Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Yitro
To dedicate this lesson

Time to Measure Up


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 19 5780
"….And Yitro heard…."

Ok, but just what did he hear? Rashi comments that Yitro heard both about Kriat Yam Suf, as well as the stunning military victory over Amalek. Fair enough. But when Yitro speaks to Moshe, he makes a rather curious statement:

"Now I know that Hashem is greater than all the gods, by virtue of the thing which had been conspired against them (ba’davar asher zadu aleyhem)."

Rashi picks up on this unusual word "zadu" & connects it to the story of Yakov & Esav, when Yakov made a bowl of lentils for Esav & "traded" it for the Birthright. There the pasuk (BR. 25:29) says, "Vayazed Yakov nazid," using that very same word that’s used here. Rashi adds the saying of the Gemara (Sota 11): "In the pot where the (lentils) were cooked, there he (Esav) was cooked."

Let’s try to make some sense of these cryptic remarks, & better understand better just what Yakov & Esav’s story has to do with Yitro & the Yam Suf.

Yitro, clearly, was impressed by the attribute of justice which Hashem had meted out, both to Mitzrayim & to Amalek. Both had severely mistreated Hashem’s first-born children, the Jews, & now it was payback time. Fair enough. But what most caught Yitro’s attention was the manner in which G-d reacted; He dispensed that justice in a precise & calculated measure for measure, mida k’neged mida fashion. Egypt had begun its genocidal campaign against the Jews by throwing the males into the water, & so the plagues began with the water "rebelling" against Paro & turning into blood. The final blow, fittingly, saw the drowning of the Egyptian army in the waters of Yam Suf.

As for Amalek, they had proclaimed that there was no G-d fighting for Israel; that Egypt’s demise was random, a fluke. And so Moshe raised his hands to the sky as the battle raged, indicating that it was Hashem alone who would act on Israel’s behalf & demolish Amalek.

And as for Esav? He deemed his status of first-born to be worth no more than a hill of beans, & so when he later cried out to his father that he was being denied the primary blessing, his complaint was dismissed. Like Egypt and Amalek, he was, to paraphrase the Gemara, the victim of his own actions.

In similar fashion, the Arabs & Palestinians have rejected every possible offer Israel (& the U.S.) have presented to them for 3 generations. And so it is only measure-for-measure that there finally comes a proposal that rightfully rewards Israel for our having taken the high road & conducted ourselves with decency & integrity in the face of unbridled hostility.

In life, you see, when you do the right thing, you will eat your just desserts, rather than cook your own goose.
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