Yisro: Jungle or Orchard?


This week’s class is dedicated in honor of Chof Beis Shevat, the Yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson of righteous memory.

By Rabbi Chaim and Moussia Goldstein and Family.

Before a person converts, he is told, “Being Jewish is difficult.” Afterwards, he is told, “Being Jewish is great!” What’s going on?

Lesson Contents:

A. It’s A Beautiful World

The opening line of the Rebbe’s Yud Shevat maamarim is G-d’s statement, “I have come to My garden.” (Source 1).

What is the meaning of this passage?

The Rebbe explains that from a rationalist perspective, the world seems to be a jungle, where things are getting worse from day to day. The message of the maamar is, “It’s G-d’s garden” — don’t be discouraged by the negativity; search for the positive, and you are sure to find it. 

B. A World of Suffering

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the first convert, Jethro (Source 2-3). The Talmud says that every convert must be warned — Jewish life can be very difficult (Source 4).

The Rebbe asks: If life is so difficult, where exactly is this garden?

The answer can be culled from the life of Maimonides. His “Guide to the Perplexed” states that a person must always be optimistic, but his own life story was one of tragedy, loss and suffering. 

Clearly, there must be a way to combine to two extremes.

C. It’s All About Perspective

The answer is that it’s just a question of your own perspective. When you recognize that you are close to G-d, all suffering becomes irrelevant. If you earn a million dollars, the loss of a penny won’t bother you.

Jewish life has its hardships, but those pale in comparison to the fact that we are G-d’s chosen people.

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