Torah Portion: Yitro (Jethro) Exodus 18-23
HafTorah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Let us look at Parasha Yitro, so named after the father-in-law of Moses. We read of their reunion after some time apart. We read of Jethro’s advice to Moses to split up the work load between himself and others. Further on we read of G-d speaking to the people telling them that they all are to be a nation of priests. (Shemot 19:6). In I Peter 2:9 we read the phrase again. What is the meaning in each case? I Peter gives us our answer that we, they, “can show others the goodness of G-d.” We can and should be able to share the goodness of G-d based on what He has done for us. The Israelites here were to be able to also share with the world what G-d had done for them. They, and we, should live our lives each day governed by His word and compassion. Israel lived in a tough neighborhood but they were called to be different, to live each day each moment as G-d’s people, G-d’s people who behaved differently, lived by G-d’s direction and not their own. This was a task that could sometimes be difficult. Sometimes they and we fail but our failure should not be allowed to defeat us. We learn from it. We repent and go on stronger than before.
Which brings me to my first question of the week, about where they stopped right before they came to the mountain of G-d. In the third month after leaving Egypt they camped at a place called Rephidim. Their next stop would be Sinai and a face to face with G-d the Maker of the Universe. These former slaves, still covered with the dust of Egypt, were to meet G-d. Maybe they were feeling a little inadequate for this meeting. How had they been living? Maybe they were nervous. In any case they camped at Rephidim, a word which at its root means to rest, or slack off. Maybe they began to see themselves as how they looked on the outside. Were they worthy of the life set before them? Sometimes we feel inadequate. We know where we have been. We doubt that we are worthy or able to live a life for our Father. Maybe He made a mistake? Funny that here as they were at Rephidim, they are attacked by the Amalekites. These people whose name means to cool off or apathy. Amalek recognized that Israel might be vulnerable here. They had slacked off. Israel, with G-d’s help, beat this enemy, as we can.
Our self doubt can never be allowed to control our spiritual life. Israel leaves Rephidim and arrives at Sinai where when presented with G-d’s word respond with , “We will do everything the L-rd has said.” Exodus 19:8 These people who had been slaves in Egypt now profess their allegiances to another Master, the L-rd G-d Almighty. We all deal with times of being discouraged or maybe even battle indifference. G-d has faith in us and gives us His word and His direction. What He wants from us is our commitment to live our life for Him every minute everyday. In those times when we fail, we repent and go on stronger than before to met Him each day.
So after they arrived at the mountain of G-d He gave them His instructions as to how to relate to Him and their fellowman. We read what are the most universally known words on how to live each day. We know them as the 10 Commandments or in Hebrew the 10 Pronouncements. We find them here in Exodus 20:2-17. I believe each of these can be tied back to the first and second Commandment. G-d saved us, not ourselves, Had it not been for Him we would have still been slaves in Egypt. It is an affront to the first commandment to break the second by putting anything before Him. To lie, steal, cheat, murder, any of the other words, have at their root putting something before G-d. Since all mankind is created in the image of G-d, to harm someone intentionally without cause, puts our needs before theirs. Our struggle is to see the world through G-d’s eyes, to live our life dependent upon Him to provide for us.