Weekly Portion – Parashat Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:23


Parashat Yitro
Exodus 18:1-20:23

Each week a different portion of the Torah is read in the Synagogue. The portion is given a name based on the most significant word in the first or second verse of the section. This week’s portion (parashah) is called Yitro, the name of Moses’ father-in-law. Yitro was a Midian, and hence not a Jew. In Parashat Yitro the Ten Commandments appear (Exodos 20:1-14). The fact that the Ten Commandments are recorded in a section called by a name of a Gentile is significant. It is to remind Israel that we are to be a light to the nations. In other words, G-d gave the commandments to Israel first so that we could show the rest of the word how to live before G-d.

Although the Torah is not a means of justification, it does clearly reveal G-d’s standards for right living. The question that this short article will deal with is this: why was Moses the one that G-d chose to receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai and deliver it to the people? Moses’ relationship with Yitro answers this question.

In order to interpret the Word of G-d properly one must realize that every word which G-d caused to be included in Scripture is important and necessary to understand the passage. Therefore it is not an accident that Yitro entered into the camp of Israel when he did; it was providential.  Even though Moses was the leader of Israel and the one who G-d spoke to face to face, notice that when his father-in-law came before him that he prostrated himself before him (18:7). This was the normal respect that a son-in-law displayed for his father-in-law and the fact that Moses was this very important leader did not cause him to believe he was above such behavior. Often times when
G-d uses people in a big way they begin to look at themselves differently, as they have become someone so important that normal rules and courtesy do not apply to them.

The text tells the reader that Yitro had faith in the G-d of Israel as he made offerings to Him (see 18:12). It is immediately after Yitro draws close to G-d through his sacrifices that he notices Moses working from morning to evening judging the people. Yitro tells Moses that this is not good and suggests that Moses teach men who are worthy of leadership how to judge the people according to the standards of G-d and lessen his role by empowering others. Here again many leaders would feel threatened by such a suggestion and reject it. But not Moses, for Moses understood that wise counsel can come from unusual sources, even this Gentile man. You see, Moses was not only a humble man (the Bible say the most humble man) but also a submissive man. It may sound odd to us today, but G-dly leaders must be humble and know how to submit to others; for if you cannot submit to others, how will you ever submit to the
L-rd. Moses demonstrated why he was chosen to be Israel’s first leader and receive the Torah on top of Mt. Sinai.

In conclusion, humble yourself and submit to G-dly counsel and you might find yourself having a mountain top experience with G-d.

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One Comment on “Weekly Portion – Parashat Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:23”

  1. An excellent interpretation of this week’s parasha! We are always in need of reminding that we are to humble ourselves first before G-d and also before our fellow brothers and sisters. Thank you for a well thought-out and well written entry.

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