Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. - Exodus 18:5
The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means "Jethro," from Exodus 18:1-20:23, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 6:1-13.
This week's portion begins, "Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt" (Exodus 18:1). When reading this story, everyone wants to know what exactly Jethro heard that made him want to leave his life as a wealthy high priest. Did he hear about the 10 plagues? Did he hear about the parting of the sea? Did he hear about the miraculous battle against the Amalekites?
The Jewish sages all answer the question differently. They give validity to each of those possibilities. However, I want to explore another possibility: Jethro heard that there was hope for love.
Let's explain with some background. As the subsequent verses tell us, Moses had divorced his wife, Zipporah. He had left her, along with their two sons, in Midian with her father Jethro. Moses couldn't reconcile family life with his God-given mission. The couple parted ways and both moved on.
Then, Jethro heard about the parting of the Red Sea. The sages explain that when God parted the sea, He created a reality that could have lasted forever. The seas parted in such a way that there was land in between both parts of the sea - land that kept each part from the other. However, what caught Jethro's attention was that after the sea was parted, it then went back together as if it had never been parted in the first place. A lightbulb went off in Jethro's head and he said to himself, "If the sea, which was parted, can come back together, there is yet hope for my daughter's marriage."
The next thing we read in the Bible is that Jethro brought Zipporah and her sons back to Moses, and according to the sages, Moses married her a second time. Just as the sea came back together to the degree that it was as if it had never parted, so, too, did Moses and Zipporah come back together and their marriage was as it always had been.
Friends, I want to encourage us that there is always hope for love. Sometimes, there is a separation between people. It can be a parent and child, two spouses who have drifted apart, or friends who have had a quarrel. But never give up on those cherished relationships. Don't be so quick to say that things can never be the same. Sometimes, in extreme cases, it's true; things can't go back to how they were. However, don't be too quick to give up. If you have been parted, you can yet come back together.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President