The Lubavitcher Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos (vol. 11, p. 74) quotes the Zohar in saying that if Yisro did not bless G-d and proclaim that G-d is the True One and Only G-d, the Torah wouldn't been given to B'nei Yisrael. As Deuteronomy pointed out in the comment-section, it was a triggering-event, Yisro blessing G-d was the trigger that made Matan Torah happen.

The Zohar says:

Came Yitro, illustrious High Priest, a master of all other deities, and praised the Holy One Blessed Be He, and said: "Now I know that Hashem is the greatest of all the other gods!". It was then that the Holy One Blessed Be He went up and was made known in His greatness on high and below, and then the Torah was given in its entirety, that it may reign over all.

There are several sources that describe the greatness of Yisro and the fact that he converted to Judaism. See for example the Or HaChaim, Rashi (the fact that Yisro went to the midbar for studying Torah) and the Rebbe in explaining why the Torah stresses that he once was a Kohen of Midian..

The Lubavitcher Rebbe begins to explain that when Yisro blessed G-d and said "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods", this caused:

“G‑d to be revealed in His glory in the higher realms and in the lower realms. Afterwards, He gave the Torah in its fullness.”

See the Rambam in Hilchos Avodas Kochavim who explain that anyone who denies the worship of false gods, acknowledges the entire Torah in its totality

This means, explains the Rebbe, that when Yisro studied Torah, that brought refinement of the unholiness and transformed it to holiness.

I find this explanation difficult to understand. Maybe because of the kabbalistic view of it. Therefore, I would like to know if there are any other explanations, non-kabbalistic, that explain the great virtue of Yisro (besides the fact that he recognised Hashem and converted, despite coming from a status of "Kohen Midian") and because of that, it was possible for the Torah be given.

  • Yisro rejected all avodah zarah and therefore was able to be machniss the awareness of Hashem into the reshus of the avodah zarah.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 19:17
  • I understand, but that does not explain why Matan Torah was dependant on the actions of Yisro.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 19:42
  • It does, because only through Yisro could the Torah penetrate all levels of uncleanliness.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 18:50
  • That is also what the Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos explains, but I am looking for another interpretation, since that kabbalistic approach does not seem to work for me. I simply do not get it.
    – Shmuel
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 19:42
  • @Shmuel do non-kabbalistic approaches recognise the idea?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Allow me to start with my own observation(s) thus far.

The Midrash (Eichah Rabbah 2:13) says that if the nations would say that they possess wisdom, you should believe them. However, when the nations would say that they also would possess the Torah as in wisdom, you shouldn't believe them.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hartman, in his notes to Tiferes Yisrael, by the Maharal MiPrague writes:

טעם זה צ"ב, שהא תינח שיש לישראל התורה שאינה בנמצא אצל הגוים - [...] The reason for this is that Israel has the Torah (in it's possession) and the Gentile nations do not have it (in their possesion)

The Targum on Bereishis 4:8 (Targum Yerushalayim) translates the posuk as:

Kain answered and said to Habel his brother, There is neither judgment nor Judge, nor another world; neither is a good reward given to the righteous, nor will vengeance be taken of the wicked. Nor was the world created in goodness, nor in goodness is it conducted.

According to some sources, including the Arizal, Yisro was a gilgul (a reincarnation) of Kayin (see: VediBarta Bam). I've read an interpretation of Rabbi Oizer Alport in Bein Gavra L'Gavra that this can be connected to the Targum cited above. Since Kayin rejected that Hashem is the judge in the world and universe, Yisro, as a gilgul of Kayin, came and accepted G-ds sovereinity and that He's the judge and introducing Moshe Rabbeinu with a proper judicial system.

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos, vol. 11, explains that by studying the Torah, Yisro so to speak transformed all the dark kelipos into holiness. All the kelipos that he had because he was once the "kohen of Midian", and the Midrash says that he "tasted of every singel sort of avodah zarah". This concept can also be found in the commentary of the Tiferes Shlomo on Shemos 18:1.

And this is why the Ten Commandments begin with "I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of Egypt" and not "I am the L-rd your G-d who created the world" because this is the fundamental principle of receiving the Torah; the yichud of Anochi, to subdue all of the kelipa that causes pain to the Jewish people and return it all to good. (emphasis mine)

The Tiferes Shlomo writes that it is a fundamental principle of one who receives the Torah, that he is to subdue all of the kelipos and to transform it into good. This is exactly what Yisro did. He once was a pagan-priest, but subdued the kelipos and literally transformed all darkness and negativity into holiness.

In this vein, we can apply the statement of a Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra Rabbah 1:2) where Rabbi Abahu says:

“Those who dwelt in its shade shall return…” (Hoshea 14:8) This refers to the converts who come and take shelter in the shade of the Holy One. “…they shall revive [like] corn…” (ibid.)

So, according to most of the opinions mentioned above, the achievement Yisro achieved was that he was able as a -once a high priest in Midian - now a convert, to transform darkness into light, holiness. Isn't that the soul purpose of our Holy Torah? To subdue the evil and transform it into the G-dly? To connect to G-d and to abandon everything that is not His?

Please feel free to add anything in or to come up with your own idea's.

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