The Gift of Intelligence
by Shuky Gross2001/5761
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, ויצא משה לקראת חתנו וישתחוו וישק לו וישאלו איש לרעהו לשלום ויבאו האהלה, “Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him, and they asked of each other’s well-being” (18:7). Rashi comments that it is unclear who bowed to whom. Rashi goes on to say that when the Pasuk says איש לרעהו, we can infer that it is Moshe who bowed because Bemidbar Sinai 12:3 refers to Moshe as האיש. Therefore, according to Rashi, it was Moshe who kissed and bowed, and then he and Yitro began to speak.
However, another question arises. Once Moshe bowed down to Yitro why did Yitro not bow in return? The answer given by the Meforshim is that Yitro was relying on his prior experiences with idolatry. When idolatry began, the first idolaters knew that Hashem existed, that He was the Creator of the world, and all they were doing was praising His creations, the sun and the moon, as intermediaries. That idea soon led to worshipping other things, which eventually led to completely forgetting Hashem. Yitro knew this, and he was also well aware of Moshe’s greatness. He felt that if he bowed down to Moshe it would have seemed as if he was bowing down to him out of worship and not out of respect. Therefore Yitro refrained from bowing, since he felt that doing so would be a sin, and instead he remained standing.
We see from here how great Yitro was, even after he worshipped idols for so many years. We also see that even after going down the wrong path, Hashem enabled Yitro to repent for his sins and follow the proper path, serving Hashem.