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Yitro ~ 5773 ~ יתרו
Hearing of the miracles G-d performed for Bnei Yisrael, Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro arrives with Moshe’s wife and sons, reuniting the family in the wilderness. Yitro is so impressed by Moshe’s detailing of the Exodus from Egypt that he converts to Judaism. Seeing that the only judicial authority for the entire Jewish nation is Moshe himself, Yitro suggests that subsidiary judges be appointed to adjudicate smaller matters, leaving Moshe free to attend to larger issues. Moshe accepts his advice. Bnei Yisrael arrive at Mt. Sinai where G-d offers them the Torah. After they accept, G-d charges Moshe to instruct the people not to approach the mountain, and to prepare for three days. On the third day, amidst thunder and lightning, G-d’s voice emanates from the smoke-enshrouded mountain and He speaks to the Jewish People, giving them the Ten Commandments:
1. Believe in G-d
2. Don’t worship other “gods”
3. Don’t use G-d’s name in vain
4. Observe Shabbat
5. Honor your parents
6. Don’t murder
7. Don’t commit adultery
8. Don’t steal (kidnap)
9. Don’t testify falsely (lie)
10. Don’t covet
After receiving the first two commandments, the Jewish people, overwhelmed by this experience of the Divine, request that Moshe relay G-d’s word to them. G-d instructs Moshe to caution the Jewish people regarding their responsibility to be faithful to the One who spoke to them.
MAFTIR Exodus 20:19 – 23 ~ page 301
HAFTORAH Isaiah 6:1 – 7:6, 9:5 – 6 ~ page 302
In the year of the death of Uzziah, king of Judah (739 B.C.E.) Isaiah has a vision in the Temple where he witnesses G-d’s splendor and hears the seraphim (‘fiery’ angels) pronouncing His praise, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory’ (compare the revelation at Mt. Sinai). The prophet readily agrees to carry out G-d’s mission to tell the people of the judgment which will overtake them because of their iniquities. Yet, he is told, they will be blind and deaf to all His warnings and only after national disaster and exile has overwhelmed them, will a righteous remnant be restored. A few years later (c.735 B.C.E.) the prophet and his son meet Ahaz, king of Judah, and assure him in the name of G-d that he should have no fear of the threatened invasion by Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria (for refusing to join them in an alliance against Assyria). The Haftorah ends with a reference to Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz ‘for a child is born to us’. He would reign over the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah with justice and righteousness.
Barak to lead an army against them. With the success of the battle, Devorah sang a song of praise and thanks to G-d, similar in nature to that of Moshe and Israel in the parsha. So too, the People’s faith in G-d had similar “ups and downs” to those in the sedra. Devorah was key to restoring a high level of faith in G-d among the People and in leading the People to great victories. Ashkenazim include the story of Sisra’s temporary escape from Barak as well as his demise at the hand of Yael while he slept.
Parashah Study Questions
1. Why Rashi explains that Yitro is returning with Tzipora and her 2 sons (18:2) because “a man going into danger should avoid dragging his wife and children with Him.” Does this express a certain lack of faith in G-d’s protective abilities?
2. In v. 18:20, Rabbi Hertz translates “äúøäæäå” (Vehizharta) as “and you shall teach.” But what is its root word and meaning?
3. Does verse 19:13 say “ram’s horn” in the Hebrew? How do you explain this?
4. How can we understand the 3rd commandment if the root of àùú (Tisa) is àùð (Naso) is “to lift” or “to carry”?
5. Do you agree: “the Ten Commandments emphasize relationships between Man with G-d and between Man with Man, but have relatively little focus on ritual observance”?