Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Everyone read about it in the paper. Everyone spoke about it day and night. But only one person got up and did something. Our Torah portion begins with these words: “Now Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that G-d had done for Moshe and for Israel, His people, that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt”.
Yitro hears about the Exodus from slavery to freedom, about the new uplifting spiritual message that accompanied it, and Yitro responds. He hears, internalizes the message, and is inspired to act: “And Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, came… to Moshe”. Yitro leaves his home and joins the nation of Israel.
Many commentators write about the capacity of Yitro to hear. The Torah itself relates that many nations heard about the children of Israel leaving Egypt. They were amazed and shocked and shaken to the core. Millions of people in the Middle East followed the drama of the Exodus. But did this awaken them to change? To do something? No. Only Yitro pondered the deeper meaning of this event. He not only heard but also changed.
Today, massive quantities of information constantly compete for our attention. Every day, we hear all sorts of amazing and shocking news from every corner of the globe. In this context, Yitro’s story raises an important question: what are we doing about what we hear?