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The name of a Parasha is significant as it tells us much about the message that the Torah wishes to give us in a particular week.
Our Parasha contains the greatest historical event, the Revelation of God at Sinai, the only time that God reveals Himself to a mass of people. Yet the name of our Parasha is not Revelation nor Ten Commandments, it is called, Yitro. Who was Yitro?
The Torah tells us that Yitro was the father-in-law of Moses. He was the High Priest of Midyan, and according to the Midrash, was a man searching for the truth. The rabbis describe how Yitro had tried every form of worship before he found the God of Israel.
The question - why is the name of our Parasha associated with Yitro and not the Revelation at Sinai? Torah is the guidebook which presents us with a framework to live an ethical and moral life. A life of purity and sanctity enriches and ennobles the spirit and as a result, society as a whole. However, there are many who choose not to follow these principles. The world is filled with prisons which contain those who have chosen not to observe the principles of these laws.
Yitro journeyed through life, searching for an ennobling existence and after many dead ends, frustrations and disappointments, ended up in front of Moses’ tent. Here he found the richness and fulfillment that he sought, a richness that we were given directly.
One might think that poor Yitro wasted his years in his search. That is not true. The famous inventor, Thomas Edison, is reported to have said when asked how long it took to develop the incandescent light bulb. He replied, “over 1000 attempts”. The journalist responded, “did that not frustrate you?”, Edison responded, “No, I merely discovered another way how not to make the light bulb”. It was this attitude that led to his ultimate success.
When Yitro arrived at the camp of Israel he too had finally discovered the truth, but he noticed something. In the camp, the people gathered before Moses, day and night, waiting for him to judge their cases. Yitro said to Moses, “this is no good for you and the people, you need to delegate, create a judicial system to assist you”. Each of Yitro’s experiences were not wasted moments but opportunities to grow, learn and share with others.
We are at times like Yitro, struggling to find the truth. We can become frustrated, but if we realize that each experience is a chance to learn and grow - that what we learnt we can apply, then there is no such thing as a wasted experience or a waste of time.
Yitro and the Jewish People both arrived at the tent of Moses. The one journey took longer, but what he learnt on the way was of benefit to all.