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This weeks parasha (Yisro) starts with the posuk stating that:

When Yisro, the priest of Midyan, Moshe’s father in law, heard of all that G-d had done for Moshe, and for Yisrael his people, and that the L-rd had brought Yisra᾽el out of Mizrayim;

In sefer אבי בעזרי written by Rabbi Eliezer ben Yitzchak Chaim Lau, the question is asked why this parasha starts off with the story of Yisro. Why not begin with describing the purification process of B'nei Yisrael, in order that they are able to receive G-ds Torah, which is the central subject of this weeks parashah.

Rabbi Lau explains (my own understanding of this piece) that the lesson G-d wants us to learn from this pesukim is that Yisro, a kohen from Midian, who was a worshipper of foreign gods, accepted G-ds sovereignty and accepted that G-d is the true One. Rabbi Lau seems to cite Rashi (v. 5) who explains that Yisro had everything he wanted, but nevertheless, he left his place, and went into the desert, to search for G-d. This ended up with the Torah teaching us that Yisro accepted G-d as the True One G-d (see posuk 11).

Rabbi Lau goes further to explain that it was a form of "dedication of the soul" that made Yisro accept G-d's soverignty and made Yisro wanted to draw closer to G-d.

So, can one say that the reason the Torah saw need to start off with this "story" is to give mankind the message that if you feel attracted to G-dliness and you are really wanting to connect to G-d that is possible, despite what you've did in the past? Despite of "being the kohen of the Midianites", you are able to return to G-d.

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    @Shmuel see chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/754404/jewish/… final paragraph. More on this idea: Yaacov moved into Zevulun's tent, not Yissachar. The convert/baal teshuva is a home for eternity because only by going to the lowest places can you lose all attraction to them forever. Someone who never went will always wonder in his heart if they are any good... If you think this answers your question, lmk and I might type it out properly
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 8, 2023 at 16:45
  • @RabbiKaii thank you for the great article. However, I find it hard to understand to see the connection between Yisro. Feel free to use it as an answer, maybe then it will be more clear to me.
    – Shmuel
    Feb 8, 2023 at 18:51

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The lesson from Jethro is that he tried all other religions before concluding Judaism was the only true one:

Jethro said: I have not neglected to worship any idol in this world, but I have found no god like the God of Israel. [Midrash Tanḥuma, Yitro 7]

Of course, there is a dark side to this story. Jethro wanted a grandson to do as he did: Worship all existing idols and conclude only God was real. This would give him a better appreciation of monotheism. [Mayan Bet Hashoeva on Yitro 18, 4] The Mekhilta tells us that Moses agreed:

When Moses said to Jethro, “Give me your daughter Tzipporah as a wife”, Jethro answered, “If you do what I ask of you, I will give her to you as a wife.” Moses said: “What do you ask?” Jethro replied: “Your first son must serve idolatry. The following sons may serve God in heaven.” Moses accepted. Jethro said: “Swear.” And Moses swore. [Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 18:3]

Sadly, Moses' son Gershom and his grandson Jonathan lapsed into idolatry. Jethro's program does not always end the way he hoped.

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  • Interesting. Great addition of the sefer from R' Schwab (I suppose בית השואבה is from R' Schwab). So the main reason the Torah teaches us is that Judaism is the only true one? That makes sense, but what seems puzzling is why that message needed to be given through Yisro. Rabbi Lau (mentioned in my question) says that it was a form of dedication of the soul. Is that also possible within gentiles? Does G-d attract them in order to repent and become Jewish?
    – Shmuel
    Feb 7, 2023 at 21:34
  • The usual convert does not do the exhaustive study that Jethro imposed on himself, so his conversion is all the more significant for that. Feb 7, 2023 at 21:48
  • I see, that makes sense. Any sources on your first statement?
    – Shmuel
    Feb 7, 2023 at 21:51
  • Which one?-----+- Feb 7, 2023 at 21:52
  • "The usual convert does not do the exhaustive study that Jethro imposed on himself" - did Yisro immerse himself in Torah?
    – Shmuel
    Feb 7, 2023 at 21:57

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