Thursday, January 24, 2019

Parshas Yisro 5779

How Many Judges did Moshe Choose?

The Torah writes (Exodus 18:24-26):
Moses heeded his father-in-law and did just as he had said. Moses chose capable men out of all Israel, and appointed them heads over the people—chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens; and they judged the people at all times: the difficult matters they would bring to Moses, and all the minor matters they would decide themselves.
The numbers work out as follows (based on the Mes. Sanhedrin):
  • Chiefs of thousands: 600,000 / 1,000 = 600
  • Chiefs of hundreds: 600,000 / 100 = 6,000
  • Chiefs of fifties: 600,000 / 50 = 12,000
  • Chiefs of tens: 600,000 / 10 = 60,000
  • Total: 600 + 6,000 + 12,000 + 60,000 = 78,600 or 13.1%
(Ibn Ezra argues with these numbers reducing the numbers to 12 princes, and 6,000 heads of 100s, see Josh Yuter's parsha blog)

Why Did Yisro Leave?

The Torah writes (Exodus 18:27):

Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way to his own land.
The Torah also writes later on (Numbers 10:29-32):
Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will be generous with you; for the LORD has promised to be generous to Israel.” “I will not go,” he replied to him, “but will return to my native land.” He said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness and can be our guide.So if you come with us, we will extend to you the same bounty that the LORD grants us.” 
Rashi answers (Exodus ibid):
AND HE WENT HIS WAY INTO HIS OWN LAND, for the purpose of making proselytes of the members of his family (Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 18:24:2)
Ohr Chaim explains later on in a similar fashion:
Rabbi Eliezer the Modai claimed that before he departed Yitro said to Moses: "light is effective only in a place of darkness." He meant that amongst the Israelites he was not needed to provide enlightenment seeing Israel basked in the light of G'd. In his own country, however, his new found enlightenment could be of benefit to his countrymen. There he might succeed in converting his countrymen to monotheism and then he would bring them to study Torah. 

Sifsei Chachamim later on (Numbers) explains further:
Nonetheless it was his intention to return there but not to settle. I have found this said in the name of the Maharal of Prague.

Sforno answers differently (Exodus ibid):
Perhaps this was due to his being of advanced age; we encounter such reticence to move to a better place when David offered Barzilai a home in Jerusalem and he declined, citing that at his age he would not enjoy what Jerusalem had to offer anyway. (Samuel II 19,38) He preferred to be buried with his father and mother. Yitro’s sons (and daughters?) however definitely joined the Jewish people in their journey to the Holy Land, as we know from Judges 1,16 where they are described as the children of the Keyni, the father-in-law of Moses. Bileam also prophesied concerning their future in Numbers 24,21.
Similarly the Sforno writes later on (Numbers ibid):
so that in his old age he would not have to adjust to the different climate and food in a country he had not grown up in.
Chizkuni and Bechor Shor answer later on (Numbers ibid) in a different fashion:
Yisro preferred the known [of Midian] vs. the unknown [of Canaan]
Ramban later on answers differently:
Moshe said to Chovav. I already explained that Chovav was the new name given to Yisro when he accepted Torah, as every proselyte does. This is because Hashem gives a new name to His servants. Moshe asked him to go with them, and mentioned, “We will treat you well” without specifying what it would be. Yisro thought he would receive a portion of the spoils — gold and silver, garments, flocks and cattle — but he would not have an inheritance among the Bnei Yisroel. Therefore, Yisro was not interested, and he answered: But rather to my land and to my birthplace will I go — for there I have an estate, property and honor. Moshe replied: Please do not forsake us, for, because you know of our encampment in the desert and you will be our eyes — that is, since you are familiar with the Wilderness you will be our eyes in conquering the lands, and you will show us the way to go. And it will be, that when you go with us, it shall be that the very good which Hashem will bestow on us we will bestow on you — With this Moshe hinted that he would be given an inheritance in the good land, as reward for his efforts and assistance in conquering the Land.
Chiznuki disagrees with the fact that Yisro would inherit:
He meant that Yitro would be allowed to share in the loot the Israelites would secure from the Canaanites. He had not been authorized by G-d to promise him an ancestral piece of land in the Holy Land.

Did Yisro and His Sons Leave?

Ramban continues:
In my opinion Chovav agreed to Moshe’s request because of this promise, as I mentioned (Shemos 18:1). And thus we find in the Yerushalmi as well (Bikurim 1,4): “The sons of Chovav, Moshe’s father-in-law, bring [first fruits] and read [the parshah], as it says, ‘Come along with us and we will treat you well’”.
Ohr Chayim agrees:
Our sages say that the Israelites gave Yitro and family the most fertile land around Jericho  
Kli Yakar agrees:
Come along with us. First, Moshe promised a material benefit to Chovav, when he said: We will treat you well. Moshe did not mention Hashem in this offer and Chovav did not want to accept. Then, Moshe promised him a spiritual benefit — that he would be included in the Sanhedrin, which is called the eyes of the congregation, as it says: And you will be our eyes. In the context of this spiritual benefit, Moshe mentioned Hashem: It shall be that the very good which Hashem will bestow. Hashem will give of His Spirit upon him. To this, Yisro agreed.
Sforno disagrees:
If your children depart also you will be desecrating the name of the Lord among the nations as they will say: “if Yitro would have seen any merit in this religion surely he and his sons would not have abandoned them!” Both Yitro and his sons agreed with this argument of Moses so that in the end only Yitro returned to his country, as we know from Exodus 18,27 “Moses saw his father-in-law Yitro off, and he went by himself back to his own country.” There is no question that his children remained with the Jewish people, as the Book of Judges testifies when writing about “the children of the Keyni, the father-in-law of Moses, having previously ascended from the city of palms with the tribe of Yehudah.” (Judges 1,16).

When Did Yisro Leave?

Chizkuni here (Exodus ibid) points out when Yisro leave, and whether Moshe's children experience Matan Torah:
Whether Yitro had arrived at the camp of the Israelites prior to the revelation or subsequently, there is unanimity amongst the sages that he did not return to his homeland before the second year in the month of lyar when the people made ready to proceed to the Holy Land, having been encamped around Mount Sinai for almost an entire year. If the line reporting Moses accompanying Yitro on his departure occurred in the chronological sequence reported by the Torah, then both he, Tzipporah, Moses’ wife, and his two sons would have belonged to the only generation that ever experienced such a revelation. If the Torah did not report events in their chronological sequence, we have to make peace with the fact that Tzipporah and her sons did not experience this event.  The fact that neither of Moses’ sons are ever mentioned again by name in the Torah lends some support to the opinion that they had not stood at Mount Sinai.

Other interesting points:

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