The parsha starts off with telling us how Yisro, Moshe’s father in law and a great man in his own right, came to join the Jewish people in the desert. After receiving the Torah and spending some time learning Torah with the Jewish people in the desert, Yisro wanted to leave and go back home to his family. Moshe tried to convince Yisro to stay with the Jewish people in the desert and not leave them. Yisro responded- how can a little candle (Yisro) provide light in the place of the sun (Moshe) and the moon (Aharon)? With that argument Yisro went back to his family and taught them Torah and caused them to convert to Judaism and become Torah observant.
While it is true what Yisro is saying that, like a candle, a person will not be able to impact others with their own light if they are in the presence of brighter lights, there are, however, other aspects of being a good, Torah-abiding person. Namely, Yisro would be able to learn Torah and observe the Torah on a much higher level living among the Jewish people than if he would travel back home and live with non-Jews!
So why is Yisro focusing in on this one aspect of being a good Jew- doing good deeds (chesed) with others- there are other things which are important parts of being a good Jewish person. With regards to these other aspects of being a good Jew it would seem to be more advantageous to stay in the desert with the Jewish people.
Why would Yisro only consider the positive effect he can have on others to be the determining factor and make his decision based on that one aspect alone?
Yisro understood that the very foundation of the creation of the whole world is chesed, doing kindness to others. Doing good to others is not just another mitzvah in the Torah, rather it is the foundation of the entire Torah and the primary character trait of Hashem Himself.
Yisro also understood that the greatest kindness that one can do for another is to bring them closer to Hashem by way of teaching them Torah. By educating someone in the true, compassionate and proper ways of the Torah, a person will be completely transformed into someone who will be happier, better, more resilient and just all around a greater person than he would have been without the Torah.
Yisro saw that he had a unique opportunity to do this special kindness with his family and shine his light onto others in a way that he could not have if he would remain in the same spotlight as Moshe and Aharon.
Our primary job in this world is to do good to others. And as the saying goes- give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. So too, if someone does any kindness for someone, that is good and special. However, to share ideas that transform the person’s life so that his entire existence is more meaningful and pleasant, then your kindness to him will live on forever.
Our ability to enlighten and enhance the lives of those around us in a profound way is not just an aspect of the good we can do, it is our main mission on this world. A person needs to look for those areas that they can shine their light and help those around them become better, happier people according to the true, wholesome ways of the Torah.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer