Sending Away our Modern-Day Yitro’s

Our eventful סדרה opens with the exciting story of a foreign dignitary from Midian (who also happened to be Moshe Rabeinu‘s Father-in-Law) visiting the Jewish People after their victory over Amalek in Refidim. Moshe is told of his important visitor, then goes out to greet him (“ויצא משה לקראת חתנו”). Pleasantries are exchanged (“וישאלו איש לרעהו לשלום”), and other Jewish leaders join Moshe and Yitro in a celebratory meal (“ויבא אהרון וכל זקני ישראל לאכל לחם עם חתן משה לפני האלהים”). The next day, Yitro observes Moshe interacting with the multitudes of Jews seeking his adjudication, and gives the Jewish leader some constructive criticism on his delegation abilities (or lack thereof).

Everything seems to be on script so far- a foreign leader from a friendly country making an official visit, formal greetings, and friendly (if pushy) advice. It seems like Yitro’s visit to the Jewish People, which will likely be extended since he brought Moshe’s wife and children with him as well, is going very well. Until, right after Moshe follows Yitro’s advice…

וַיְשַׁלַּח מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-חֹתְנוֹ; וַיֵּלֶךְ לוֹ, אֶל-אַרְצוֹ
And, just like that… he was gone.

There is absolutely no indication in the פסוקים that Yitro’s visit went sour, or any offensive faux paux caused him to be sent away, so why did Moshe send back his official visit after such a short visit?

I believe that, aside from any of the chronological or midrashic explanations brought by the מפרשים, there is a very simple answer to our difficult question. Yitro’s being sent away from the Jewish People would clearly seem to be directly connected to what happened immediately before his expulsion- his unsolicited advice to Moshe. Putting aside the fact that Yitro is Moshe’s father-in-law, the text goes out of its way to repeatedly call him a “כהן מדין,” an important minister in the Midianite government (or religion, according to Rashi). Whether his trip was a state visit or a more personal one, he still bore his status of office as he visited them, which can be seen from the very formal and honorary greeting he’s given upon his arrival (it would not be a stretch of the imagination to say that Yitro’s greeting went beyond what the estranged father-in-law of the Jewish leader would receive). In blessing G-d on his arrival, Yitro did so in the name of the Midianite people. While eating with Moshe, Aharon, and the Jewish elders, he did so in the name of the Midianite people. And, when he gave Moshe constructive criticism on his leadership, this was also done in the name of the Midianite people, something which may not have been so appropriate. Moshe, being the humble leader that he was, listened to Yitro’s advice, but I do not believe that it is a coincidence that Yitro was sent back to Midian, scarcely a day after his arrival, right after giving this unsolicited criticism.

There is an important lesson in this. While it is important to give honor to foreign dignitaries and officials who visit the Jewish People, to give them to pomp and circumstance that an individual of their office deserves, we also cannot forget that we are under no obligation to actually listen to what they tell us. Furthermore, if their advice is very much against our interests, then we have an obligation to send them away before they can do any harm. Even though Yitro’s unsolicited advice ended up being quite helpful to Moshe’s leadership, it is no coincidence that we were not able to continue to Mt. Sinai and receive the Torah until right after he was sent away- even if his two cents were correct in this case, the Jewish People could not afford to have a potentially harmful influence among them when being encountering G-d’s שכינה and receiving the Torah in Sinai.

This is an important lesson for the State of Israel as well. In the sixty eight years of the Jewish State’s existence, we have very cordially welcomed many Yitro’s into our country, and have often listened to their criticism and advice. Unfortunately, unlike in Parshat Yitro, our modern day dignitaries’ advice has been less than beneficial for us. Over the past decade, as Israel has faced enemies and staged successful military operations against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, many fingers have been pointed at these terrorist organizations’ radical leaders for starting the fights. But, the truth is that the confrontations were not started by Hamas or Hezbollah, or even their backer Iran. They were started by the our Yitro’s- the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France and other Western Countries- who gave us terrible advice that led to the arming of these organizations. Without them, Israel would have never given up Gush Katif to become the missile launching complex and civilian target practice area that it has become today for Hamas- the blood of every Israeli and Palestinian who were killed in the Operations Cast Ledge, Defensive Pillar, and Protective Edge is on their hands. Their intervention in Lebanon and Syria has allowed Hezbollah to become dangerously armed and the supposed “peace-keeping” forces of their proxy, the United Nations, have not yet managed to keep any peace, allowing an egregious level of fire on both sides. Yet, our Yitro’s keep coming back, pushing us to make peace with an enemy that they’re only beginning to understand now that it faces them as well.

In more recent news, reports have emerged that the United States government has begun funding a non-partisan organization called V15 which is directly supporting the election of the left-wing Zionist Camp coalition in the coming Israel elections, with the unofficial catchphrase “anyone but Bibi.” This organization, violating international law and Israeli election law, has allowed our Yitro’s to try to meddle in our country in the most direct way- trying to remove the only premier in recent history to ever say no to them, to send them away as Moshe did in our סדרה. Action must be taken against this terrible breach of Israeli-American relations, before things potentially become even worse. Since sensible people have long given up on international bodies such as the United Nations to actually enforce their own laws, it falls on us, the concerned citizens, to ensure that the United States doesn’t succeed in buying their candidates into the Israeli premiership.

We must learn from Moshe’s lesson in Parshat Yitro- that we cannot continue as a nation, cannot truly receive the Torah and fully inherit Eretz Yisrael, until we send off the dangerous international influences, the Yitro’s if you would, from our midst. Now is the time to send them away, before it’s too late.

With Hashem’s help we will see the United States government be punished for its egregious interferences, and other Yitro’s minding their own business, so our Jewish State can continue to grow and its denizens can live in safety.

About the Author
Born and raised in Teaneck NJ, Tzvi Silver moved to Israel in 2012 after catching aliyah fever while learning abroad. Tzvi is now pursuing a degree in Engineering from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and works on the side as a contributor for local newspapers in the New York Area. Tzvi's interests include learning Torah, rabble-rousing, and finding creative ways of mixing the two.
Related Topics
Related Posts