PARSHAT YITRO: In Search of the Truth

For the eternal merit to the soul of my grandfather Yitzchak Aziz Ben Mashallah Hacohen A”H

R’ Shlomo Brevda z”l (1931-2013); Maggid and author, noted for his commentaries on the teachings of the Vilna Gaon z”l) writes: Parashat Yitro describes the most important event in human history–the Giving of the Torah. Why is the Parashah that includes that seminal event named after Yitro, who was not even present when the Torah was given?

R’ Brevda explains: Rambam z”l describes the path that Avraham Avinu took, beginning as a child, to discovering Hashem. He began by wondering why there was a continuously repeating cycle of day and night, and he concluded that there had to be some power causing this cycle to occur. All this time, he continued to worship idols alongside his parents, until his innate intellect led him to the conclusion that there has to be one G-d who controls the universe. At that point, he realized that all the people that he knew were mistaken in their idolatrous beliefs, and he began to debate them. [Until here paraphrased from Rambam’s Hilchot Avodah Zarah] R’ Brevda continues:

Yitro followed a similar path. Midrash Tanchuma teaches that there was not a single idol in the world with which Yitro did not experiment in his search for the truth. In the end, however (18:5), “Yitro, the father-in-law of Moshe, came to Moshe with his sons and wife, to the Wilderness where he was encamped, by the Mountain of Elokim.”

R’ Shlomo Brevda

The Midrash asks: Do we not know that Bnei Yisrael were camped in the Wilderness? Nevertheless, the Torah mentions this fact to highlight Yitro’s sacrifice and sincerity.

R’ Brevda concludes: We now can understand why the Giving of the Torah is in “Yitro’s Parashah” — to teach the degree of truth-seeking that is required if one is to truly “receive” the Torah. (Lev Shlomo: Shavuot p. 233)

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