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The first pasuk of Parshas Yisro opens by telling us that "Yisro had heard all that God had done for the Jewish people"

Shemos 18:1
וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֵת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ כִּי־הוֹצִיא יְהֹוָה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם׃ (https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.18.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en)

A few pesukim later the chumash says that Moshe sat with Yisro and told him what God had done during the exodus.

Shemos 18:8
וַיְסַפֵּר מֹשֶׁה לְחֹתְנוֹ אֵת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהֹוָה לְפַרְעֹה וּלְמִצְרַיִם עַל אוֹדֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כׇּל־הַתְּלָאָה אֲשֶׁר מְצָאָתַם בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיַּצִּלֵם יְהֹוָה (https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.18.8?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en)

QUESTION:

A. It seems at first that Yisro had known what took place with regards to the Jewish people and their release from bondage in Egypt. Why then is it necessary for Moshe to repeat to Yisro what he already knew?

B. If Moshe anyhow was going to retell the story to Yisro, why was it even necessary for the chumash to tell us that Yisro knew anything at all?

C. Seemingly there is something important about the Torah specifically mentioning that Yisro had heard, and also that Moshe retold him the story. is it possible that what Yisro heard was different information then Moshe was retelling him?

D. Some may say that Yisro had only heard about what happened to the Jewish people during their release, and had not known about what happened to the Egyptians ( as this can be understood from the simple understanding of the pasuk). How could it be possible that the news of the 10 miraculous plagues which struck Egypt did not make its way to Midyan, where Yisro was?

Personal explanations are welcome.

Please cite any sources referenced - linked sources are preferred

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  • 1
    Have you never heard of something that happened, and then met someone who was there and wanted to relive it through them telling over their experience?
    – Dov
    May 29, 2023 at 16:31
  • Then why is it necessary to say that "Yisro heard"?
    – The Targum
    May 29, 2023 at 17:12
  • Because he had heard about it, and now he was hearing it first hand from one of the main people involved!
    – Dov
    May 29, 2023 at 17:22
  • It seems redundant, or unnecessary for it to mention that he heard about it, and then it says hes being told it.
    – The Targum
    May 29, 2023 at 17:27
  • I disagree entirely. How many times in life do you hear about something and it stops there. Only once you've reheard it from someone who was there, does it take on more meaning and concretises your belief system. Bear in mind the very same verse makes mention of Yisro's position as a priest of a non-Jewish religion. This retelling made Yisro firmly believe that the Jewish nation were the chosen people - refer to the Orach Chaim Hakadosh - sefaria.org/…
    – Dov
    May 29, 2023 at 17:52

1 Answer 1

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A. It seems at first that Yisro had known what took place with regards to the Jewish people and their release from bondage in Egypt. Why then is it necessary for Moshe to repeat to Yisro what he already knew?

The Or HaChaim asks the very same question in his commentary to the before-mentioned posuk. He writes:

ויספר משה לחתנו, Moses told his father-in-law, etc. Although the Torah told us that Yitro had heard all that G-d had done, there may have been some details which he had not heard about.

Alternatively, Yitro had assumed that what he had heard previously was grossly exaggerated; Moses now explained to him that what he heard was true to the last detail. It is also possible that until Moses told him otherwise Yitro had been under the impression that the Israelites were still vassals of the Egyptians, not totally free. Moses told him of the slaying of the guardian angel of the Egyptians, something that Yitro could not have heard about from any other source as only the Israelites had seen the "dead" guardian angel (Zohar second volume page 52). Once Yitro heard about this he knew that the Egyptians did no longer have any hold over the Israelites.

The Or HaChaim further explains:

Perhaps the Torah itself alludes to this with the words את כל התלאה אשר מצאתם בדרך ויצילם השם, "all the travail that had come upon them on the way from which G'd had saved them." Seeing Yitro had been a religious leader he would be familiar with the fact that different nations had guardian angels in the celestial regions; Moses told Yitro about the personal pursuit by that guardian angel and how the Israelites had been very frightened of that guardian angel. When Yitro heard about all this he exclaimed: "blessed be the Lord who has delivered this nation from the hand of Mitzrayim (the guardian angel)."

Similary, the Rashbam says that Moshe told Yisro additional things:

התלאה אשר מצאתם בדרך, Pharaoh’s pursuit to the sea, the mannah, and the meat that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave them.

Also, the reason why Moshe needed to repeat the accountings to Yisro, was that what Yisro heard (as stated in v. 1), was from the mouth of a outside. But, when Moshe told him what happened, it was told by someone who was an eye-witness (see AlHaTorah). This can be connected to what the Targum Yehonasan says:

And Mosheh recounted to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharoh and to the Mizraee on behalf of Israel; all the hardship they had found in the way, at the sea of Suph, and at Marah, and at Rephidim, and how Amalek had fought with them, and the Lord had delivered them.

Moshe told Yisro things, he still hadn't heard. How would the Midianites for example know what the Jewish People experience through all their journeys?

See also the explanation from the Toldos Yitzchok.

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