And Moshe’s father in law, Yisro…, heard all that Hashem had done for Moshe and for Israel, H.s people that Hashem had taken Israel out of Mitzrayim. (Shemos 18/1)
Rashi explains that even though from the possuk it seems that Yisro came after he heard ALL the miracles that Hashem did for Bnei Yisroel, the truth is that there were two specific incidents that spurred Yisro to go to Moshe; the splitting of the Red Sea and the war with Amalek.
From the fact that Rashi writes that these two incidents spurred his coming, we understand that the splitting of the Red Sea by itself didn’t provide enough inspiration for Yisro to come to Moshe. It was only after he also heard of the war with Amalek did he decide to come.
Zera Shimshon asks why wasn’t the splitting of the sea enough inspiration? What was missing that he needed also the war with Amalek to push him to come?
He answers in light of the Gemorra in Sotah daf 11/A that explains that the reason that Paroh decreed to drown all Jewish male babies (instead some other type of murder) was because he knew that Hashem made an oath never to destroy the world by a flood. Paroh therefore reasoned that since Hashem punishes Midah KeNegged Midah (measure for measure), Hashem would not be able to take revenge for his murdering of all the Jewish newborn boys.
The Gemorra concludes, however, that Paroh’s reasoning was faulty. One reason is that Hashem’s oath was not to destroy the WHOLE world by a flood. However, H. never vowed not to destroy one nation by flooding.
An alternative reason is that Hashem didn’t destroy the Mitzrayim nation by bringing a flood on them. Rather at the time of the the splitting of the Yam Suf they chased Bnei Yisroel and ran into the water. In other words, Hashem didn’t destroy them, but rather they destroyed themselves.
Zera Shimshon explains that the point of disagreement between these two answers is the way Hashem, sort to speak, related to H.s oath.
Although an oath is totally and unconditionally binding, Hashem, sort to speak, holds that it is acceptable to find a loophole in an oath even though superficially it appears that H. is violating the oath.
In the case of punishing the Mitzriim for drowning the first born, Hashem found a loophole in the oath- the oath was only to destroy the WHOLE world and therefore proceeded to do destroy Mitzrayim.
According to the second explanation Hashem holds it is unacceptable to violate an oath through a loophole. Therefore H. was, sort to speak, bound by H.s oath not to destroy even a single nation through water. Therefore we are forced to say that the Mitzriim ran into the Sea and destroyed themselves.
According to this Zera Shimshon explains why Yisro didn’t come to Moshe until after the war with Amalek.
Yisro wanted to become part of Bnei Yisroel only if Hashem would keep H.s promise NEVER to leave the decedents of our Forefathers. Yisro wanted to be sure that even if we don’t do Hashem’s mitzvos, Hashem will not forsake us.
Yisro saw that Hashem didn’t directly drown the Mitzriim at Yam Suf (even though that they deserved to be punished Midah Kenegged Midah for their drowning the new born Jewish boys). He was unsure, though the reason for this. He reasoned that it might be because Hashem felt bound by H.s oath even though that technically H. could get out of it (since it was only not to destroy the whole world by water).
If this was the case, Yisro reasoned, then Hashem would also keep the oath to protect and to be close to Avraham’s descendants in all situations, regardless of our conduct, and Yisro would have come immediately to join the ranks of Bnei Yisroel
However, Yisro was worried that there was another reason that Hashem didn’t destroy them directly. Therefore he stayed where he was and didn’t come to Moshe
At the war against Amelek Hashem saved us miracously even though we doubted Hashem’s ability to feed us in the Desert. After Yisro saw this, he was then convinced that Hashem will always be with us. Therefore only at that time he came to convert and to be part of our nation.
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