Tidbits of Torah

Shabbat Parashat Yitroheadshot white 2015cropped

Finding Wisdom

February 3, 2018 – 18 Shevat 5778

Dear Friends,

Torah is our source of wisdom. Our Sages are a source of wisdom. But, where else might we look for wisdom?

Torah gives us a hint….

There are three non-Jews who have an entire Torah portion named after them. They are: Noah, Yitro, and Balak. The stories of these three distinct, non-Jewish, personalities are preserved for all generations in the sacred text of our Torah.

This week’s Torah portion, the portion that contains the dramatic story of the giving and receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, is named for one of these three personalities – Yitro.

Each one of these personalities teaches us something about who we are in the world. Technically, Noah is a non-Jew. But, we must not forget that Noah lived before Jews became Jews. He lived in a time when the Jewish people had not yet been singled out for their particular relationship with God. So, we learn from the Torah portion of Noah, that we are part of the world at large. We learn that our human roots go back to well before Abraham became the father of our people.

Balak, on the other hand, was a non-Jewish prophet when the Jewish people already existed. He intended to curse us. But, thanks to God’s intervention, Balak ended up blessing us. From Balak, we learn that we are not always accepted in the world at large.

Yitro is a completely different story. Yitro represents the non-Jew who hears about our people and who is appreciative of us. It is important to remember that despite the fact that many people still live in prejudice and fear of the Jewish people, there are also many non-Jewish people who truly appreciate us.

Torah tells us that Yitro shared, with Moses directly, his observations about how Moses was handling his job of leading the people of Israel through the desert and into the Promised Land. Moses took note of Yitro’s suggestions and implemented them to his own benefit and to the benefit of all the people of Israel. Yitro became a valuable source of wisdom for Moses.

Where might we look for wisdom? Certainly, we might look to Torah, and to our Sages’ interpretations of Torah. But, also, as in the story of Yitro, we might look for valuable wisdom in the many non-Jewish people who appreciate us and who are willing to share their insights with us.

May we derive wisdom from Torah, from our Sages, and from others around us! And, may our continued search for wisdom help us to successfully stay “on track” in the complicated journey of life!

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Gilah Dror