Exodus Chapter 18
א וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן, חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה, וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ: כִּי-הוֹצִיא
יְהוָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִמִּצְרָיִם.
1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
What made Yitro's action so individual on hearing over what G-d had done to Moshe and the Jewish people? Let's consider the difference between Pharaoh and Yitro. At every turn Pharaoh might repent while a plague was going on but once the plague was in the past, it no longer mattered to Pharaoh. Even in the aftermath of the death of the firstborn, once it was over, Pharaoh led an attack on the Jews even leading his men down into the sea.
Why did Pharaoh behave this way? Because to him what G-d had done was indeed in the past. It was what G-d HAD DONE and therefore irrelevant and indeed to many people today, what G-d has done in the past is irrelevant. Even to many who accept what is in the Bible actually happened, will say that it has no relevance to modern times. The defect is a failure to accept that G-d is eternally aware and to assign to him some dusty corner of history. This is the modern attitude and it was the attitude of Pharaoh.
This is what made Yitro's attitude so individual, because when Yitro heard what G-d had done, he came to worship G-d, even though it was what G-d had done, past tense. As an individual he broke from the common attitude that G-d has no relevance to the future only to the past, instead Yitro responded by blessing G-d, Baruch Hashem Asher, speaking not in the past tense and indicating an acceptance of G-d in the present and the future. Like Avraham, he had recognized as an individual the power of an eternal G-d.
At Sinai in the 10 Commandments, G-d bridged the past and the present and the future by declaring that I am the G-d who took you out of Egypt and that you may not in the future have any other gods besides me. When Amalek had attacked the Jewish people, they had shared in the attitude of Pharaoh, that what G-d did in the past is no longer relevant. They had attacked the weak who had lagged behind because Amalek feared men but they did not fear G-d. In response G-d vowed a personal war against them, not merely against a people because no individual nation could resist G-d as he had proven in Egypt, but against the mental attitude that Amalek had exemplified.
This is why the war between Amalek and G-d continues from generation to generation. It is a war between those who relate G-d to the past and those who are willing to accept him in the present and the future.
To see last year's dvar torah on Parshat Yitro click here)