Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Sponsored by the Weber family on the occasion of the yahrzeit of Hersch Weber, צבי בן אברהם ז"ל, on כא סיון and of the yahrzeit of Jack Wollman, ‏יעקב מרדכי בן אברהם ז"ל on כז סיון.

“Moshe told [Yisro] his father-in-law...travel with us...and you will serve as our eyes.”[1]

Moshe, by asking Yisro to “serve as our eyes” is stating that Yisro sees more than other people do.

And this isn’t the first time that Yisro “sees” more than others.

Yisro also “sees” more when he “saw” Moshe functioning as community judge “from morning to the evening”[2] back in parshas Yisro.

Back then, Yisro also “saw” unnoticed problems, which is why he warns told Moshe, “you will grow weary....this is too difficult for you.”[3]

Yisro, though, didn’t just see problems.

He also “saw” solutions - which he then shared with Moshe by telling him to: “‘see’…people of valor… they should judge the people …only the larger issues, should they bring to you.”[4]

Yes, Yisro sees what others don't see which is why the Midrash notes: “whatever was hidden from our eyes, Yisro would enlighten us.”[5]

Many factors may have contributed to Yisro’s unique vision. And one of those factors may have been the fact that Yisro, as a convert, was new to our community. Being new to our community – and, therefore, being unhabituated to pre-established vantage points – may have afforded Yisro an “outsiders” perspective.

Outsiders aren’t blinded by habituation, so they “see” things that “insiders” don’t notice.

It’s the classic Yiddish saying, “A guest for a while sees for a mile.”

Another contributing factor may have been the fact that Yisro – as per the following – worshipped many idols: “there wasn’t an idol in the world that Yisro hadn’t worshipped.”[6]

Yisro, of course, eventually rejected those idols. But going through the process of idolation and rejection, meant that Yisro analyzed many religions. Such analysis likely sharpened Yisro’s capacity to “see” what others don’t notice.

This may explain a Midrash about the different names - Chovav, Reuel, Chever and Putiel – that are Torah monikers for Moshe’s “in-law.”

The Midrash explains this surfeit of names by noting that: “Yisro had seven names: Yeser, Yisro, Chovav, Reuel, Chever, Putiel and Keni.”[7]

We can read this Midrash literally and assume that Yisro really had seven names. This resonates if, as noted earlier, “there wasn’t an idol in the world that Yisro hadn’t worshipped.”[8] Worshiping many idols probably caused Yisro to interact with many people and cultures, each with it’s own language. Given this, it is possible that each nation called by Yisro a name in their language – hence “Yisro had seven names.”

Or we can read this Midrash as metaphor. Such a metaphoric reading would be prompted by the assumption that the Torah wouldn’t - without explaining – use so many names for one person. Chovav, Reuel, Chever and Putiel, according to this, were, then, all different people.

Yes, Chovav, Reuel, Chever and Putiel are all identified in the Torah as Moshe’s “in-law.” “In-law,” though, can mean grandfathers-in-law and brothers-in-law.

Chovav, Reuel, Chever and Putiel were, then, the names of Yisro's grandfathers-in-law and brothers-in-law – not of his father-in-law.[9]

Yisro, then, only had one name.

We, nevertheless, highlight Yisro’s “seven names” as a way of conveying that Yisro was a “multi-name,” i.e., a multi-perspective person.

Such a “multi-name” person can, indeed, “enlighten” us on “hidden” matters.

This isn’t, of course, just about Yisro.

This is about us, our relationships, our avodas Hashem, our businesses and all other aspect of our lives.

Our marriages may be floundering. That, though, may be because we are building them with subpar blueprints. Shouldn’t we see different marital blueprints?

Our relationships with our teens may be dysfunctional. Is that, though, because we seeking guidance from people who are connecting with today’s teens? Shouldn’t we explore different models for our parent-child relationship?

Our davening may be stilted and uninspired. Shouldn’t we, then, explore different vantage points for tefilla?

In our relationships, in our avodas Hashem and in so many other areas, we can discover new vistas.

But to discover new vistas, we must explore new vantage points.

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim.

[1] Bamidbar 10:29-31

[2] Shemos 18:14

[3] Shemos 18:17-18

[4] Shemos 18:21-22

[5] Sifri, Behaaloscha 80

[6] Mechilta Yisro 1:1

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibn Ezra & Rashbam Shemos 2:18, Radak, Sefer Shorashim, Rashi Bamidbar 10:29, Mechilta, Yisro 1:1

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