Shabbat Reading

Friday, February 09, 2007 |  by Michael Schneider
“JITRO–Jethro” Exodus 18:1–20:26; Isaiah 6:1-7; 7:1-6; 9:5-6


Our Torah portion “Jethro” is one of the six readings named after a person. The others include Noah, Sarah, Korah, Balak and Pinchas (Phinneas). Our reading was named for the heathen and pagan priest of Midian who eventually became Moses’ father-in-law. It is here we read in the heart of the Torah the most important scripture in the Jewish faith with the giving of the law and here it is named after a heathen. This shows us that God’s Word was made available to all of mankind.

Moses described "all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey" but never ceased to give honor and praise to God Almighty! This is not a story filled with complaints, but rather one that is encouraging. We can learn from this when we encounter the hardships of life – give praises to God!

The heathen priest recognized God for who He was: “The LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed” (18:11).

Jethro gave Moses advice in changing the justice system, as a loving father-in-law, from having one to having 70. “You will surely wear out (naval), both yourself and these people who are with you…” (18:18).

The word ‘naval’ was given in the verse twice, emphasizing the weight of the word that means "to wither, to wilt and to dry-out" like the leaves (Psalm 1:3). He meant that Moses’ antithesis could slowly dry-out. But, it also meant that naval is a vile person, a miscreant, scoundrel (see Nabal, the husband of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25). It was the last thing Jethro desired for his son-in-law.

God many times calls a person, blesses them, but with those abundant blessings comes a need for help. A man of God, like Moses should humble himself and let go of the little things and allow others to administer the small jobs. Believe me, it is not always easy for them to do this.

“'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:5-6).

The receiving of the Torah (the Law) three months after the exodus from Egypt, according to Jewish scholars, falls duringthe Hebrew year of 2448 (1312 BC).

When the Jewish people came to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah they practiced humility! Humility is the key to unity!

The Ten Commandments were engraved on two tablets. Both tablets were of equal size and contrary to popular belief, the two tablets were square and not rounded on top.

The right tablet contained the commandments about GOD and the left contained the commandments concerning man. The five commandments on the right contained 146 words and the five others on the left had only 26 words. Why? How do the Jewish scholars explain this?

The left tablets, with mitzvot (commandments) for man, were written with bigger letters to add emphasis. Because one cannot claim piety by meticulously doing mitzvot toward God and ignore the commandments of how to treat our neighbor (Jesus tells us the same in Matthew 5:23-24). Our relationship towards others plays a huge role in our relationship with God. Someone who is not faithful to people will not be faithful to God.

Why ten (commandments)? The Talmud tells us that the Ten Commandments correspond to the ten sayings God used to create the world. “So it teaches us that by keeping the Ten Commandments, one preserves the universe!” – that’s why we need to be doers of the Word!

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