An unassuming villager, who had never before seen or even heard of a train, once wandered out of town all the way to the edge of a large city. In the village, people traveled on donkeys, and farmers used cows to plow their fields. The very idea of large machines for transport or work was absolutely foreign.
As the villager came close to the city, he came across long rows of steel rods. He couldn’t see the beginning nor the end of the rows. Even more strange, every couple of fee, there were these boards laying across the steel rods with these hug nails stuck into them.
The fellow stood for a moment to ponder his discovery, then, being tired from his journey, he decided to take a brief rest on these boards before returning home. The man fell asleep.
After a short while a train was coming down the tracks. As the train approached, the conductor noticed a person resting on the tracks and began to send warning signals. He blew his whistle, rang his bell, and sounded any alarm he could possibly reach. Finally, all the noise awoke the poor villager who was now perplexed as to where all of these sounds were coming from. “Bells, whistles” he thought, “it sounds like a band.” Then the man looked up and saw lots of lights coming at him from a distance. The whole scene reminded the fellow of the village band and the special carriage used to escort a bride and groom on their wedding day. “There must be a wedding coming my way” and our villager friend stood up and began to dance in the middle of the tracks.
Imagine the thoughts of a bystander watching the scene: Is this guy deaf? Maybe he can’t hear the train coming his way? The truth, is that he heard very well, he just didn’t know what he was listening too!
This week’s Torah portion tells us that Yitro heard all that happened to the Jews as they were leaving Egypt. He was so inspired that he came to join the nation. Why do we have to be told that Yitro heard? He was not the only one that heard, in fact the whole world heard. Yitro was just the only one who reacted. Why?
The Torah is teaching us that even though the whole world heard about the miracles that had occurred, Yitro was the only person who was impacted because he was the only one listening and open to what he was hearing. Yitro was a seeker of truth and when he heard it, he internalized the message and responded accordingly.
What a powerful message. Every day of our lives we encounter “messages.” God is constantly involved in our lives, and sometimes makes it loud and clear. Sometimes the bells and whistles are even sounded. Often though, we don’t even realize. We go on with our lives as if nothing had happened at all.
The messages are loud and clear. The question is: are we listening?