In Tehillim, David HaMelech declares, “Mi chacham v’yishmar eleh v’yisboninu chasdei Hashem – Who is wise and observes these things and meditates on the kindness of Hashem?”
The five letters of the words “mi chacham – who is wise” stand for “Yisro kohein midyan chosein Moshe.” As we mentioned last week, Yisro observed, “Atah yadati ki gadol Hashem mikol elohim ki badavar asher zadu aleihem – Now I know that Hashem is greater than all powers since what the Egyptians plotted befell them.”
Many years before the exodus, Yisro was one of the members present when Pharaoh held a meeting to decide the fate of the Jews. Pharaoh said he understood that G-d punishes midah k’neged midah (measure for measure), so he decided to drown the Jewish babies since G-d promised that he wouldn’t punish the world with another flood.
After the drowning of the Egyptians at the Red Sea, Yisro marveled at how Hashem had kept His promise and yet punished the Egyptians measure for measure by bringing them to the water instead of bringing the water to them.
He also observed that it was part of Pharaoh’s diabolical plot to kill the Jews and not sully his own hands. He conspired to have the Jews kill each other, first by asking the Jewish midwives to kill the babies they were asked to deliver and then by demanding that Jewish parents drown their own children.
Therefore, measure for measure, the Jews didn’t lift a finger against the millions of Egyptians who pursued them to the sea. Instead, the Egyptians drowned themselves by walking into the watery abyss.
Yisro’s observations went even further. When Yisro stated that Hashem is greater than all elohim, he was referring to the fact that G-d is greater than the celestial angels. Angels don’t know what’s going on in a person’s mind, but Hashem does. He’s bochein kluyos valev, and since He knows the innermost thoughts of a person, He knew what Pharaoh’s intentions were.
Pharaoh actually wanted to be rewarded for his treatment of the Jews. He declared to G-d, “You told Avraham that his children would be strangers in a land not theirs and they would be enslaved and afflicted for 400 years. Well,” Pharaoh exclaimed, “didn’t I fulfill Your will? Don’t I deserve to be rewarded?”
But, as the Ramban explains, Pharaoh didn’t enslave the Jews to fulfill Hashem’s will. He had his own agenda. So, as Yisro states, “ki badavar asher zadu” – he was punished for what he did with willful intent.
Yisro was a great student of what transpired around him. Ben Zoma teaches us in Pirkei Avos: “Eizehu chacham? Halomeid mikol adam – Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” This speaks of an ability to observe and draw lessons from every situation.
Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, used to walk around with seeds in his pocket. From a seed, he was able to meditate upon the kindness of the Creator. He would say in the name of his father-in-law that a peach pit is so hard that you can’t break it open even with a saw. If you place it in the ground, however, the soil’s chemicals dissolve the glue between the pit’s two halves and they open, releasing the seed inside. It’s a veritable marvel of Hashem’s creation.
Here’s another: Hold a watermelon pit and feel it. It’s not the juice of the watermelon that makes it slippery; rather, it has its own slickness to help it evade eaters so that it can live to give birth to another watermelon. Apple seeds are also protected – in the core of the apple. That way, they can live to create other apple trees.
The seed is like a remarkable coupon that proclaims, “Buy An Apple, Get Trees For Free!” The seed contains in it a mini-computer that ensures that no matter how we place it in the ground, the roots go down and the tree grows up. It’s not like the battery of a flashlight, which, if you put it in the wrong way, does nothing to provide light.
Just the fact that one seed in the ground can generates a tree with fruit and thousands of seeds is incredible. The wise man who sees these things has a whole world of observations to meditate on the kindness of Hashem.
May it be the will of Hashem that we become such wise men and, in that merit, may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.