Yitro – The Courage to Believe

One of the most dramatic moments of our 40 year journey through the desert takes place this week in our Parsha – Yitro. The news of the Exodus spreads very quickly through the Middle east. The event was unprecedented. The superpower of Egypt had not lost a war (so their hieroglyphics claim) and no rebellion had ever succeeded. And here a nation of 600,000 families not only picks up and leaves but defies and defeats the might of the unassailable Egyptians. The news even reaches the distant land of Midian. There, its high priest and spiritualist extraordinaire, by the name of Yitro, hears about it and can’t believe his ears. But he has a personal interest in this outcome. His daughter, Tzipporah, is the wife of Moses, and she has converted to a Jewish life, even while Yitro remained the spiritual leader of his country. To appraise himself of the veracity of the news he travels to the Jewish camp and is met by Moses and Aharon and the elders. He is accorded great honour being Moses’ father in law, despite his idolatrous practices. And when he sees with his own eyes that the news flashes were true, he decides to throw his lot with the Jewish people and undertakes a profound study of Jewish life and law. He too converts, but leaves the Jewish nation to begin the process of enlightening his own people in the ways of the Jewish G-d. In our contemporary world, where modern western educated people struggle to have faith and belief in anything but the sword and throne, the strength to commit to any principles, be they of morality, consistency, veracity, is absent. Power makes right and individuality is god. The egotistic striving for ‘happiness’, which today equates with escapism from boredom and superficiality, means we seek crave shock tactics to awaken us out of boring stupor. This takes the form of shocking theatre, shocking art, shocking gladiatorial competitions. It’s time to leave our Midian and join up with our Moses and the Jewish people. It’s time to leave the quest for gold, exploitation and sensual pleasure. There is a lot to learn from the idol worshipper Yitro, who had the strength of character to change and abandon a lifetime of false beliefs, to live out his final years in a state of truth. Do you have that courage?