The Significance of the Place by Noam Block


Parshat Yitro begins with a description of Yitro’s hearing about Yetziat Mitzrayim and Bnai Yisrael’s triumphs in the Midbar.  As a result of that which he heard, Yitro decides to convert to Judaism.

Not only does he decide to adopt the Jewish way of life, but the Torah tells us how he was willing to undergo hardships to do so.  In Pasuk 5, it says:

"Vayavo Yitro Chotain Moshe Uvanav Veishto el Moshe; el Hamidbar Asher Hu Choneh Sham Har Haelokim

An obvious question is what is the significance in telling us where Yitro was meeting Moshe?  Rashi tells us that the Torah’s mention of the Midbar is done to praise Yitro.  After all, Yitro enjoyed a high position in Midyan and was living in comfort and luxury.  In spite of such a comfortable lifestyle, he was willing to go to the Midbar, a wasteland, and suffer the inconveniences associated with it in order to follow his desire to learn Torah.

Just as Rashi explains Yitro’s going into the Midbar literally, it could also be understood figuratively.  Anyone who embarks on a new undertaking, something that will be difficult and with which he may not be familiar, it is as if he goes into a Midbar, a wilderness, which is usually described as being a lonely, strange and sometimes even dangerous experience.  That Yitro was willing to go into the Midbar, be it an actual Midbar where there was little of the physical comforts which he enjoyed in his home, or a spiritual Midbar, where he was alone and tired, Yitro was to be praised and was worthy of the admiration of others for the strength and courage he exhibited in following up on his resolve to learn about Torah Judaism.  May we all learn the lessons taught to us by Yitro: always be willing to sacrifice for the privilege of learning or experiencing something new, and never be scared of tackling something because it is different or difficult, or something with which you are not familiar.

The Marriage between Hashem and Bnai Yisrael by Ami Friedman

Why Now? by Uriel Schechter