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Parshas Yisro 5771

Rabbi Siegel

Parshat Yisro

Jan 23, 2011

Yisro heard. He heard of the miracles that Hashem performed for Moshe Rabeinu and his nation. He came to join the Children of Israel in the desert.


Yisro was unable to penetrate the clouds of glory to enter the camp of the Bnei Yisroel. He sent a message attached to an arrow asking Moshe Rabeinu to come out to him. 1 The Targum Yonason Ben Uziel states that Moshe went out to convert Yisro, thus enabling him to enter the camp. 2



Rashi informs us that Yisro had seven names - Re'uel, Yeser, Yisro, Chovev, Chever, Keini, and Putiel. 3 Each of his names pertains to a significant point in his life. He was called Yeser (addition) for his advice to Moshe Rabeinu led to the establishment of the judicial system, thereby adding on to the Torah. When he converted and fulfilled the Mitzvos the letter "vav" was added to the name Yeser, hence the name Yisro.




Yisro first converted, and then he added on a parsha to the Torah. If this is the case, why was his name first Yeser and then Yisro? The order should be reversed; first his name should have been "vav" and then Yisro.


In addition, Yisro had seven names. Each one represented a different stage or accomplishment in his life. Why is the name that was given to him when he converted only an added letter to a previous one? Doesn't such a milestone in his life deserve a name all to itself?


Furthermore, why was the name Yeser chosen as the one to add the letter "Vav" on to? Why wasn’t the vav added to one of his other names?


Why specifically the letter "vav"?


Complicating matters further, in Parshas Shmos Yisro is introduced as Re’uel. By the encounter of Moshe Rabeinu with the burning bush, the Torah refers to Moshe as the shepherd of his father-in-law Yisro. 4 At the time, Yisro had not yet added a parsha to the Torah nor had he converted. Why is he referred to by a name that he doesn’t have yet?


Background/Deeper Understanding


Yisro's was not the first attempt at "Geirus" - conversion. A group of Egyptians wished to tie up their lot with that of the Bnei Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu accepted them. There was not a single bit of "nachas" from these converts. Quite the opposite, they bear the brunt of the blame for most of the severe lapses that the Bnei Yisroel fell prey to. It was they who initiated the Sin of the Egel Hazahav - the golden calf. 5 They complained constantly, expressing their wish to return to Mitzrayim. 6


It seems that their conversion had no positive effect upon them.


There is an integral difference between a Jew and a gentile.


Prior to the creation of the world, Hashem created the holy Torah. He wants the Torah revealed within the world he created in all its totality. The Torah, being comprised of 600,000 letters is to be revealed by the members of the nation that is composed of 600,000 souls. A person reveals Torah by toiling in Torah and also by "living" Torah. 7 One who is a student of the Torah's standard of chessed need only study Avrohom Avenu, a living paradigm of chessed. The ''Torah of chessed'' emanated from his very persona.


There is no redundancy in creation. Each and every soul emanates from a different letter of the Sefer Torah. The task of the soul is to reveal its own unique letter by the manner it lives its life. If one letter touches another, the Torah scroll is rendered unfit for use.


This is true of the ones who were chosen by Hashem to bear the torch of Adam HaRishon, whom the world was created for.


A Jew's soul is connected to and rooted in the Torah. The Torah is the word that emanates from Hashem's mouth. The soul-bond that the Jew has with the Torah is the facilitator of his close relationship with his Creator.


The soul of the gentile has no direct connection with the Torah. He is forbidden to study Torah. 8 He has no Torah to reveal. Up until the time of Yisro, conversion meant going through a set of rituals and joining the Jewish people. The soul of the convert remained the same. The letters of the Torah were the prime domain of the descendants of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. There were no letters for converts. It was an external conversion. Although they outwardly rejected idolatry, their basic nature remained the same. The Egyptian converts remained Egyptians at heart.


For this reason the Erev Rav (Egyptian converts) remained essentially the same, constantly being drawn back to Mitzrayim, still steeped in their idolatrous practices, not fully reliant upon Hashem.


With the advent of Yisro, everything changed. By delving into the depths of his neshoma, Yisro was able to spout words of wisdom and counsel that were incorporated into the Torah itself. Yisro's soul was fashioned from the Torah of geirim. Hashem had created special words of Torah to be revealed by way of the converts of all the generations. Yisro was the first to reveal them. By doing so he forged a bridge for all subsequent geirim. Each one who follows him has his own unique way of life that will reveal the different nuances in the Divrei Torah of Yisro. 9



It becomes clear that Yisro's conversion and his adding of a parsha to the Torah are one and the same. His conversion process didn't end with his Bris Milah and ritual immersion. The very act of adding a parsha to the Torah finalized his geirus.


First came his addition to the Torah, hence the name Yeser, through the additional letters revealed in the Torah he found his Jewish soul. A “vav” is added to his name. The names were given to him in the proper sequence.


Why a "vav"? The "vav" is the letter in the Alef Beis that means "and", it denotes a connection. The name Yisro literally means "Yisro connected to the addition", This is obviously the reason why the name Yeser is chosen to be the name that the "vav" is to be added. It is also clear why a special unique name was not given to him upon his conversion.


The question presents itself, where did he get this ability? Of all gentiles, what special quality did he possess that enabled him to reveal the Torah of the converts?


The Gemora states that Techiyas Hameisim is the sole province of the Talmid Chochom. Only through the dew of Torah can one be resuscitated from the dead. Those who have no contact with Torah will die a permanent death.


What about ignoramuses? Is there no hope for them to live an everlasting life? Rav Yochanon finds a solution for the Amei Ha’Aretz - Support Talmidei Chachamim, do business with them, marry your daughter to one. 10


A child is part and parcel of a parent. When one's daughter forges a bond with a talmid chochom via Chuppah and Kiddushin, she becomes one with her spouse. This is a way for an ignoramus to acquire Torah, by being as one with a Talmid Chochom.


Yisro was no ordinary gentile. His daughter was married to Moshe Rabeinu, one who contained within himself the entire Torah. From the time that Moshe married Yisro's daughter he enjoyed a bond with the Torah. This bond found its expression when words of the Torah shined forth from Yisro's soul.


Perhaps, for this reason, Yisro is called Yisro even before his conversion. He is being identified as "Chosain Moshe" - the father-in-law of Moshe. It was then and there that his ultimate conversion found its origins.

1 Chizkuni, quoting the Medrash Tanchuma

2 Parshas Yisro, perek 18, posuk 6 and 7
3 Parshas Yisro, perek 18, posuk 1
4 Parshas Shmos, perek 3, posuk1
5 Rashi, Parshas Ki Sisa, perek 32, posuk 7
6 Rashi, Parshas Beha’aloscha, perek 11, posuk 4
7 Sefer Hashalah, Toldos Adam, Beis Chochmah Tinyana (11)
8 Meseches Sanhedrin, daf 59a
9 S’fas Emes
10 Meseches Kesubos daf 111b

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