Yitro hears about all that Hashem did for the Jewish people when He took them out of Egypt and decides to join them. The first Rashi on this week’s Parsha asks what exactly did Yitro hear that made him come to cling to the Bnei Yisrael? He states that Yitro heard specifically about the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek.
The Meor Ve Shemesh is puzzled with this Rashi. What made Rashi single out these two specific occurrences? Surely the Pasuk could be understood in its simple format that Yitro heard everything that Hashem did i.e. the ten plagues and all the other miracles. Furthermore, when Rashi himself explains later in the Pasuk, he states clearly that Yitro also heard about the miracle of the Mann and the Well of Water. So why is it that Rashi seems to imply he only heard about the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek?
A second question is asked. In our Parsha, we are told that Yitro took his daughter Tsipora and her two sons to meet the Bnei Yisrael. Why does the Torah link the two sons to Tsipora? Surely it should have said he took Tsipora Moshe’s wife and his two sons to meet him. The Torah goes out of its way to imply that they are her sons.
The Meor Vashemesh explains that Yitro heard about all the miracles and he decided that he too would serve Hashem. He would be like a Ger Toshav, keeping the seven Noachide laws. There was no need to join Klal Yisrael.
At Kriat Yam Suf, the Bnei Yisrael reached their highest level – VayaAminu B’Hashem UbEMoshe Avdo – they believed in Hashem and Moshe His servant. Even the simplest amongst them reached a level of prophecy higher than the later prophets. Yet soon after they reached Refidim , the Mefarshim explain that they were Rafu Yadayim BaTorah – were weak in Torah. They let their guard down and Amalek attacked. Yitro from the outside saw that someone can one day be on a spiritual high but yet on the next be prone to falling from this peak. He was worried that he too would fall from his spiritual enlightenment, and therefore decided that the only way to secure his high spiritual position was to cling to the Bnei Yisrael and Moshe in particular.
We can now understand why the Torah relates to the children as being her children. Yitro was saying in effect: “You named your children because you wanted them to be certain type. Gershon, so that he would be a stranger in this world and his main focus on being a Ben Olam Habah, and Eliezer because you wanted Eliezer to be someone who has Emuna in Hashem. Now they are slipping, they need to be near you. Until we come to you, and stay in close proximity, your children will be lost; they will be her children, separated from their father and from his beliefs. In order for them to keep on the correct path they need to be close to you as well.”
The Rambam in (Deot 6) says that there is a positive commandment in the Torah to cling to G-d. He asks if it possible to cling to G-d who has no physical existence. The Rambam explains that the way to fulfil this commandment is to cling to His people – i.e. the Talmidei Chachamim. By constantly being in their presence, even for mundane purposes such as eating with them at their table, drinking with them, doing business with them, marrying your daughters to them, one can fulfil this commandment. We see how important it is to always be located in an environment where the Torah is of central importance.
With this Rambam, we can also explain the Mishna in Avot. The Mishnah says that one should always be around Talmidei Chachamim, drinking thirstily from their words and sitting in their dust. One could understand why it is important to hear their words, but why must one sit in their dust? Based on what we have explained, this is quite understandable. It is integral for a person to be constantly located amongst the righteous scholars because one puts himself in an environment which is conducive to growth and success in Torah, and even if all one is doing is sitting in their presence, this will ensure that a person does the right thing consistently and constantly.
Chazal write “Whoever attaches himself to evildoers, even if does not act as they do, is punished together with them; whoever attaches himself to those who perform Mitsvot, even if he does not join them in that performance, nonetheless is offered the same reward.” There are spiritual accomplishments that are beyond the reach of many people. They need not despair, but change their strategy. They can lay claim to Devekut by associating with those for whom it is working reality – the Talmidei Chachamim. The Rambam observes that even this is not a workable solution. Not everyone has access to and can create a relationship with a genuine Talmid Chacham. The Torah must mean, therefore, that by associating with the world of Talmidei Chachamim, one participates in the mitzvah of Devekut to the best of one’s ability. If the association cannot be with a Talmid Chacham, it can be with people one degree of separation away – their students.
King David said, “Shivti b’vet Hashem kol yimei chayai” “May I sit in the house of G-d all the days of my life.” How can one be in G-d’s house all day every day? It is not possible. The answer is that even when you leave, you should take the lessons of G-d’s house with you 24/7.
Let us work to be close to Talmidei Chachamim, Aseh Lecha Rav – appoint for ourselves a Rabbi that we can associate with- so that we can drink from his Torah, and through this gain Devekut to Hashem.