Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Yitro
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
Yitro, the "star" of our Sedra, has a fascinating life-story to tell. Early in his career, he, along with Bilaam & Iyov, was a principal advisor to Paro, who sought counsel on how to deal with his "Jewish problem." Bilaam urged Paro to enslave/oppress the Jews; & ultimately was killed by Bnei Yisrael; Iyov kept silent, & would undergo severe trials & traumas in his life. Yitro, for his part, ran away.

This act of fleeing Paro – in essence distancing himself from the Egyptian holocaust – served Yitro quite well. He became a respected priest of Midian, acquired great wealth & prestige, & gained the most illustrious son-inlaw, Moshe Rabbeinu (a fact repeated over & over in the parsha). His reward, mida k’neged mida, was spectacular; it seems that running away was clearly a good move.

But TOO much of a good thing is often not very good at all. For later, when Moshe pleads with Yitro to stay & become part of the nascent nation about to enter Eretz Yisrael, Yitro (according to most sources) runs once more, returning to Midian, never to be heard from again.
His shot at eternal glory is gone; not only does his name vanish from history, the name "Yitro" rarely, if ever, is bestowed upon a Jewish child (Jethro Bodine of Beverly Hillbillies fame notwithstanding!).

Contrast this with Rut(h). She is implored by Naomi to run away, to distance herself from the Jewish nation. And yet, she stays put, refusing to leave. The result is that she has a privileged place in Jewish life, gives rise to David HaMelech and Moshiach, & can claim thousands of other "Ruths" named for her. All because she knew when not to run.

For 2000 years, Jews excelled in the art of running. We specifically chose businesses (diamonds, artisanry, banking, etc) that allowed us to flee when forced to do so, to pick up the pieces elsewhere & make a living. Thus we survived when our hosts turned against us, as they invariably do. So, for example, when the Shoa broke out, wise (and lucky!) Jews fled to far-flung "cities of refuge," like Cuba, Curacao, Bolivia, Shanghai. There they "set up shop" until the danger subsided, & they could return once again to "normal" life in more accommodating surroundings.

And that was fine, that was necessary. But we live in a new & blessed age. An age when Diaspora Jews no longer have to keep their suitcases packed & at the ready. Now there is only one place left to run – to Israel, a land that beckons to all Jews with open arms, a land
"watched over" vigilantly by G-d. Here, the race finally ends, & the "smart money" that stays, wins the race.
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