Divrei Torah

PARSHAS YISRO 5777

Yisro is the focal point in the beginning of this week’s parsha. After hearing of all the miraculous events that G-d performed for the Jewish people, Yisro decided to convert to Judaism. He sent word to Moshe that he would soon be arriving at the camp of Israel. The Torah tells us that Moshe went out to greet Yisro: “and he bowed and kissed him and they asked – the man to his friend - the peace of his dear one.”

Rashi notes that this passuk is unclear. “Who bowed to whom? Who kissed whom? Who was the one to make the gesture? Was it Yisro, the father-in-law, who kissed Moshe, or did Moshe, the son-in-law, kiss Yisro?

Rashi quotes the Mechilta which refers us to the Book of Bamidbar where Moshe is called “the man Moshe”. Obviously, the words “the man inquired of the other’s welfare” in our portion must mean that same man - Moshe. 

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky raises a question. Why did the Torah choose a seemingly convoluted way to tell us that Moshe bowed before and kissed his father-in-law? Would it not have been easier to tell us that “Moshe bowed and kissed him and asked the peace of his dear one”? Why did the Torah use the words “the man” and send us to the Book of Bamidbar to learn who “the man” was? 

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky concludes that the Torah could have told us the narrative of Yisro and Moshe in an easier manner. It could have told us that Moshe bowed before, and kissed Yisro. But the Torah tells us much more - that it was a man – a normal human being - who kissed Yisro. True, it was Moshe that performed those actions. But they were not the deeds of a Moshe, they were the actions of a regular man – a mentch! 

When trying to describe our leaders and sages, we often attribute acts of kindness, compassion, and extra care as super-human attributes. We forget the humanity that exists in even the greatest of people, that a wonderful attribute for even the holiest person is to be a normal mentch – a regular man.