This week’s Parsha is Yitro. Named after the non-Jewish father-in-law of Moses, the Parsha recounts the excitement and joy that Yitro feels when he finds out that the Jewish people have been redeemed from Egypt. Moshe is recorded kissing and happily greeting his father-in-law and rejoicing together with him at the salvation that G-d delivered to the people of Israel from Egypt.
Many spouses do not get on with their in-laws. In fact, it is one of the main causes of marriage discord. However, Moshe and his father-in-law clearly shared a warm relationship. Yitro was also recorded in the Torah as being a Midianite priest, meaning that Moshe and his father-in-law were extremely different people.
However, from all the interactions between Moshe and Yitro in the Torah they shared a caring relationship. While Moshe, the great leader of Israel could have looked down on his father-in-law due to his ‘otherness’, yet he is recorded as always according to him respect and warmth.
In fact, Yitro provides valuable advice to Moshe at different times which is gratefully heeded by Moshe. It is Yitro, concerned by the workload that Moshe is enduring that recommends Moshe appoint helpers and assistants.
To me, the relationship of Moshe and Yitro symbolizes everything that is right when people look at each other with mutual respect and see the humanity in each other. Instead of being caught up in differences, cultural or physical discrepancies or on things that create discord, Moshe and Yitro’s relationships symbolizes peace.
As I read through the Parsha this week I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Although Moshe and Yitro have provided a blueprint on how to gracefully make room and accept those that are different to one another, there was another story dominating the Australian news. I read with sadness about an independent report that was commissioned to look at racism in the Collingwood Football club.
You see, to the chagrin of many of you, I am a longtime Collingwood fan. I have always loved the team, attended the games, and followed the players. Nathan Buckley, Tony Shaw and Neon Leon Davis immaculate football skills are a highlight of my childhood.
Yet, reading that an independent report found that the team is inherently racist and does not work to integrate players of different faiths, races and ethnicities was heartbreaking.
Not just because so many players spoke out about a culture in which hate and discrimination could flourish with little intervention, but because it felt personal.
It felt that if a team I love and to me represents quintessential Melbourne does not have the basic decency to respect people as people, regardless of religion, creed or race, there is still so much work to be done and that feels overwhelming and exhausting.
There are no quick or fast answers.
When a report like this comes out, the offending party must take a long, close hard look at themselves and see what went wrong that such vitriol and hate could flourish for so long. But as a society, we also must hold a mirror up to our faces and see what was reflected from our society that allowed this situation to continue for so long.
The silver lining for me in this whole sorry saga is that the story of Yitro and Moshe brings me comfort.
It shows that it is possible for vastly different people to respect each other and care for one another, despite their differences. It shows that we must listen and respect each other with no prejudice. To love each other unconditionally. These are big concepts, but Moshe and Yitro show us that it is possible.
And this is the very message we need to better integrate into all areas of our lives. People are people and deserve respect. We are all made in the image of G-d and we do not need any other reason to provide respect and dignity to those around us.