18 Shevat 5772 / Feb. 10 – 11, 2012
In this week’s Torah portion we find Moses reunited with his father in law Yitro, after defeating the Amalekites in battle. Yitro observes that Moses is in the habit of settling any and all disputes that arise between the Israelites (there were approximately 600,000 men alone!), and recommends that Moses set up a tiered judicial system, whereby Moses is only consulted on major/difficult matters. With his burden lightened, Moses is summoned by God to prepare the Israelites to receive the 10 commandments, which after a three-day preparation, they do.
I've always found it fascinating that this portion, which is so significant to us due to its containing the Decalogue, is named for Moses's father-in-law, who happens to not be Jewish.
Jewish communities are often not welcoming to JEWS different than they are, whether in external appearance, family structure, or ritual practice! So it's no surprise that for many communities, finding ways to meaningfully respect and include those that are not Jewish does not come easily.
Moses, our ultimate prophet, modeled how to relate to non-Jewish in-laws (and family members in general) – a skill that many contemporary Jewish families require. Moses bowed to Yitro upon reuniting, felt comfortable sharing the wonders that the Israelites had seen and experienced as well as some of their travails, and took to heart the advice/counsel offered by his non-Jewish father-in-law.
Our Jewish communities increasingly include non-Jews. Let's make sure we're welcoming them in with open arms, as Yitro, a non-Jew, did for Moses our ancestor, and that like Moses, we make sure to listen to their voices and benefit from their wisdom as well.