Somehow, things start to go very wrong for Moshe and the Jewish people regarding their sojourn in the desert of Sinai, on their way to the Promised Land of Israel. The defection of Yitro, though for honorable and seemingly noble reasons, weakens the resolution of the rest of Israel to somehow enter and conquer their God-given homeland.
The rabbis warned us that wise people and leaders should be very careful as to what they say publicly and privately. This certainly applies to what they do and how people will view their behavior and decisions in life.
We always feel that leaders are somehow entitled to a private life as well, distinct from their public persona. However, we also all know that that is not really true and that private decisions taken by public figures have a great, if even only subliminal, influence on the general public that they serve.
There were elements within the Jewish people that reasoned that if Yitro, the father-in-law of Moshe and one of the outstanding and prominent converts to Judaism, felt that dwelling in the Land of Israel is not really for him, then there will be many others among the masses of Israel that will justify their refusal to enter the Land of Israel as just being a case of following his example.
And so, because the great vision of the Jewish homeland promised to their forefathers was no longer paramount in their lives, some of the people began to gripe and complain about all sorts of personal absurdities. This eventually led to open rebellion against God and against Moshe that doomed that generation to destruction and death in the desert of Sinai.
Without going into specifics or mentioning names, I am always astounded by how former political leaders here in Israel, even those who attained high office and are now freelancing and lecturing their way around the world, take it upon themselves to be openly critical – and many times unfairly so – of the government, state and people of Israel.
Can it be that they do not realize the direct and subliminal harm that they inflict upon our cause and our future? This must be the case, since I cannot imagine that they have truly evil intentions with pursuing this type of behavior. They mean well and have legitimate reasons for their opinions and statements.
But they have forgotten the adage of the rabbis that I quoted above – wise men should be careful with their words and actions. Other people are listening and are influenced - and one may even inadvertently grant aid and succor to those who wish to destroy us and our nation. It does not take much in our world to have people begin murmuring in dissatisfaction about Jews, Judaism, Israel, Torah and even God, so to speak.
One must always see the big picture and not be overwhelmed by the imperfections and difficult issues that are part of our existence, and in fact, of life itself. Retaining our faith in our cause and our beliefs and using good judgment in what we say and do will certainly stand all of us in good stead.