The Schmooze by Eitan Richter


In Parashat Yitro, the Pasuk states (Shemot 18:8), “VaYisapeir Moshe LeChoteno Eit Kol Asher Asah Hashem LeFar’oh ULeMitzrayim Al Odot Yisrael; Eit Kol HaTela’ah Asher Metza’atam BaDerech VaYatzileim Hashem,” “And Moshe told his father-in-law everything that Hashem had done to Par’oh and to Mitzrayim for Israel’s sake – all the travail that had befallen them on the way, and that Hashem had rescued them.” Following this, Yitro, continuing the praise of Hashem, says (18:10-11), “Blessed is Hashem, who rescued you from the hand of Mitzrayim and from the hand of Par’oh, who rescued the people from under the hand of Mitzrayim. Now I know that Hashem is greater than all of the gods.”

These Pesukim seem to be very strangely worded. Why do they say that God rescued Bnei Yisrael from the hand of Mitzrayim twice? Why is Yitro praising God so much and why would Yitro say that he now knows that Hashem is greater than all of the other gods? Furthermore, a broader question we must ask is why is this whole conversation between Moshe and Yitro important for us to know?

Rashi (18:11 s.v. Ki VaDavar Asher Zadu Aleihem) offers a simple explanation; namely, that Hashem treats people Midah KeNeged Midah, measure for measure. The Mitzrim wanted to destroy the Jews by drowning the male babies, and the final destruction of Mitzrayim occurred through water, when the Mitzrim drowned at the Yam Suf. At Keri’at Yam Suf, every Jew realized how great Hashem was because of this, so even Yitro, who wasn’t present at Keri’at Yam Suf, could realize this and therefore praise God just like every other Jew. The overarching message of this Parashah is that every person can find ways to see and appreciate God in this world. So Yitro, who did not believe in Hashem beforehand, found that what Moshe told him about the Yam Suf was so powerful and important that it must be true. Yitro realized that if Hashem can do what he did at the Yam Suf, then he must be the supreme and true God. Moshe was trying to get Yitro to realize and actually visualize Hashem’s greatness by explaining in detail everything that Hashem had done for the Jewish people. After Yitro heard these stories, he realized Hashem’s greatness and presence in this world. This conversation, and, more broadly, the whole Parashah, teaches that we don’t need to experience the big miracles and great things to see God’s presence in the world. We can see God in everything we do, and, sometimes, just learning and discussing these things is a way to see Him.

Listening is Believing by Eli Ginsberg

Yitro and Amaleik by Rabbi Joel Grossman