Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Yitro

"So shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell to the sons of Israel." Exodus 19:3

    At last, the giving of Torah at Mt Sinai. That singular moment where divine touches human, and the Jewish purpose becomes manifest. Yet, the sidrah opens with the rather pedestrian tale of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, coming with Moses’s wife and sons to the encampment of Israel.

    Why is the story of Jethro the preamble to revelation? This question becomes even thornier in light of the talmudic opinion that Jethro actually came to visit after revelation and not before as the Torah narrates (Zevachim 116a).Why does the Torah cut-and-paste this story in the wrong place, chronologically and thematically?

    Let us look to the revelation episode. God begins: “Moses ascended to the Lord, and God called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘So shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell to the sons of Israel’” (Exodus 19:3). This double language is crucial. “Say to the house of Jacob” refers to the women. “Tell the sons of Israel” implies the men (Rashi). In giving the Torah, women are primary.

    In order for revelation to be more than a one-off sound and light show, to have it nurture the fabric of Jewish life throughout the ages, the women must hear the Torah first; to make it their own and their children’s.

    The lessons of Sinai still echo today. Evidence shows that the most effective investment in pulling a country out of poverty and endemic disease is to create sustainable schools for girls.

    Though Jethro will later advise Moses in legal etiquette, his first objective is simply to reunite Moses with his family. “Jethro… came to Moses with his sons and wife” (Exodus 18:5). Precisely by upending the chronology, the Torah imparts an important lesson. Moses cannot access the Torah without his wife and children. We cannot begin to speak of revelation, until the women return to the story.

    RELATED STORIES

  • Sidrah

    Toldot

    Rabbi Joseph Dweck

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Toldot
  • Sidrah

    Chayei Sarah

    Rabbi Debbie Young Somers

    Thursday, November 24, 2016

    Chayei Sarah
  • Sidrah

    Vayera

    Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Vayera
Sidrah

Lech Lecha

Rabbi Daniella Kolodny

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lech Lecha
Sidrah

Chol Hamo'ed

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chol Hamo'ed
Sidrah

Nitzavim

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nitzavim
Sidrah

Noach

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Noach
Sidrah

Ha'azinu

Rabbi Daniel Roselaar

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ha'azinu
Sidrah

Ki Tavo

Maureen Kendler

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ki Tavo
Sidrah

Bereshit

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bereshit
Sidrah

Vayelech

Dr Lynndy Levin

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vayelech
Sidrah

Ki Tetzei

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ki Tetzei