By Rabbi Label Lam
And Moshe's father in law, Yisro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that
G-d had done for Moshe and for Israel, His people that HASHEM had taken
Israel out of Egypt. (Shemos 18:1)
And Yisro heard: What news did he hear that [made such an impression that]
he came? The splitting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek. (Rashi)
Moshe told his father in law [about] all that HASHEM had done to Pharaoh and
to the Egyptians on account of Israel, [and about] all the hardships that
had befallen them on the way and [that] HASHEM had saved them. Yisro
rejoiced about all the good that HASHEM had done for Israel, that He had
rescued them from the hands of the Egyptians. (Shemos18:8-9)
Yisro rejoiced: Heb.וַיִחַדּ, and Yisro rejoiced. This is its simple meaning.
The Aggadic Midrash, however, [explains that] his flesh became prickly
[i.e., gooseflesh] (חִדּוּדִין חִדּוּדִּין)
Yisro hears about the splitting of the sea and the war with Amalek and
decides to join the Nation of Israel in the desert. Then Moshe tells him of
the very same events and his flesh becomes prickly- goose bumps- (Chidudim).
What’s the difference between the account that Moshe told his father in law
and the version that Yisro had heard before? What motivated Yisro to make
the big move? What did Moshe add?
There’s an amazing story that took place in the north of the Land of Israel.
A boat filled with secular college students was gliding through the waters
of the Kineret Sea in the Galilee when a young girl was suddenly bumped off
the vessel. The young lady was floundering in the water as everyone looked
on in horror. Another smaller craft filled with a young Rabbi and a few
students was in the immediate vicinity and the Rabbi leapt into action. He
heroically jumped into the water without a moment of hesitation. He pulled
her to shore where he applied whatever methods of resuscitation necessary to
revive the almost drowning victim.
By the time she was already beginning to percolate with signs of life a
small crowd of interested spectators had gathered closely by. One of them
was a young man from the boat from which the girl had bounced overboard.
After having witnessed the entire rescue procedure he asked the Rabbi in a
rather cynical tone, “I thought you aren’t allowed to touch a girl!?” The
Rabbi looked at him and retorted sharply,“Where were you when she was
drowning?!” The fellow had no answer. He was stricken silent.
The girl herself was so grateful to the Rabbi that she asked him what she
could possibly do to repay him for having rescued her. His only request was
that she should join him and his family for a Shabbos! She did just that and
gladly! She loved her first Shabbos and she came back again and again.
Eventually she became like a daughter and a regular Shabbos guest in their home.
In the meanwhile this young man who asked the crude question that earned the
harsh response was left to ponder his ways. His introspection led him to
seek out a Torah class which brought him to Shabbos and he too became a
One Shabbos he found his way to the table of that Rabbi. They barely
recognized each other but he did remember their guest, the young lady. They
were reintroduced that Shabbos and eventually they began to date and got
married. Amazing! The day the Rabbi saved the girl, he saved really rescued
both of them and their future generations.
When Yisro heard about the rescue of the Jewish Nation by the water and then
he saw that there was still room in the heart of humanity for the cynicism
of Amalek he knew he could not remain a neutral party to history. He had to
choose a side, take a firm stand. So he came to join the Jewish People. Then
he heard what happened from Moshe’s holy mouth. Now, this was not just a
news story or history. It was the total truth! It was Divre’ Torah! He was
able to grasp the entirety of the picture, the unity-chidudim. With his
flesh he sensed the enormity of what happened.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.