Kahal Joseph Congregation

310.474.0559 / webmaster@kahaljoseph.org
10505 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Rabbi’s Message

Rabbi Natan Halevy

Yitro 5782

Shalom U’vracha,

In this week’s parasha, the main focus is on Yitro, Moshe Rabeinu’s father in law, and on receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

Yitro left the comfort and honor of his home and his land to join Moshe and Israel in the desolate desert. Yitro is referred to as ‘the priest of Midian’. He was well versed in all types of idol worship and all spiritual services known to man. His acknowledgement that ‘Now I know that Hashem is greater than all other spiritual entities’ was a huge admission in those days.

Yitro was a well-known and highly respected individual. The Zohar goes as far as to state that until Yitro arrived, the Torah was not able to be given. His faith and his choice to come closer to Hashem was a great spiritual act which also had an effect in the higher realms.

The event which truly pushed him was the war against Amalek. Amalek had launched an opportunistic attack on the weakest members of Bne Yisrael, those who were either old, very young, or ill and who trailed at the end of the group while Israel sojourned. Why is this? 

Amalek showed great audacity in fighting Israel. After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, all the nations had great fear and stood in awe of the ‘nation of Hashem’. Even though Amalek ultimately lost the battle against Israel, the other nations’ fear of Hashem began to lessen as a result of Amalek’s heinous attack and initial success.

By journeying to meet Bne Yisrael, Yitro intended to downplay the effects of Amalek’s actions. The actions of such an esteemed member of society who chose to acknowledge Hashem, and in effect to convert, made a powerful impression on all the nations. The impact of Yitro’s actions and choices helped reverse the negative impact of Amalek’s underhanded attack.

While with Bne Yisrael, Yitro saw Moshe dealing with the judgment of cases from morning to night. He warned Moshe that both he and the people of Israel would surely become worn out by this setup. He advised Moshe to choose additional judges from amongst the nation. Only people who were strong, honest, wise and understanding would be qualified to judge. Then, Moshe could appoint the judges to deal with smaller issues and leave larger matters for Moshe to consider. When Moshe went to ask Hashem, he was commanded to do as Yitro had said. So, “Moshe chose men of substance out of all Israel and appointed them as heads of the people, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens.” And, Yitro is credited with the inception of this idea.

It seems strange that Moshe didn’t think of appointing judges before on his own. Why? When Moshe taught the nation, they were elevated to an extremely lofty spiritual state. It was as if they were learning Torah directly from Hashem, just like Moshe had.

Moshe strove to keep this situation going as long as possible, so that the people would benefit. However, Yitro saw the people on their own personal level, and immediately knew that this system was unfeasible. His comprehensive spiritual experience had taken him to great highs and lows. He knew that it was inevitable for the nation to go through these ups and downs. And, Yitro wanted to prepare the nation for the time when Moshe wouldn’t be around. These are a few of the reasons this parasha is named after him.

May we all merit to have a presence like Yitro within ourselves and beside us to give us good counsel on our journey and to bring us closer in our relationship with Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom U’mevorach

Kahal Joseph Congregation

10505 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.474.0559 / webmaster@kahaljoseph.org