went to greet his father in law, bowing down low and kissing
him (18:7). Unfortunately relations between children
and their in laws are not always so rosy and are often marred
by jealousy, power struggles and outright animosity. One
need look no further than the eternal king of Israel, David Hamelech, and his troubles with his own father in law, Shaul.
In fact, the Talmud tells us that even in a case of an agunah,
where Jewish law accepts the testimony of relatives, a mother
in laws testimony regarding her daughter in law is not accepted in a court of law. Moshe Rabbeinu, serving as a role model for us, not only displayed respect and affection
for his father in law, he valued his advice even his presence
amongst the Jewish people. Moses said to his father in law the Midianite, We are now on our way to the place that G-d promised to give us. Come with us and we will share the benefit of all the good things that G-d has promised Israel (Bamidbar 10:29). This warm relationship began soon after Moshe married Tziporah. Moshe tended the sheep of his father Jethro, sheik of Midian (3:1). Most importantly it was Yitro who advised Moshe regarding the proper running of a judiciary. Amazingly, Moshe took his father in laws advice and did all that he said (18:24). Moshe, who had successfully led millions of people out of Egypt, the man who would speak face to face with G-d did not feel it was beneath his dignity to take advice from a heathen and to publicly acknowledge this.
Why was Moshe so close to his father in law, a heathen priest, that the Parsha of the Divine Revelation bears his name? It is almost as if Moshe in his greatest moment of glory takes a back seat so that Yitro can be in the limelight. Even before Moshe leaves Midian to return to Egypt to start his mission he requests permission from Yitro. Moshe left and returned to his father in law, Jether. I would like to leave and return to my people in Egypt
Go in peace, said Jethro(4:18). It is almost as if the redemption was dependent on Yitros good wishes. This is all the more startling if we accept the Midrashic teaching that Yitro was actually one of Pharaohs advisors and was actually bothered by the destruction of Egypt.
It appears to this writer that Moshe s indebtedness to Yitro can be explained by Moshes tremendous feelings of gratitude toward Yitro. Moshe after killing an Egyptian who was attacking a Jew, is forced to flee Egypt. Where was he to go? Moshe fled to Midian, stopping at the well presumably evaluating his limited options. Seeing an injustice perpetrated against a group of young women he rises to their defence and risking further problems draws water for them. Thinking only of their good fortune and not wanting to risk revenge the women leave him there and go home. Yitro, their father would not accept such ingratitude. Where is he now? He asked his daughter. Why did you abandon the stranger? Call him, and let him have something to eat. (3:20). Yitro, at least in Moshes mind had saved his life. Furthermore he gave him his daughter as a wife. A man who would welcome a stranger into his home and care for him is one who merits association with revelation.
This sense of gratitude was evident in all that Moshe did. To cite just one example, Moshe did not participate in administrating the first three of the plagues. The first plague struck at the sea, the same sea that saved Moshe from certain death. The next two emanated form the ground, the same ground that Moshe used to bury the Egyptian. Despite the cruelty of the Egyptians and the justice of their suffering, Moshe would be the instrument to bring that pain about. It was more important that he not harm those who saved him.
Matan Torah and Yitro are practically synonymous. To accept the Torah means to respect and value the advice of others and if cogent accept it regardless of its source. Furthermore it means that we must be permanently grateful to the many who have helped us. The Torah is a gift to the Jewish people. We must be ever grateful that we have the privilege to observe the Torah as we fulfil G-ds plan in creating the world. Shabbat Shalom!