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Parshas Yisro

21/10/09 09:41:34


Rabbi Pesach Siegel


Yisro heard. He heard of the miracles Hashem performed for his nation. Rashi informs us that Yisro had seven names - Re'uel, Yeser, Yisro, Chovev, Chever, Keini, and Putiel. (1)


Each of his names pertains to a significant point in his life. He was called Yeser (addition) for he advised Moshe in the matter of the judicial system, thereby adding on to the Torah. When he converted and fulfilled the Mitzvos the letter "Vav" was added to his name, hence the name Yisro.


This is cause for reflection.


Yisro was unable to penetrate the clouds of glory to enter the camp of the Bnei Yisroel. He sent a message attached to an arrow asking Moshe Rabeinu to come out to him. (2) The Targum Yonason Ben Uziel states that Moshe went out to convert Yisro, thus enabling him to enter the camp. (3)


Yisro first converted, then he added on a parsha to the Torah. If this is the case, why was his name first Yeser and then Yisro? The order should be reversed, first his name should have been "Vav" and then Yisro.


In addition, Yisro had seven names. Each one represented a different stage or accomplishment in his life. Why is the name that was given to him when he converted only an added letter to a previous one? Doesn't such a milestone in his life deserve a name all to itself?


Furthermore, why was the name Yeser chosen as the one to add the letter "Vav" on to? And why specifically the letter "Vav"?


Complicating matters further, in Parshas Shmos, the Torah refers to Moshe Rabeinu as the shepherd of his father-in-law Yisro. (4) At the time, Yisro had not added a parsha to the Torah nor had he converted. Why is he referred to by that name?


Yisro's was not the first attempt at "Geirus" - conversion. A group of Egyptians wished to tie up their lot with that of the Bnei Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu accepted them. There was not a single bit of "nachas" from these converts. Quite the opposite, they bear the brunt of the blame for most of the severe lapses that the Bnei Yisroel fell prey to. It was they who initiated the Sin of the "Egel Hazahav" - the golden calf. (5) They complained constantly, expressing their wish to return to Mitzrayim. (6)


It seems that their conversion had no positive effect upon them.


There is an integral difference between a Jew and a gentile.


Prior to the creation of the world, Hashem created the holy Torah. He wants the Torah revealed within the world he created in all it's totality. The Torah, being comprised of 600,000 letters is to be revealed by the members of the nation that is composed of 600,000 souls. A person reveals Torah by toiling in Torah and also by "living" Torah. (7) One who is a student of the Torah's standard of "chessed" need only study Avrohom Avenu, a living paradigm of "chessed". The ''Torah of chessed'' emanated from his very persona.


There is no redundancy in creation. Each and every soul emanates from a different letter of the Sefer Torah. The task of the soul is to reveal it's own unique letter by the manner it lives it's life.


This is true of the ones who were chosen by Hashem to bear the torch of Adam HaRishon, whom the world was created for.


A Jew's soul is connected to and rooted in the Torah. The Torah is the word that emanates from Hashem's mouth. The soul-bond that the Jew has with the Torah is the facilitator of his close relationship with his Creator.


The soul of the gentile has no connection with the Torah. He has no Torah to reveal. Up until the time of Yisro, conversion meant going through a set of rituals and joining the Jewish people. The soul of the convert remained the same. The letters of the Torah were the prime domain of the descendants of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. There were no letters for converts.


With the advent of Yisro, everything changed. By delving into the depths of  his neshoma, Yisro was able to spout words of wisdom and counsel that were incorporated into the Torah itself. Yisro's soul was fashioned from the Torah of Geirim. Hashem had created special words of Torah to be revealed by way of the Geirim of all the generations. Yisro was the first to reveal them. By doing so he forged a bridge for all subsequent Geirim. Each one who follows him has his own unique way of life which will reveal  the different nuances in the Divrei Torah of Yisro. (8)


For this reason the Erev Rav (Egyptian converts) remained essentially the same, constantly being drawn back to Mitzrayim, still steeped in their idolatrous practices, not fully reliant upon Hashem.


It becomes clear that Yisro's conversion and his adding of a parsha to the Torah are one and the same. His conversion process didn't end with his Bris Milah and ritual immersion. The very act of adding a parsha to the Torah finalized his Geirus.


First came his addition to the Torah, hence the name Yeser, through the additional letters revealed in the Torah he found his Jewish soul. A "Vav" is added to his name. The names were given to him in the proper sequence.


Why a "Vav"? The "Vav" is the letter in the Alef Beis that means "and", it denotes a connection. The name Yisro literally means "Yisro connected to the addition", This is obviously the reason why the name Yeser is chosen to be the name that the "Vav" is to be added.  It is also clear why a special unique name was not given to him upon his conversion.


The question presents itself, where did he get it from? Of all gentiles, what special quality did he possess that enabled him to reveal the Torah of the converts?


The Gemora states that Techiyas Hameisim is the sole province of the Talmid Chochom. Only through the dew of Torah can one be resuscitated from the dead. Those who have no contact with Torah will die a permanent death.


What about ignoramuses? Is there no hope for them to live an everlasting life? Rav Yochanon finds a solution for the Amei HaAretz - Support Talmidei Chachamim, do business with them, marry your daughter to one. (9)


A child is part and parcel of a parent. When one's daughter forges a bond with a talmid chochom via Chuppah and Kiddushin, she becomes one with her spouse. This is a way for an ignoramus to acquire Torah, by being as one with a Talmid Chochom.


Yisro was no ordinary gentile. His daughter was married to Moshe Rabeinu, one who contained within himself the entire Torah. From the time that Moshe married Yisro's daughter he enjoyed a bond with the Torah. This bond found it's expression when words of the Torah shined forth from Yisro's soul.


Perhaps, for this reason, Yisro is called Yisro even before his conversion. He is being identified as "Chosain Moshe" - the father-in-law of Moshe. It was then and there that his ultimate conversion found it's origins.


(1) Parshas Yisro, perek 18, posuk 1

(2) Chizkuni, quoting the Medrash Tanchuma

(3) Parshas Yisro, perek 18, posuk 6 and 7

(4) Parshas Shmos, perek 3, posuk1

(5) Rashi, Parshas Ki Sisa, perek 32, posuk 7

(6) Rashi, Parshas Beha’aloscha, perek 11, posuk 4

(7) Sefer Hashalah, Toldos Adam, Beis Chochmah Tinyana (11)

(8) Sfas Emes

(9) Meseches Kesubos daf 111b

Mon, August 10 2020 20 Av 5780