Friday, 17 February 2017

Giving Credit

“Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man.”  - William Howard Taft

Without diminishing the importance of Taft’s wise words, allow me to add that failure to render credit is a weakness not only in any man but in any nation as well. It is the essence of humility, individual and national.

As a Jew, I am proud to belong to a tradition, to a heritage that has shared much with world civilization. What makes me ever more proud of it is that it never fails to give credit where and when credit is due.
This week’s Parasha (Torah portion) is a great example of it. It is entitled “Yitro,” (Jethro in Greek). Yitro is a non- Yisraelite who later becomes Moshe’s (Moses) father in law. He is a dedicated father and family man and is the governing leader of the tribes of Midian, to where Moses escapes from Egypt as a young refugee. After rescuing his daughters and their herds from hostile shepherds, grateful Yitro invites Moshe to break bread with them and offers him his daughter Tzipporah as wife (Exodus 2:21).
Following the liberation of his people from slavery in Egypt, Moshe, now a powerful and famous leader, returns to Midian where Yitro guides him on how to govern his people. Yitro advises him of the need to appoint magistrates and judges to assist him in the task of administering justice to Am Yisrael. (Exodus 18:17ff). Yitro fulfills his task as Moshe’s mentor with grace, elegance, sincerity and honesty. In return, he receives Moshe’s utmost respect and deference.

Yitro’s modesty and humility are further demonstrated in Numbers 10:29-30 where he is invited by Moshe to join Am Yisrael where he would be respected and honoured. Yitro courteously declines by entreating his responsibilities and duties to his own tribe in Midian.

Later in this week’s Parasha, we are told that the Children of Yisrael camp at the foot of mount Sinai where they are preparing to receive the Torah as G-d has chosen them to be His “kingdom of priests” and “Holy Nation.” That is where the children of Yisrael first become a Nation, Am Yisrael after they proclaim “Naaseh V’ Nishma “(we shall do all that G-d has spoken).

The giving of the Torah is, undoubtedly, the most important event in the timeline of the history of Am Yisrael and the Jewish people. It is the event that has connected our Past, Present and Future as a Nation.

When undertaking the task of dividing the Torah into fifty-two portions, our Rabbis elected to name this most important Torah portion after no other than Yirto, a Midianite, a non-Jew, an outsider.
Why, some of you may ask?

And this is where one of the greatest gifts of our Jewish nation lies, the essence of our strength. Yitro’s name was chosen precisely because our Rabbi’s followed one of the most important tenet inherent in our Jewish culture - giving credit where credit is due. Yitro, as we witnessed throughout the Parasha, was very instrumental in shaping our destiny and help us make it a reality. He provided Moshe with refuge when he escaped the hostile environment in Egypt, gave him food, shelter and coached him into becoming one of the greatest leaders Am Yisrael has ever had. His contributions to who and what we are today are immense. He is what we, Jews, call "A Righteous Gentile."

Yitro’s credit was not only given to him, it was well earned and well deserved.

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