Rabbi Label Lam
Parshas Yisro - What Our Eyes Had Just Seen
And Yisro heard...( Shemos 18:1)
What did Yisro hear that caused him to come? The splitting of the sea and
the war with Amalek! (Rashi)
What was it about these two pieces of news that motivated Yisro to take
action and to come and join the Jewish Nation? Was it the good news that
G-d had bent history and nature to assist a fledgling nation? Was it the
bad news of the sneak attack that brought out a pugnacious response?
Perhaps it was the combination of both!
Seeing that the see split for a nation drove fear deep into the hearts of
the nations of the world. The Jewish Nation was untouchable. It was not
only the factor of strength or invincibility, but rather the point of
respect. At that historical moment it was clear that the entire world is
densely packed with meaning. There are no empty spaces, no vacuums.
Although, as Winston Churchill said, "The wheels of history grind slowly
but thoroughly!", the full cycle of exile and exodus blossomed before the
eyes of the entire world. There wasn't a nation or a person who was not
shocked by the introduction of this concept. Everyone was reeling from
the shocking news. It rocked peoples’ categorical boxes and prior
assumptions about the way the world worked. Finally after partially
recovering from the aftershock of cognitive dissonance something equally
"Along came Amalek.." and took a desperate and suicidal shot at the
champions with the sole goal of injecting the venom of cool doubt into the
veins of the world and it’s emerging paradigm shift.
Years ago we took a group of American college students on their first visit
to Israel to a moving experience at a settlement in the Gush Etztion
Block. The historical presentation in the theatre was charted with
pictures, and maps the long and arduous process of settlement by holocaust
survivors of an arid and rocky unforgiving piece of real estate that
eventually would blossom under their hands.
Then in 1948, with the UN partition declaration, a story of horror unfolded
before our eyes. A woman described how she and others were ordered to throw
hand grenades into bomb shelters where all the children were hunkering for
safety and then with tears described how the enemy forces carried out the
deed before their eyes. That deed which they the mothers had refused to do.
As the house lights were turned on and the drama of the presentation
concluded the screen was lifted, and revealed behind its facade the bunker
where all those children were brutally murdered. We all moved with great
awe and reverence and were drawn magnetically to stare at that remnant of
recent history. It was a powerfully sobering and stirring event for all of
us. We returned to the bus.
We had barely left the parking lot when some of us broke the sacred silence
with a medley of silly sitcom ditties. A few of the leaders were shocked
and angered at the immediate need to drown so foolishly the conscience and
erase the impression of what we had all recently experienced so profoundly.
One of the senior leaders, not to excuse, but to explain, told us that this
is the product of a culture raised on flipping channels from the tragic to
the sublime to the absurd and the ridiculous. One sees murders and ads for
hamburgers and soft drinks and has a hard time eventually sorting out
fiction from reality.
Yisro saw that the sea could split and the whole universe is brought into
order almost with the raise of the conductors baton. Then, within a
heartbeat, Amalek can mock the silence with a shameful slur. Yisro
understood clearly that he cannot remain neutral anymore. The whole world
and everyone on the bus that day was forced to take a stance. The task
became enormous to simply hold the memory of what our eyes had just seen.
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.