Verse 1 of this week’s Torah Portion begins with these words, “And Yisro, the father-in-law and priest of Midian, heard all that G-d had done”. RASHI: What did he hear that made the impression on him that hecame to join the Jews and convert? He heard of the splitting of the sea and of the war waged by Amalek.
Was Yisro the only one to hear of the miracles G-d wrought? No. All the world heard. There are two Hebrew words for listening/hearing. Shema and Haazin. One, Haazin, is when one listens to something and the words one is hearing has no impact. The other, Shema, is when one listens and the words sink inside and change the person.
The whole world heard of the miracles, but continued with their own ‘life as usual’. Yisro heard and said, what does that mean for me – how must I change based on what I heard. We have to be careful in life not to let the things we are supposed to take to heart just tickle our eardrums without changing us. A story about this:
The founder of the Chassidic movement was the Baal Shem Tov. One rabbi heard that the Baal Shem Tov was teaching wonderful new approaches to coming close to G-d so he traveled to him to learn. When he was there, he was taught by the Baal Shem Tov that everything you hear, no matter where you hear it from, is a message for you from G-d. The man got upset with this, saying, ‘Hocus pocus. Don’t tell me G-d would use an ignorant wagon driver or drunk to send me a message. Exalted messages can only come from exalted people. This is hogwash what you are teaching. I can’t learn from you, Baal Shem Tov.’ The Baal Shem Tov merely smiled at the confrontational words and said softly, “You can. You just don’t want to.” The man replied, “I can’t.” To which the Baal Shem Tov repeated, “You can, -you just don’t want to.” The man stormed out of the house and headed down the road. There on the road lay an upturne dcart and a peasant standing there trying to deal with the situation. The peasant called out to the rabbi, “please help me right my cart.” Short-tempered and foul-mood snit that he was in, the rabbi was’t feeling very charitable and snapped, “I can’t.” To which the peasant replied, “You can. You just don’t want to” – the exact same words the Baal Shem Tov had used a few moments earlier. That stopped that rabbi in his tracks. This was too close a coincidence for him to ignore that G-d was sending him a message. He realized the Baal Shem Tov was correct, that G-d makes us hear the admonitions we need in our life, even through the mouths of peasants. He helped that peasant and then ran right back into the Baal Shem Tov’s study hall to learn like he never learned before.
Yisro heard of the miracles and asked himself, “I’ve heard this, now what do I do practically about what I heard.” And he answered, “I become a Jew.”
What are you going to do with the messages you hear today? Will you let it change you and make you a better person? Or will you ignore those G-dly messages?
If you don’t ignore the messages in life, you, like Yisro, can become a leader among people.