Yisro (Jethro) was a Midyanite and was not born part of Bnei Yisroel (Jewish People). He was one of Pharoh’s three advisors, the other two being Bilaam (who we hear about later on in Parshas Balak) and Iyov (Job) who appears in the book of Iyov (Job). In fact, what happens to each of these people after they leave Pharoh’s palace is their reward/punishment for the things they said or did not say when Pharoh’s asked them what to do about the Jews. Bilam advised that Pharoh should destroy and oppress Bnei Yisroel, and later the incident in which Bilaam took advice from a donkey is publisized. Iyov kept silent, and his punishment for inaction was that he went through all the suffering detailed in the Book of Iyov. Yisro was against it, and his reward was that he got Moshe as a son-in-law* and a whole parsha named after him. In fact, there is a Rashi that gives Yisro a number of names. Can you name some?
After fleeing Mitzrayim, having given the ‘wrong’ answer to Pharoh, Yisro became a kohein -a priest – not the Jewish kind, but the idol-worshipping kind. In Midyan he met and employed Moshe and later gave Moshe his daughter Tzipporah in marriage. Yisro had many daughters. Although Tzipporah had initially returned with Moshe back to Egypt, Moshe had sent her back to her father’s house as a precaution.
When Hashem split the sea for the Jewish people and they walked on the water as if it were dry land, Yisro heard about it and already having doubts, he abandoned his idol-worshiping practices (Tzipporah already had) and decided to join the Jewish people. He packed up his things, took leave of his followers and followed the Jews into the desert.
When the news of his father-in-law’s arrival came to Moshe, he went out to meet him. Seeing this, Aharon soon followed, then the zekainim (elders) and soon the whole nation came out to greet Yisro, curious as to how this man was important enough to merit such a welcoming. Yisro converted and joined the ranks of the Jewish people.
Now part of the nation, Yisro began to see how he can help them. He noticed how all the people brought their questions to Moshe and as a result our great and humble leader was very busy. Yisro decided that it was better for Moshe to appoint elders that would be able to make judgements on the less serious matters and thus lessen the workload of Moshe. Eventually Moshe agreed.
Yisro is one of the few people in the Torah who have a Parsha named after them? Can you name some of the others?
Next weeks question: What is the Longest Word in the Tanach? What is the shortest word in the Tanach?
*There is a confusion about the identities of Yisro, Choviev and Ruel, they might be the same person, but there is an opinion making them different people. For example, Yisro could have been the name of Tzipporah’s grandfather (as in those time’s one would sometimes refer to their grandfather as their father), Reual could have been the father of Tzippora and son of Yisro and Choviev could have been the son of Reual, Grandson of Yisro. For the sake of this article, Yisro refers to the father or father figure of Tzipporah. More information availabe here