Yitro (Exodus 18:1 - 20:23)

Why does Jethro have a full chapter devoted to him when the big story of the parasha is the giving of the ten commandments?  Perhaps the story of Jethro is not so small.   There are really at least five reasons Jethro demonstrates that he is the ideal father-in-law.  

First, while Moses is away in Egypt, Jethro takes care of Moses’s wife, Zipporah (Jethro’s daughter) as well her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.  True, one would expect Jethro to assume this responsibility, but there is no guarantee that the headache of rivalries won’t once again rear its head.  Yet when, after the exodus, Jethro brings Moses’s family to him, there isn’t a hint of discord between the brothers nor between their mother and them.

Second, though Jethro has himself lived comfortably in the region, he has tolerated Moses naming his first son, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land,” and his second son, “The God of my father was my help, and He delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”  

Third, though he is a priest in another religion, that of Midian, Jethro is very tolerant and supportive of Moses’s faith in HaShem.  He insists that Moses tell him the complete story of the Exodus in detail. Then Jethro makes a burnt offering to HaShem which he shares with Aaron and other elders of Israel.

Fourth, Jethro offers just the right piece of advice in just the right way.  Jethro has known Moses intimately for many years, and Moses trusts him.  So after observing how Moses tends to adjudicate all by himself, Jethro advises him to delegate lesser matters to others, and to concentrate on the big stuff.  Moses listens and follows through on Jethro’s advice.  How essential this is, because Moses must concentrate on much in preparation for the giving of the law!

Fifth, and finally, Jethro quietly takes his leave.  He has fulfilled his role, and now, generously, he leaves Moses and his family to their destiny, while Jethro returns to his own land.  It’s hard to find a more modest servant in the Torah.   

Questions for Discussion:  Have you ever had someone like Jethro in your life?  How did he/she influence your life?

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