Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Yitro - 5772
WHAT MOTIVATED YITRO?
The Sages tell us that there were two separate events that prompted Yitro to leave his homeland and venture out into the desert to join the Jewish people: the parting of the sea and the battle Amalek waged against Israel.
If a gentile wishes to convert to the Jewish faith, Jewish law allows him to do so but only if his motives are absolutely pure. In the words of the Rambam: One must investigate carefully the motives of a prospective convert to verify that his decision to convert does not stem from a desire for monetary gain or other benefits.
Thus we can understand why Yitro did not come forward to the join the Jewish People immediately after the miraculous parting of the sea. He might have been suspected of joining the winning team to share in the spoils. His opportunity to show his true commitment to the values of Judaism came after the attack of Amalek. Joining the People of Israel when they were recovering from an onslaught indicated true dedication to the message of Torah.