Parashat Yitro

Shabbat Table Talk

Parashat Yitro – Erev Shabbat 02 February 2018

Week of 28 January-03 February 2018

Torah portion: Exodus 18:1-20:23 Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6




Yitro (Jethro), the father of Zipporah, Midian priest, encourages Moses to set up a judiciary system; Jethro listens to Moses’ account of the deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt; we read the preparations for the Theophany and the details of the Decalogue. The commentators in Etz Hayim refer to this parashah as “the hinge of the Torah” (Lieber p.432). The hinge image needed to open or close the door, vividly pictures humanity’s access to critical revelation.


a. Torah given to Israel, intended for all humanity

a. Transformation of freed slaves to nation covenanted to God

b. God reached down to reveal Torah to humanity


b. Jethro …. heard (18:1) Jethro as righteous gentile; very human reasons for Jethro’s association with people Israel include (Lieber p.432)

a. Feeling of pity and compassion upon hearing the suffering of Hebrew people in Egypt

b. Desire to be part of a victorious people

c. Realization of the destiny of Israelites and desire to join them


c. G-d is aloof and unapproachable as well as immediate and full of love/concern/protection

a. The mountain covered with fire and thunder, need for purification, danger of approaching God (Exod. 20:16; Exod. 28:35; Lev. 10:2)

b. “How I bore you aloft on eagles’ wings” Exod. 19:4, Rashi says, it expresses the intimate relationship between the bearer and those borne, the concern and love of the benefactor for the beneficiary (Leibowitz, p293)

c. God will come down, Ex 19:1 (Etz Chayim p.439) expresses God’s infinite transcendence and personal, intimate involvement with humanity


d. How we treat one another is of concern to God

a. Other nations had laws that stated “If you do this…, then ….”. The Decalogue opens the door to the new understanding that certain acts are not only against the law, they are wrong in an absolute sense. “You shall not…” (Lieber p. 441)


e. The singularity of God’s relationship with each one of us

a. “I the Lord am your God” (20:2) The Hebrew word for “your” is singular, for God is revealed to each one of us according to our own capacity to respond (Lieber p.442)


Bibliography: Leibowitz, Nehama, New Studies in Shemot, Jerusalem, 1976; Lieber, Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, New York, 2001



This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by

MariAnn (Marjan) Saenen, B.A. M.A. Michigan State University,

Lay Minister, Diocese of Saginaw, MI

Bat Kol alum 1999-2000, 2002, 2010, 2015, 2016


[Copyright © 2018]



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