Monday, May 10, 2021

What Yisro Heard

And Yisro, the minister of Midyan, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard everything that Elokim did to Moshe and to Yisroel, His people who Hashem had taken out of Mitzrayim” (Shemos 18:1). The Torah tells us that Yisro heard everything that transpired and brought the redemption. Yet, Rashi quotes the Gemara which states, “What did Yisro hear that inspired him to come? Krias Yam Suf and the war with Amaleik.”

Undoubtedly, the splitting of the sea was one of the most miraculous events ever. It brought about the singing of the shirah even by children in their mother’s womb. But Yisro was a thinker, a philosopher who served every deity in the world. He was constantly searching for the truth. Thinkers are usually not that moved by supernatural events, but rather by their inherent lessons. What was it about this great event that so moved Yisro? Besides the actual event, there was a lot more to the miracle than meets the eye.

Actually, Yisro himself gave an answer to this question. When Moshe Rabbeinu related all of the events to his father-in-law, Yisro exclaimed, “Blessed is Hashem, Who has rescued you from the hand of Paroh… Now I know that Hashem is greater than all the gods, for in the very matter in which the Mitzriyim had conspired against them… (Shemos 18:10-11).

This is something that Yisro knew better than anyone else. The Gemara tells us that there were three advisors in the inner circle of Paroh who were involved in the conspiracy to drown the Jewish babies: Bilam, Iyov, and Yisro. Bilam, who gave this advice, was killed. Iyov, who was silent, suffered from afflictions. Yisro, who ran out in protest, merited that his progeny sat on the Sanhedrin (Sotah 11a). Yisro knew very well that Paroh wanted to commit this crime in a way that he could escape retribution from Hashem, so he chose drowning the children, because Hashem swore that he would never again bring a mabul to destroy mankind.

He didn’t realize, however, that Hashem wouldn’t destroy the entire world with a deluge, but a singular nation could still be destroyed by water. That is exactly what happened to the Egyptians. “They were cooked in the pot that they had used to cook others.” Paroh felt so secure in committing this horrific crime, but try as he may, he couldn’t escape the hand of Hashem. But there was more to this event that so impressed Yisro.

On the third day after leaving Mitzrayim, Hashem told Moshe, “Speak to the Bnei Yisroel and let them turn back and camp before Pi-Hachiros, between Migdol, and the sea before Baal-Tzephon, you shall encamp opposite it by the sea. Paroh will say of the Bnei Yisroel, ‘They are imprisoned in the land, the midbar has locked them in’” (Shemos 14:2-3). Paroh surely thought that now he had the Yidden exactly where he wanted. They were trapped by his avodah zarah, lowly servants who would now have to face his intimidating army. What an advantageous position to find himself in. He came after them with arrogance and assuredness that he would prevail. “The enemy declared, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide plunder: I will satisfy my lust with them, I will unsheathe my sword, my hand will impoverish them” (Shemos 15:9). There were many “I”s in this declaration, the ultimate in gaavah.

But it was this very confidence that did him in and brought calamity upon his entire nation. The safety net that he used as protection quickly collapsed on him. Baal Tzephon remained standing there helplessly, and the water of the Yam Suf miraculously inflicted punishment upon the Mitzriyim in the very way they tried to destroy the future of Klal Yisroel.

And Yisroel saw the great hand that Hashem inflicted upon Mitzrayim” (Shemos 14:31). What is the significance of the “great hand”? The Chofetz Chaim explains that this can also be understood as the long hand of Hashem. We are incapable of seeing Hashem’s intentions immediately. It is only after a long period of time, after the entire picture is painted, that we can look back and reflect upon Hashem’s actions and marvel at how every single one of them was so significant, and how they fit into the overall picture of our salvation.

The Yidden had many questions. Amongst them were: Why didn’t Hashem allow the dever, the pestilence, to destroy the animals that the Egyptians brought into their houses? And why couldn’t the borod, the hail, destroy them? They might have even complained as the Mitzriyim were chasing after them that had Hashem destroyed the horses, they would not find themselves in this terrible predicament. Only after the destruction of the Egyptians in the Yam Suf did they see that Hashem’s long hand was planting the annihilation of Mitzrayim step-by-step along the way. Hashem’s long hand refers to a lengthy series of seemingly random events that combine to form one big yeshuah.

It was like this, says the Chofetz Chaim, with the miracle of Purim. In its time, every separate event was hard to understand – the killing of Vashti despite her not doing anything wrong, the coronation of Esther despite her efforts together with Mordechai to escape this fate, the execution of Bigson and Seresh, the rapid rise of Haman to power, and the night that sleep eluded King Achashveirosh. All of these were random events, every one of them seemingly insignificant in the long run. But at the end of the story, when we examine them, we can clearly see how every occurrence was a link in the chain of yeshuah brought about by the long hand of Hashem.

From here we can learn that if we see events that puzzle us, things that we don’t understand, it is only because Hashem’s yeshuah for us is still in the process of developing and has not yet reached its climax. But in the end, we will look back in retrospect and understand everything. This is similar to the Bnei Yisroel at Krias Yam Suf. Only after seeing the Mitzriyim lying dead on the seashore did they comprehend the yad hagedolah, the long hand of Hashem (Chofetz Chaim Hachodosh Al HaTorah).

These lessons can serve as chizuk for us in the situation we find ourselves in today. We are at a difficult stage of a golus that seems like it will never end. Amidst the darkness, we are always looking for a smile from Shomayim, good tidings for our people. And indeed, for the last four years, we were miraculously given an administration whose policies were not only good for the country, but were also overtly favorable for frum Yidden and the State of Israel. The economy was booming, we were no longer patsies for China and Russia, Iran was put in its place, and the accomplishments in the Middle East were amazing. Then, suddenly, it all came crashing down because of Covid, hate-filled politics, and the ugliness and violence that followed.

With the incoming new administration, many of these policies stand to be reversed and the security we felt under President Trump will just be a passing pleasant dream. But even worse, the political pendulum has swung in the opposite direction to an extreme. The Democrats now control the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. Extreme leftists who are antireligious, support immorality, and are anti-Israel now have a much louder voice in the government. In addition, they have with them the force of the news media and the big tech companies who are literally trying to block out any voices that disagree with them. These are ingredients to a recipe that can bring out a violent backlash from the opposing side and already has. This doesn’t bode well for Yidden.

But this is similar to the situation in which we found ourselves just before Krias Yam Suf. We seemed powerless, stuck in front of the avodah zarah of the Mitzriyim, easy fodder for Paroh, who came after us with such pompous arrogance. At the time, our people didn’t understand the hanhagah of Hashem, but it turned out to be one of the greatest events in our history, as we actually saw the Shechinah and sang an exhilarating shirah, declaring, “Zeh Keili ve’anveihu – This is my G-d and I will build him a Bais Hamikdosh” (Shemos 15:2).

The insecurity that we now feel in golus is ultimately a good thing. “Al tivtichu benedivim – Do not rely on nobles or on a human being, for he holds no salvation” (Tehillim 146:3). Undoubtedly, all that is transpiring today is pure Hashgocha. It is a lesson to us that we can only rely on Hashem and we must constantly daven to Him.

The novi tells us: “As in the days when you left the land of Mitzrayim I will show it wonders” (Micha 7:15). Just as with Yetzias Mitzrayim, the long hand of Hashem was at work, planting isolated incidents at different times, many of them incomprehensible to us, that were eventually our salvation, so too with the final geulah. We cannot understand each individual event, but when the geulah finally comes, may it be soon, we will all appreciate them as the ultimate chesed from Hashem.

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