Yisro - Divine Reason Revealed
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
There are three essential components to any viable religion: a) Supreme
Being; b) Revelation; c) Consequences. These 3 components are a logical
progression that starts with the belief that our universe was created by a
Supreme, intelligent power for a specific reason. It then follows that this
Supreme Being must have, at some point in history, revealed to humankind
the rules by which His divine goal can be accomplished. Finally, there must
be consequences to following, or not following, the rules which the Supreme
Being has revealed regarding His purpose for creating the universe. If we
follow His rules we will be rewarded, and if we don't, we will be punished.
The entire focus of the last four Parshios was the first component,
establishing the existence of a Supreme Being. "Yes, there is a G-d in the
universe. Yes, He is the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov. Yes, He cares
about us and took us out of Egypt. Yes, He manipulates the forces of nature
that He created to save the righteous and punish the wicked!"
This week's Parsha is the 2nd component - Revelation - that moment in
history when the Supreme Being revealed His rules for accomplishing His
divine reason for creating the world. The giving of the Torah was that
singular event when Hashem revealed to the world, and specifically the Jew,
what He wanted from us. He presented the Ten Commandments as an ethical
framework for the human experience and instructed the Jews to teach those
truths to the other nations. In 19:5, Hashem instructed Moshe to tell the
nation," ...and now, if you will obey and follow my commandments and
protect my covenant... then you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a
holy nation." The truths of our Torah, the rules through which humankind
can attain divine reason, were meant for all of G-d's children. However,
Hashem established a system of teachers and students to transmit those
truths. We, the Jewish People, the children of Avraham and Sarah, are the
chosen teachers. As Pasuk 19:5 says, "you shall be my special treasure from
among all the nations".
The course of study required to be a teacher is far more intense and
comprehensive than the lectures to be given by the teacher. It is expected
that the teacher know far more than the students. It is expected that the
teacher be far more accomplished than the students, and that he has
integrated the truths of his lessons into his thought process and life
style. The 613 Mitzvot are the graduate course to train those who would be
the teachers, and the seven Laws of Noah are the basic course to be taught
to all students. It is expected that there will be those students who
desire the intensity of becoming a teacher. For those select few, there is
the conversion process which provides the opportunity for greater personal
advancement and responsibility.
Parshas Yisro begins with Yisro, the father-in-law of Moshe. Yisro was an
adventurer who journeyed forth to explore religions, philosophies, and
theologies, in search of truth. He desired to be among the teachers, so he
joined the Jewish People and converted to be part of the kingdom of priests
and holy nation. The remainder of the Parsha is devoted to describing that
momentous moment in history when Hashem revealed His purpose to His chosen
nation of teachers.
From a very fundamental perspective we can understand why the world judges
the Jew by a stricter scale of ideals and expectations. We are supposed to
be the teachers! We are supposed to be the role models of G-d's ethical and
moral framework for the human experience! We are supposed to live a life
style that manifests the integration of divine purpose in our daily
existence! When we fail, the nations of the world, our intended students,
demand a severe, and often, seemingly irrational accounting! In truth,
their severe and critical reaction to our failings legitimizes our claim of
being the "treasured ones from among the nations."
It should be noted, that although it appears almost natural to expect more
from the teacher, this isn't true according to Torah law. The laws of the
Torah, the revealed truths of divine intent and purpose, apply equally to
every member of the nation, teacher and student alike.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.