Jethro the “guide”? – Shabbat Kodesh Parschat Behaalotcha

We will read this week:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֗ה לְ֠חֹבָ֠ב בֶּן־רְעוּאֵ֣ל הַמִּדְיָנִי֮ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁה֒ נֹסְעִ֣ים ׀ אֲנַ֗חְנוּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה אֹת֖וֹ אֶתֵּ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם לְכָ֤ה אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ וְהֵטַ֣בְנוּ לָ֔ךְ כִּֽי־יְהֹוָ֥ה דִּבֶּר־ט֖וֹב עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו לֹ֣א אֵלֵ֑ךְ כִּ֧י אִם־אֶל־אַרְצִ֛י וְאֶל־מוֹלַדְתִּ֖י אֵלֵֽךְ׃

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אַל־נָ֖א תַּעֲזֹ֣ב אֹתָ֑נוּ כִּ֣י ׀

עַל־כֵּ֣ן יָדַ֗עְתָּ חֲנֹתֵ֙נוּ֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְהָיִ֥יתָ לָּ֖נוּ לְעֵינָֽיִם׃

Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which G’ has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will be generous with you; for G’ has promised to be generous to Israel.”

“I will not go,” he replied to him, “but will return to my native land.”

He said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness and can be our guide.”

We ask: Bnei Yisrael have the Anan Hakavod (holy cloud) to guide them, they have Moshe and Aharon. Do they still need Jethro as a “guide“?

Perhaps  it was more a polite gesture, in which both Moshe and his father in law knew that there was no real need for him. However it is much nicer to ask a guest to stay longer because his stay is important for the host! 

Looking from another perspective:  Sometimes, even when we have all the knowledge needed to perform an important mission, there is still a real benefit when an “outsider” looks at our plans. His outside point of vantage might be of tremendous help in materialising the plan successfully. 

Indeed, Rashi says that Jethro went back to his country perhaps, realising that Moshe’s request was a “polite” one.  While the Ramban is of opinion that Jethro did remain with Bnei Yisrael, perhaps – seeing the merits of an “outsider’s help”. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld