Torah Portion for February 11, 2023 (20 Sh’vat 5783)

The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Yitro and is found in Exodus 18:1-20:23. In this parasha, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro (Yitro) hears about the Exodus and what God has done for the Israelites and comes to visit his son-in-law, bringing Moses’ wife Zipporah and their sons. Jethro acknowledges the greatness of God and offers a sacrifice. The next day, Jethro sees Moses spending hours answering the people’s questions and settling their disputes. He advises Moses to choose officers and judges to assist in these efforts, which Moses does. Jethro then returns home.

Next, God tells Moses to instruct the people to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. Amid thunder and lightning, thick clouds, and the sound of a shofar, God speaks the Ten Statements (Commandments). The people are overwhelmed so they ask Moses to serve as intermediary between God and the Israelites. Moses ascends the mountain and disappears into the clouds. God instructs Moses concerning the prohibition of idols and the proper construction of the altar they will use for sacrifices.

We learn a couple of key points from this parasha. First, we see that Jethro, who is a Midianite priest, is a godly man and is respectful of Moses’ God. Moses, in turn, is respectful of his father-in-law and follows his advice in delegating some of his administrative responsibilities to others. We are reminded in this passage the importance of respecting others whose beliefs differ from our own, and to respect and support our families in spite of differences we may hold. In the second portion of the parasha, we read about God’s giving the Ten Commandments and formally establishing a covenant with the Israelite people at Sinai.  It is understandably an overwhelming experience for them and it takes their entire wilderness experience for them to begin to fully understand the impact of this event and how best to respond to God and to others. Throughout our lives, we encounter glimpses of God–through events, through people, through our experiences. We may not understand the impact of those events until we look back and see where these events have brought us.  This week, may be more sensitive to the events in our lives, understand how they have shaped us to be who we are, and how they can continue to direct our path to a better tomorrow.