Isn't it peculiar that the parshah of Kabbolas HaTorah is called Yisro, the name of Moshe’s father-in-law? The emphasis is to show us that there is a deep connection between the middos of Yisro and the essence of Kabbolas HaTorah.
The first phrase used in the Torah to describe Yisro is “וישמע יתרו” - “And Yisro listened.” There were many people who had heard the same events that Yisro had heard. The Torah uses the word “וישמע” to emphasize that Yisro was the only person who not only heard but took the steps to join Klal Yirsoel. Rav Dessler explains, “There is listening for the sake of knowing and listening for the sake of doing.” Everyone heard, but only Yisro heard and did.
One should listen with the intent of learning in order to change oneself. Yisro is the individual who personified the middah of effective listening. Therefore, we find it fitting that his name is used as the name of the parshah of Kabbolas HaTorah.
The skill of effective listening is mandatory for true involvement in Torah, and is also a key to being successful in our homes as well as in our school. We should follow the dictates of חז‘‘ל: “Be deliberate in judgment” – be sure you have done all that you can to understand your child or spouse before judging them. Unfortunately, in many of our conversations, we make the mistake of concentrating on our response even while the other is still speaking. We should focus our energy on understanding the speaker on his terms and to empathize with his feelings.
There is no effective substitute for just really listening. If we want to learn the lesson of Yisro, a path of intellectual honesty and achievement, then we must learn to hold our own opinions in abeyance and listen to what our Torah, rabbonim, and children are trying to say.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School