Torah Reflections; Lessons in the weekly Torah portion and topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition

Torah Reflections from Torah Readers

Divrai Torah, weekly Torah portion summaries, lessons and essays on topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition.

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Parashat Yitro

For the week of Fri 10th Feb 2023 - י״ט בִּשְׁבָט תשפ״ג
Parashat Yitro

A Society of Equality

Yitro counseled Moses on setting up a hierarchical bureaucracy, yet Moses would have been aware of such a governmental structure having grown up in Egypt. How come he didn’t implement it sooner and was ready to “burn out?”

Did you know that...

In the Torah the phrase "Not Good" - "Lo Tov" as in "What you are doing is not good", appears only twice. In our portion of Yitro, when he observes how Moses is the sole authority and answers everyone's questions and also in Genesis 2:18 "It is not good for a man to be alone." We cannot lead alone, we cannot live alone. That is one of the axioms of biblical anthropology. The Hebrew word for life, hayim, is in the plural, as if to signify that life is essentially shared. Dean Inge once defined religion as "what an individual does with his solitude." This is not the Jewish view.

Parasha Summary

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From effective governance to the giving of the ten commandments, the portion of Yitro has so many lessons to teach us.

The portion of Yitro describes events that occurred after the Israelites left Egypt and traveled to Mount Sinai.

Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, hears about the great things God has done for the Israelites and travels to meet Moses in the desert. When he arrives, he observes Moses sitting as the judge for all the people, hearing their cases and resolving their disputes. Yitro offers advice to Moses, telling him that the task is too great for one person to handle and suggesting that he appoint leaders and judges to help him govern the people.

Moses takes Yitro's advice and establishes a system of governance, delegating responsibility to a hierarchy of leaders and judges. This allows Moses to focus on receiving the law from God and communicating it to the Israelites.

The portion of Yitro is significant because it highlights the importance of delegation and the delegation of authority to maintain effective governance. It also emphasizes the value of wise counsel and the importance of listening to the advice of others. Additionally, it sets the stage for the giving of the Ten Commandments and the establishment of the Israelite nation as a people governed by the laws of God.

God speaks to the Israelites from Mount Sinai and gives them the Ten Commandments, which serve as the foundation of the covenant between God and the Israelites. These commandments include provisions for worshiping only one God, honoring parents, avoiding murder, theft, and adultery, and bearing false witness. The Ten Commandments provide guidance for how the Israelites should live and treat one another, and are considered one of the most important parts of Jewish and Christian traditions.

Second Opinion

Opinions, Essays, Cultural Observances

Organization and Commandments

The entire purpose of creation was to set the stage for the performance of mitzvahs, as represented by the Ten Commandments. The people cry out to Mosheh that the revelation is too intense for them to bear, begging him to receive the Torah from God and share it with them.

The Last Word

Social Religous, Cultural and Political Commentary

Moral editing

The Torah takes a pause from the narrative of the Exodus and the events that came after to tell us about Jethro - Moses' father in-law. Why did it insert this episode at this exact point in the narrative? What it could mean for the next event which is the giving of the Torah?
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