|Did Moshe Need a Tour Guide?
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2015 06:54:12 PM
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In Bamidbar 10 (v.29-34) we find a strange conversation between Moshe and his father in law. Moshe says to Yitro, here called Chovav, "We are heading for the Promised Land, and G-d will be good to us. Please come with us and share our goodness." Yitro, the former pagan Midianite, now a Ger Tzedek, refuses. He decides to return to his own country, Midian.
Moshe pleads with him, "Do not leave us, for you know what goes on in our stay in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes." What exactly did Moshe want of his father in law? It sounds like he was looking for an expert tour guide. He told Yitro that he will be a pair of eyes for us. What could Moshe have meant by that?
Israel in the Midbar was led by G-d's cloud by day and G-d's pillar of fire by night.
G-d is our protector. What could Yitro's presence possibly add? Did Israel really need a Midianite tour guide?
Perhaps, Moshe meant something entirely different. All of the 600,000 people that Moshe led and all of their families had stood at Mount Sinai to accept the Torah. We all experienced that momentous event of Divine Revelation. But was that a free choice? The Talmud in Shabbat 88 states that G-d lifted up the mountain over our heads and threatened us that if we don't accept the Torah, we will be destroyed. In West Virginia they call this a Shotgun Wedding.
Yitro, Moshe's Father in Law was the only Jew in the world at that time who was a Jew by choice, a Ger Tzedek. The Midrash describes Yitro as a great intellectual and a deeply spiritual person. He had worshipped all of the pagan idols and came to the conclusion that there is the One and Only G-d of Israel.
Having made that decision and choice, of his own free will and without coercion, there is so much that he could teach Israel who were coerced into accepting the Torah. Yitro could open our eyes to so many ideas that we would otherwise simply not see. Such a spiritual giant, a Jew by choice, a Ger Tzedek, would be a central element on our long and winding road.
Indeed it was exactly with those words that Moshe pleaded with his father in law, "Please don't leave us, for you know what goes on in our camp in the Midbar, and you can open our eyes to appreciate the beauty of Judaism by choice.
This is the important role of Gerim (righteous converts) in the Jewish community.