One might wonder: Why is our Torah portion, Yitro, named after a non-Jew? Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, was a Midianite priest. Yet, our Sages named this entire Torah portion – which contains the story of the momentous event of our people receiving of the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai – after Yitro, the Midianite priest!
One might say that this is to remind us that despite the centrality of Torah in our lives, we can also learn important lessons from non-Jewish, external, sources. The Torah is “wisdom”. But, it is not the exclusive source of wisdom.
Moses learned a lot from Yitro. Seeing Moses trying to adjudicate the people’s disputes all by himself and sitting on the bench from morning to night, Yitro suggested a judicial system which allowed Moses to share the judicial burden with other appointed judges. Moses accepted Yitro’s advice and followed it.
But, it is very interesting that, later, Moses seems to have forgotten that Yitro was the source of his wisdom in how to set up the judicial system.
In Deuteronomy 1:9-15 when Moses retells the story of the events that led up to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, Moses never mentions Yitro! In fact, Moses takes all the credit for figuring out that he needed to appoint others to help him carry the burden of leadership of the people.
It is especially notable that the Torah lets us know that Moses, our greatest teacher of Torah and the most humble of people, forgets to give credit to Yitro when he recounts the trek of our people in the desert.
Perhaps, this is why our Sages named our Torah portion, Yitro. Perhaps they realized how quickly we, human beings, tend to forget those who help us. And, how quickly we forget that there is wisdom outside of Torah, as well as wisdom in Torah! Perhaps, our Sages wanted us to remember these essential facts and so they emphasized Yitro’s name. Lest we forget.
And, let’s not forget that this Shabbat we will be reciting the prayer for the new Jewish month of Adar! Rosh Chodesh Adar will be on Thursday night, Friday and Shabbat of this coming week.
May it be a month of health, of joy (Purim is in Adar), of wisdom and of remembering and giving credit to those who help us!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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