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Posted on February 1, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Yisro… heard everything[1]

What in particular did Yisro hear that moved him to join up with the Jewish people? Rashi submits that it was the splitting of the Sea, and the battle with Amalek. What connection does Rashi see between these two episodes in the odyssey of the Bnei Yisrael?

The following cryptic pasuk will point the way to an explanation: “Wisdom is good with inheritance; even more to those who see the sun.”[2] We are told to intellectually probe the mitzvos, and through them know Hashem. This exploration, however, is fraught. We cannot fully trust where our minds will lead us. They sometimes take us to erroneous findings and conclusions. We don’t always arrive at the truth.

There is a reliable preventative to these errors. A person should first fully embrace the mesorah passed down from early times. When all of his inquiry is firmly grounded on accepted truths, he will not stray. He looks to understand more fully, not to judge whether to accept or reject. When he encounters strong reasons to doubt, he attributes this to his lack of comprehension, not to a fault in tradition. He soldiers on, hoping to one day find a resolution to the problem he discovered.

Such a person can safely probe deeper, and Hashem will guide him to accurate and meaningful conclusions. Thus, wisdom is good – when it is firmly guided by our inheritance from previous generations. Even better is the experience of “those who see the sun” – those who had the additional boost to their emunah of witnessing Divine miracles, like the sun standing still at the time of matan Torah.

Yisro spent his life rationally exploring different faiths. He rejected all of them, until he discovered the G-d of Israel. This time, he was convinced that he had found the truth. His belief would be unshakeable. Nothing would ever diminish his enthusiasm for what he had embraced.

All the more so, he reasoned, was the faith of the Bnei Yisrael secure. They had passed through the Yam, and seen the myriad miracles there. They had “seen the sun” in all its brilliance. Never would they waver.

Or so he thought. Then he heard about Amalek – how he had attacked the weak among the Bnei Yisrael. Those who had passed through the Yam only days earlier, but were now questioning whether Hashem was indeed in their midst. Those could act, as the midrash says, like the child perched on the shoulders of his father, and yet ask where Abba was.

Yisro then realized that if their emunah left room for doubt, his – built on nothing more than fallible human reasoning – was not as secure as he once believed. He wanted to give his emunah every advantage, every support, every strength. He therefore resolved to physically join up with the Bnei Yisrael. He wanted to hear the details of their miraculous deliverance, and personally witness the many more miracles which were certain to come.

  1. Shemos 18:1
  2. Koheles 7:11