Jethro the priest

Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Yitro

We will read this week about the unexpected arrival of Jethro in the desert, joining the fledgling Israeli nation. Rashi comments that Jethro has by now recognised G-d and was a monotheist.  It is therefore surprising how the Torah titles him upon his arrival:

וַיִּשְׁמַ֞ע יִתְר֨וֹ כֹהֵ֤ן מִדְיָן֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֵת֩ כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ לְמֹשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא יְהֹוָ֛ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

“Jethro priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that G-d had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out from Egypt.” (Shemot 18.1)

If Jethro was by now “Kosher”, why mention at all his being an idol worship priest, at this point in which he comes to join us. Not a big praise….?

Perhaps. As we go through the Parsha, we notice Jethro becoming actively involved in communal matters. He even ends up advising Moshe Rabeinu to reduce his workload and appoint deputies to deal with simpler matters regarding law and order. His observations and recommendations are accepted and a system is indeed put into place, in line with his guidance.

The fact that Jethro was able to observe, comment and advice, was based on the experience he has acquired being himself a theological leader, even as this was for a different and idol worshipping nation. The Torah teaches us here that we should learn from our important experiences, even from activities which by themselves weren’t considered positive. Drawing out the good from any experience is a great benefit in life. 

Shabbat Shalom and warm regards

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld