- Yehuda Pevzner
Jethro the Minister
The morning newspapers broke the dramatic news: The pope's personal plane landed unexpectedly at Ben Gurion Airport. The sudden visit is inconsistent with the State Department and spokesmen for the Vatican head of state declined to give further details. At noon, it was learned that the guest, the leader of the Catholic Church and one of the most influential people in the world, had gone to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, entered the office of the Rabbi of the Kotel and asked to convert! Yes, the person who influences two billion believers seeks to declare that G-d is G-d.
In this week’s Torah portion, we learned about a theologian who was a minister, political leader and world expert on religions. Jethro decided to leave his country and go, with his family, to the Israel camp in the desert. Soon after the Exodus from Egypt, he appeared before Moses in the wilderness and declared, "Now I know that the L-rd is greater than all gods."
The Gemara and its commentators struggle to understand what caused the upheaval in Jethro's life? What light did he find in the Jewish religion that he did not find in all the other religions? After all, this was not just a gentile who woke up to convert, but the greatest expert in the world on religions who tried everything. And since a 'guest for a moment sees every hit', the obvious question is what did Jethro reveal about us - that we ourselves have stopped noticing?
There were two factors that contributed to Jethro’s change of heart: the splitting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek. The fact that the Jews went into the sea showed their level of unquestioning devotion to G-d’s words, not something based in nature. The war with Amalek, on the other hand, was a regular, natural war.
Jethro, having been around the block, knew that there are religions that operate out of blind obedience. He also knew that some religions were just into the regular, physical stuff. He never saw a religion that combines the two planes.
Jethro saw how Jews utilize both natural and miraculous means. Throughout the war, Moshe sat on a rock with his hands lifted. When his hands rested, their victory declined. That is what controlled the war together with the Jews physically fighting. That was amazing to him and he decided to become a Jew.
This combination of the physical and spiritual needs to be in every single one of us and in every single point in life. We do the Mitzvot and pray. We work and we make money. We are in this physical world to make the world a better place. We need the physicality of the world together with spirituality. We use both of them in order to serve one purpose: to do what G-d wants from us.
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