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Don’t Hesitate

Friday, 25 January, 2019 - 5:55 am

We live in an era and culture of endless noise. We absorb so much information, we really can’t keep track of it anymore.

The modes of communication are endless. The options of who to interact with have no boundaries. The sheer volume of information we are fed is overwhelming.

All of this begs the question: How much of what we hear do we actually act upon? Are we becoming desensitized to what we see and hear?

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This week’s parsha Yitro is a coming of age parsha for the Jewish people. G-d chooses the Jewish people to safeguard the Torah. We select G-d as our supreme authority. The Jewish people become a people at Sinai, in the most momentous event in all of history – the Giving of the Torah.

For all the fanfare about Revelation at Sinai and the Ten Commandments, the parsha is named for something different. Its name, Yitro, is the name of Moshe’s father-in-law. Yitro, the father of Tziporah, was a heathen minister. But he decided to join the Jewish people, declaring, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the deities.”

The parsha begins:

Now Moshe's father in law, Yitro (Jethro) the chieftain of Midian, heard all that G-d had done for Moshe and for Israel His people, that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt.

Why does the parsha begin with this episode of Yitro becoming a Jew? It might be an interesting snippet of history. But, does it deserve the central position it’s given, having an entire parsha – the most consequential in the entire Torah – named after Yitro?

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The key to understanding Yitro’s greatness is not simply that he became a Jew. The Torah could have simply stated that Yitro showed up and joined the Jewish people. The opening word in Hebrew is Vayishma, meaning “And [Yitro] heard.”

The Torah is intimating that Yitro’s greatness lies not in his remarkable wisdom or inspiration. Rather, his greatness lies in his ability to listen, and act upon it. Certainly, many people heard the tale of the exodus. As the Torah testifies, the people of Canaan trembled, the nation of Amalek attacked and Egypt learned a mighty lesson.

Thousands of people heard. But only Yitro took proper action.

***

We hear so many important messages. But, the little voice inside of us has become emboldened in the 21st century. It brazenly tells us to ignore what we hear – to feed our ego instead of our soul, to be content with the status quo, or to focus on ourselves instead of others.

Yitro listened and acted. This is the key to safeguarding the Torah for posterity. The Torah is not merely a great history book. Nor is it just a fabulous guide for life’s conundrums. It is a call to action.

In fact, the Hebrew word Torah means teaching or instruction.

There are countless messages we should be blocking or at least deleting from our psyche. But, when we hear the Torah calling out, we should emulate Yitro and spring into action – without hesitating.

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