah (when God is ‘speaking’ to us), we should not be praying (or ‘speaking’) to Him. Neither party can understand the other if both speak at the same time. Derech eretz (decency) demands that while one party speaks, the other party listens attentively to what the other is saying.
From the Torah to Your Table
“And Aharon remained silent.”
Rashi, commenting on the pasuk, maintains that HaShem rewarded Aharon for his silence. Silence is in itself an eloquent expression of feeling, for it demonstrates humility and acceptance. Discuss the appropriate time when silence is appropriate versus the times when ‘speaking up’ is the required action.
A Final Thought
“A person is judged according to the way he relates to others. If you cannot overlook minor infractions that others have done to you, how can you expect God to forgive major infractions that you have committed in front of Him?” (“Smiling Each Day,” Rabbi Abraham Twerski)