Parshat Yitro


First Portion:

  • Yitro was Moshe’s father-in-law as well as a former advisor to Pharaoh. Yitro actually advised favorably for the Jews on the subject of the Israelites’ fate. However, his advice was not taken well, and he was forced to flee. He also was a high priest in Midyan.
  • Many nations had seen and heard the miracles that G-d performed for the Jews in Egypt and at sea. However, Yitro comprehended what G-d had done. He was impressed to the point that it changed him and he was ready to convert to Judaism.
  • Originally, Yitro’s name was Yeter, only later the letter VAV was added to his name, making it Yitro. This served as both as a sign of his having become a Jew and to indicate that the parsha of appointing Judges was added to the Torah in his honor. In many instances, the Torah adds a letter to a person’s name as a sign of his having acquired greatness. Conversely, a letter is omitted from someone’s name if he fails to maintain his spiritual status.
  • Moshe sends a message to Tziporah, his wife, to meet him at a certain point in the desert. Yitro arrived with Tziporah and Moshe’s two sons at the scheduled meeting place.
  • A meal offering was initiated by Yitro commemorating his circumcision and his introduction to Judaism. We see many years later that the King of Israel, Shaul, warned the Canaanites, who were the descendants of Yitro, to leave their residence within Amalek (enemies of the Jews) because war was imminent. The reason for such concern as to not to harm them stemmed from this meal celebration between Moshe, Aharon, Yitro, and other high-ranking officials. We see the power of a sit down meal celebration when done for the sake of mitzvah, and how positive it can be so that it has long lasting effects, even hundreds of years later.

Second Portion:

  • Yitro’s experience in public office where he had had a high ranking position in Pharaoh’s super power government, enabled him to advise Moshe on how to be more proficient in his duties and make the justice system run better.
  • There is a question as to why Moshe wasn’t able to derive the advice that Yitro gave him from the Torah itself? We have to understand that although the Torah provides us with great wisdom, there will be, on occasion, an individual who can provide sound advice. G-d’s purposely teaching us that it’s not the intellectual superiority which is the main part, nor are we more culturally advanced than the other nations, rather the focal point is the spiritual superiority.

Third Portion:

  • Moshe took the advice of his father-in-law.
  • Yitro decided to return to Midyan.
  • Why did Yitro decide to return to Midyan? Wouldn’t he feel more comfortable with his new comrades (his fellow circumcised Jews)? (See one of my schmooze in the email newsletter). One should note that Ruth the Midyanit convert decided to go to Israel with her former mother-in-law rather than go back to her former home. It would be most difficult to maintain one’s religious level among people who do not have the same goals as you. So indeed, why did Yitro return to Midyan?

Fourth Portion:

  • The Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai and Moshe went up to receive the Torah.
  • G-d told Moshe to tell the people, “If you keep My Torah, I will hold you in great esteem”.

Fifth Portion:

  • Moshe came down from the mountain and related everything that G-d is demanding of us. The elders, the leaders, all answered back “We will do whatever G-d says”.
  • Moshe gave instructions for the preparations necessary to receive the Torah.
  • The nation gathered at the bottom of the mountain.

Sixth Portion:

  • G-d’s aura had descended and rested upon the Israelites. This was the closest the Jews have ever been to the presence of G-d.
  • The first two commandments were recited by G-d. However, the people weren’t able to withstand the rays of G-d’s presence. Therefore, Moshe recited the last eight.
  • The Ten Commandments are divided into five and five. The first five on the right are commandments between G-d and man, while the second five are commandments between man and his fellow man.

Seventh Portion:

  • One cannot even imagine what a special moment in history this was. The scripture says they actually saw the voices!!
  • Only three Jews did not witness the revelation at Mount Sinai, Yitro and Moshe’s two sons. How can that be – Moshe’s sons? This was designed by G-d so that Moshe can perform what every father and Rabbi is commanded to do, to pass down the Torah to the next generation. Almost the whole nation experienced the Sinai experience, so there was no passing down for a while. Still, they learned from the best teacher and the best lesson; Moshe taught his two sons.
  • Three million Jews witnessed the receiving of the Torah. No other religion has witnesses of this magnitude that have seen the revelation of their religion.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon