Finding Fullfilment at Sinai
There are differing opinions as to when exactly Yitro appeared in the camp
of the Israelites in the desert. There are those who follow the rabbinic
dictum that one cannot infer chronological order from the juxtaposition of
narratives as they appear in the Torah. Rashi definitely adheres to this
view in many instances. However Ramban and others maintain that a general
chronology of events can correctly be deduced from the order of the
narrative portions of the Torah.
According to this latter view, Yitro appears to join the Jewish people
before the revelation at Sinai and before the construction of the
Mishkan/Tabernacle. This makes his appearance and newly found commitment to
Jewish life and Torah values even more remarkable. Yitro is the epitome of
the restless, wandering, curious, seeking soul of humans.
According to Midrash, Yitro experimented with all forms and types of worldly
faiths and religions before arriving at Moshe’s doorstep in the wilderness
of Sinai. And, he exclaims that “only now do I know” what I am searching for
and where eternal truth and soulful serenity lie.
All humans embark on the same journey as did Yitro. All of us are looking
for the ultimate meaning of our lives and what our purpose on earth truly
is. Some of us, like Yitro of old, are forced to take many detours and
encounter many dead-end paths before finding our road to fulfillment.
Unfortunately, there are many who never find their way clear of the maze of
society, mores and the distractions that are the roadblocks to our search
for our true selves and purpose. But many of us, again like Yitro, are able
to fight our way through our previous errors of direction and reach the
sanctuary of a Torah life and a moral existence. Yitro stands as a living
and eternal example of this great spiritual accomplishment.
For the Jewish people and, in fact, for all humankind, the Lord simplified
the matter with the revelation at Sinai of the Ten Commandments, an event
that is described in detail in this week’s parsha. These Torah rules address
all of the challenges of life – material gain and acquisitions, paganism,
falsehoods, generational interaction and respect, sexual probity and family
loyalty, a day of rest and spirit and not 24/7 living, honesty and
ego-centered jealousy, to name the main categories. In effect the Torah
provides for us a shortcut to reach the high road of accomplishment and
satisfying purpose in life.
But there are those of us in life that feel themselves smarter and create
their own shortcuts in life, avoiding the lessons of the Ten Commandments.
The world’s prisons are full of such people. The Torah purposefully placed
the Ten Commandments in the parsha of the story of Yitro to illustrate to us
that the long road that Yitro was forced to travel in life and God’s
shortcut lead to the same place – to Moshe’s tent and to Mount Sinai.
As always the final choice of belief and behavior is left to each one of us
individually. Fortunate are those that adhere to Sinai first and foremost
without having to initially traverse the entire world of ideas and beliefs
to eventually arrive at Sinai where their soul will be satisfied and their
life purpose delineated clearly.
Rabbi Berel Wein