Yitro: A Summary of the Parashah

Jethro, Moses' father-in-law suggests a system for establishing lower courts to settle disputes; God speaks the Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel amidst fire, smoke, and the sound of the shofar.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and the pagan priest of Midian, heard what God did for Moses and the Israelites. He took Moses’ wife and two sons and brings them to Moses in the wilderness. After a passionate reunion, Moses shared with Jethro the whole story of how the Lord rescued the Hebrews from bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Jethro rejoiced, saying, “Blessed be the Lord. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods.”

Jethro then made sacrifices to God and everyone feasted.

The next day, Jethro watched Moses settle disputes between the people. “Why do you sit as judge, Moses, while the people stand about you from morning to night?”

“Because the people come to me to seek God. I decide between man and his neighbor and make known the laws of God.”

“But this is not right,” retorted his father-in-law. “You will tire yourself and the people out. Now heed my voice, I shall advise you. You be a representative to God and teach the people of the path God seeks of them. Then find capable men who fear God and trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain. Set these men over the people as chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them exercise authority over the people at all times. They will decide the minor disputes and bring the major disputes to you.”

Moses followed his father-in-law’s advice and set up this system. Then Jethro returned to his own land.

Camping at the Mountain

The Israelites camped in front of the mountain in the wilderness at Sinai. God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, “You have seen what I, God, did to the Egyptians and how I brought you to Me. Now, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Moses relays God’s message to the people and they answer as one, saying “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.”

God then says to Moses, “In three days, I will come to you in a thick cloud in order that the people may hear when I speak to you and so trust you ever after. Now, warn the people they must be clean and pure, for the Lord will soon appear at Mount Sinai.” And Moses told the people to prepare for God’s presence.

On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud upon the mountain and a very loud blast of the shofar horn. All the people trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp toward God and they took their places at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the Lord had come down upon it in fire and the whole mountain trembled violently. The blare of the shofar grew louder and louder. The Lord said, “Go down, warn the people and priests not to try to come up or look at the Lord, less they perish.”

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at www.TiptoeThroughTheTorah.com, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.

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