By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha we meet Yisro, who joins the B’nai Yisroel in the wilderness. He is invited into (his son-in-law) Moshe Rabainu’s tent where he is regaled with all the recent happenings of the Yidden. The Torah describes Yisro’s reaction, “Vayichad Yisroi” – “And Yisroi rejoiced.” Let’s think about this for a minute: what exactly is he so happy about? That the Yidden were miraculously saved ? Why would that cause him simcha ? He is not yet part of klal Yisroel that he should react as if Hashem has helped him out and shown him fatherly love.
Perhaps the answer is as follows. Rashi tells us (Shmos 18,11) that Yisroi had tried out every single form of idol worship that existed. This was a man with an unquenchable thirst to uncover who exactly was running this planet. And until he worked it out, there was no joy in Midyan. There is an old yiddishe saying: “Ain simcha k’hatoras ha’sefaikos” – “there is no joy comparable to one who has had his uncertainties answered.” Up until this point Yisroi was a walking eroteme. Every day he awoke with a myriad of questions and went to bed with nary an answer. And then one day he hears about B’nai Yisroel’s exodus and their ensuing miraculous journey towards Har Sinai. His spiritual interest is piqued. So he comes to hear about it first-hand. “Va’yesaper Moshe..” And Moshe describes to him in full technicolor detail the protection that Hashem had bestowed upon the Yidden. It was at this point Yisroi realizes he has just received an answer to his $64,000 question. The uncertainties were gone; his questions had disappeared. No more safaik, no more dilmah, no more kashes. And that was cause for celebration; thus “Vayichad Yisroi.”
A couple of years ago the New York Times asked the Gallup poll to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America. Gallups’s answer: a male, tall, an Asian-American, an observant jew who is at least 65 and is married with children. He must live in Hawaii, run his own business and have a household income of at least $120,000 a year. After some research a Mr Alvin Wong was discovered in Honolulu who matched all the conditions. I don’t know how many of these conditions Yisroi would have met, but the Torah tells us he was happy. Happy because he had become part of B’nai Yisroel and had finally recognized Hashem.
It is not by coincidence that Yisroi figures this all out right after B’nai Yisroel’s victory over Amalek. The Me’or Vo’Shemesh tells us that the Hebrew spelling of “Amalek” has the same numerical value as “safek.” That was Amalek’s M.O: attack the Yidden and plant uncertainty into their lives. But he failed. And perhaps at that time all the uncertainties of the world including Yisroi’s softened and allowed clarity to enter.
Mishe’nichnas Adar marbim besimcha. When Adar begins there is an increase of joy. For each year during Adar, we focus on the diabolical attacks by Amalek throughout our history, and our vanquishment of them. That focus chips away at the sefaikos of our own lives. That is when spiritual light-bulbs will begin to go off – “Layehudim hoysoh Oirah”
And riding shotgun will be “sosoin, v’simcha veekor” – happiness, joy & honor.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.