Rabbi David Katz
Parashas Jethro is for all intents and purposes the hallmark of the Ger Tzedek journey, picking up where Abraham left off, as the Parasha where Israel receives the Torah [under this pretext] is most appropriately named after Jethro himself. It is alluded to and stated within the works of the classic commentaries that Abraham is the father of all Gerim [Ger Tzedek in particular] while Jethro [in context of his "daughters"; depicted in both the literal and figurative fashion] is the acknowledged patriarch of the Ger Tzedek women; see Moses and his love for Tzippora as the benchmark of the Ger Tzedek woman and her role with the redeemer. [The Judah line in particular represents this – dating back to Judah and Tamar, the archetype Ger Tzedek woman] With Abraham in control of the reigns over the tradition amongst men, Jethro is left with the influence over the righteous women – even those that came before him. The unique dual function found within the righteousness of Jethro that caters to both the masculine and the feminine, allows us to focus on the absolute core issue of that which defines the Ger Tzedek [man and woman]; Jethro's life becomes the divine archetype of this pursuit. In essence, Sinai, and thus Torah, can be seen at least from one perspective, as the pursuit of supernatural law: to realize the Ger among us, and the nature of his role, and how it transforms the World into a dwelling for God; in ironic essence, no Mishkan or Golden Calf required.
To put things into a quick and concise perspective, Abraham was commanded in Brit [circumcision by God's command and entered into covenant; this is Brit proper ברית] to the extent that this action literally made Abraham into Abraham [with the additional letter heh given to his name] and he quickly became acknowledged as the father of all Gerim, and in particular, he became the first of the enigmatic "Ger Tzedek(im)." This term Ger Tzedek, is the focus of much debate and speculation to its essential nature, even as it has evolved over time in every way possible; yet to eliminate superfluous chatter on the subject, Jethro's life and actions are best served to isolate the divine truth to the legacy that began with Abraham. The practical application of such a revelation will ultimately [and must!] reach the females, to an extent that as was stated, Jethro is depicted as the father of the Ger Tzedek women, for his daughter is Tzippora, and the Midrash allegorically demands that her sister is Batyah – the daughter of Pharaoh. Batyah became the mother like figure to Moses, and was instrumental in Moses' upbringing that would one day be defined by the Ger Tzedek women. History would have it, that not only Moses – the redeemer would know the Ger, but Moshiach itself, becomes intertwined with the Ger Tzedek, to the life and tune of King David [who comes from Judah] whose lineage and self-identification hovers around the dictum, "I am a Ger." [It should be noted, in the Blessings from Jacob to Judah, the commentators hint at Moses' within the Blessing "When Shiloh comes"; Moses is numerically Shiloh (345), while the Simple meaning is a reference to Shelah son of Judah, whose descendants did not stand at Sinai, but became synonymous with the Ger Tzedek role as well, in many capacities and family members such as Rachav and Ruth.]
We can put Jethro's life into perspective by following his path to righteousness. Kabbalah teaches that Jethro is a reincarnation of Kayin [one of the more widely accepted reincarnation cases in Torah; Moses is seen as the appropriate Abel] and Kayin's story picks up suddenly with the onset of the life of Jethro, priest of idolatry, and minister to Pharaoh. Jethro had literal daughters and he was desisted for greatness when Moses came walking into his life, pursuing Jethro's righteous daughter. Jethro was primed for his walk with God, as kabbalah teaches that Jethro endured a repair of soul, by receiving a Nefesh haGer at the time that Moses killed the Egyptian taskmaster who possessed the missing link to Jethro's path to greatness, a repair in Kayin's root that allowed Jethro to now be a Ger. As redemption would commence, Sinai was calling for Jethro, and soon he would have his appointment with destiny fulfilled, upon his arrival and reunion with Moses.
This is where the tales calmly fade out and the law journal sets in, for despite the fact that Parashat Jethro's opening accounts by Jethro himself contain many secrets as to his essential nature, the Talmud wants to know one thing: did he convert or did he remain a Ger? [In Hebrew Ger can mean convert or Noahide, and it is in the world's interest, even with Messianic proportion to know the difference in Torah and Chazal; reality is literally shaped on this point with eternal and worldwide ramifications in philosophy, theology, etc.] The Talmud has two relevant opinions on this over one matter – to circumcise or not to circumcise, that is the question. Jethro was indeed a Ger Tzedek, what the people want to know, is does this imply he converted, or remained Ger; either way, how can we see this in the original language, what are the ramifications, and ultimately – how does this define a Ger Tzedek on any and every level?!
The simple party line is that Jethro did convert, had his Brit, and story conveniently does not make sense, and we are told [that’s not what I was told syndrome] to overlook "Ger" issues, and enter convert indoctrination-itis. The good news is, the story actually makes the most sense when we realize that Jethro is and was a Ger [non-convert] and it requires a "think – big- mentality to grasp the implications of Jethro, something that many prominent Torah authorities imply in their discourses of explaining Jethro. The only shortcoming is that this is considered secrets of Torah, and it has been transmitted with certain concealment. The good news is that Gerim understand this by nature, and with Jewish – Ger cooperation, the Torah [as in Parashas Jethro] is delivered, and a World view revelation comes out – Jethro inspired. Now if Jethro did not get the Brit, the obvious question is, "Why."
One can explain Jethro's plight simply a case of not understanding the prophecy expected of him. As the father in law to Moses and his main early influence, along with being on the receiving end of Abraham's legacy, Jethro though he was deserving of a visitation from God in prophecy, much like Moses and Abraham, even reminiscent of Job in his whirlwind saga. Suffice it to say, the word of God never came to Jethro, he did not undergo the knife, and the Ger Tzedek program is being rectified until the coming of the Messiah, under the pretense of repairing Jethro is repairing Kain is repairing the Messiah himself, according to Kabbalah. The essence of this side of Abraham and Sinai, when undertaking the mantle of Ger Tzedek, one will the word of God does come only it comes through the miraculous manifestation of wisdom that speaks, otherwise known as Mazal. Jethro was looking for a dinosaur, when in fact the spirit of God was hovering right under his nose, but couldn't see it. The Ger Tzedek is about acting for God and doing his will; this serves as the prophetic underscore that awaits Jews as Priests who shall use this tool as the vehicle in issuing Light to the Nations in the End of Days.
Thus Jethro did not get the Brit, and today non-Jews are seeking in their hearts to facilitate this repair [of Kain]; should they succeed what is this that they achieve and what then is the proverbial "Ger Tzedek" if not [only] a convert?
The Ger Tzedek "pilpul" is vast and complex; many books and volumes can and have been written on this subject. The complication in this is the always troubling "From the Mouth of God [who spoke one] I heard two" – as is the essence of the Sinai Revelation in our Parasha.
In the end, the answer is simple: a male who gets the Brit is a Ger Tzedek [and is still technically a Ger Toshav, only now with specific distinction and sometimes given a unique authority over other Ger Toshav men] and he is uniquely different yet similar to the male convert, even the male servant, which the Torah uses all three interchangeably to shed light on this complex and controversial issue, ultimately making it ultra-confusing to the uninitiated. Such is the nature of all Rabbinic studies not coincidentally enough, and this does nothing short of proving how dear Noahide Torah is to God, for it requires the help and Love of/from God, as the Zohar states that making Gerim is that which God craves the most and gives Kavod to His Holy Name(s).
Yet there is an even shorter explanation to this study, as the Maharal of Prague quotes in Netzach Yisrael concerning the Redemption: We shall not accept converts in the Days of Messiah, for the Nations will love Israel – Like Ketia Bar Shalom, he who performed his own Brit [and became a Ger Tzedek]; Chazal praises Ketia's name, for he acted out of Love, not as a traditional convert. I adjure you to read the story of Ketia, in English if need be, in Avoda Zara 10b; it is said that Ketia'a name is hinted at in the broken letter vav contained in the word Shalom [i.e. Brit Shalom given to Pinchas] when Pinchas merited the rights of Messiah in his heroism, an act inspired by his Grandfather, soul partner, friend, and inspiration – Jethro. Jethro was a Ger Tzedek, and he is the patriarch of the Ger Tzedek women…to make a long story short, sometimes there just isn't a short path to the truth, and that is what the Brit is all about, something every Ger, male and female, know deep inside. It is called a love for God, and God loves Gerim – and thus commands as such, to all Bnei HaBrit.
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