Yitro – Perasha Synopsis

In this week’s Perashat Yitro,  Bene Yisrael quickly emerge from a family of newly emancipated slaves to a fully-fledged nation. Yitro, Moshe’s Father in law leaves Midian together with Moshe’s wife Sipporah and children Eliezer and Gereshom and they all join Moshe and Bene Yisrael.  As Yitro sees Moshe’s hectic schedule of governing the people, he advises Moshe on delegating power to unburden Moshe from the overwhelming responsibility of governing. Four desired qualities were sought in appointing these Judges.

  1. Men of Ability – men of means who posses good judgment, and able to recognize the truth in a conflict.
  2. G-d fearing – and not afraid of people, who will not be swayed by flattery or threats.
  3. Men of truth – seek the truth, keep their word and promises.
  4. People who despise bribes – and will not be swayed by financial considerations, even when they will suffer a personal loss.

Thanks to the wisdom of Yitro, Moshe appoints a team of Judges to help govern the people.  The message is, that one person cannot be expected to do this job by himself, and the sign of an effective leader is one who can delegate to other capable people. These appointments are put into affect even before the actual body of laws is delivered to Bene Yisrael on Har Sinai.  This would actually suggest that the children of Israel had been living under some guidelines of their forefathers, and that Moshe was already capable of determining legal and family matters prior to Matan Torah.

As promised by the A-mighty, the encounter at Mt. Horeb aka Mt. Sinai, to receive the Decalogue takes place.  Amid thunder and lightning and public revelation, G-d gives the 10 Commandments to Bene Yisrael. The giving of the Torah formalizes and codifies these ten basic precepts of this law, and it covers theological issues, as well as matters between man and his fellow man. The last verses of the Perasha describe an actual law given to Bene Yisrael, not fully mentioned in the Decalogue.  It is a law defining the prohibition of not only making idols out of religious ritual items, but also a description of the type of altar Hashem would like, as to differentiate the worship of Bene Yisrael from the practices of all other nations.  This Perashat Yitro, then clearly marks the covenant between G-s and Bene Yisrael and the expectation of Hashem from his newly formed nation Am Yisrael.

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