The Limitations God Shares with Us

The Limitations God Shares with Us

Feb 2, 2024 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Yitro

But how do you reconcile the idea of God’s transcendent power with such things as a failure to anticipate human flaws, or a weakness for the smell of roasting meat, or jealousy, or suffering the travails of exile? Texts such as these raise eyebrows because they seem to lower God in our estimation.

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Amalya Volz – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Amalya Volz – Senior Sermon (RS ’24)

Feb 1, 2024 By JTS Senior Sermon | Commentary | Senior Sermon | Yitro

Yitro All the Class of 2024 Senior Sermons

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How Do We Meet At Sinai?

How Do We Meet At Sinai?

Feb 10, 2023 By Amelia Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

At the moment God initiates a new covenant with the People of Israel, they must learn to demarcate the spaces of their new relationship. Some of these boundaries are lines drawn by God. Others are fences maintained by human beings. How can humanity and the Divine exist in the same space and time? And what can we learn about how humans can exist in relationship with each other from that encounter?

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Strangers at a Revelation

Strangers at a Revelation

Jan 21, 2022 By Dr. Miriam Feldmann Kaye | Commentary | Yitro

Parashat Yitro is framed by the geographical and conceptual ideas of exile and homecoming. Against the backdrop of Bereishit, the notion of movement is critical in framing the experiences of biblical characters: the exile from Eden; the exile of Cain; the “calls” to Abraham, Jacob, and others to move, relocate, and find new homes.

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Can God Prohibit an Emotion?

Can God Prohibit an Emotion?

Feb 5, 2021 By Sarah Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

Part of my current research focuses on how human emotions are discussed and legislated in the Talmud and other ancient rabbinic texts, and so the last of the Ten Commandments (as counted in the Jewish tradition) raises for me some fundamental questions.

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Expanding the Circle of Revelation

Expanding the Circle of Revelation

Feb 12, 2020 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Yitro

Are women Jews? This shocking question, first phrased by the feminist scholar Rachel Adler, is linked by Judith Plaskow to our portion in her 1990 book, Standing Again at Sinai. When Moses descends from the mountain to prepare the people for revelation, he tells them, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman” (Exod. 19:15). Sexual contact makes one temporarily impure, and God wanted the people to receive the revelation in a state of purity. As Plaskow notes, Moses could have said, “men and women do not go near each other,” but instead he addresses only the men. She writes, “In this passage, the Otherness of women finds its way into the very center of Jewish experience.”

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The Confusion of Revelation

The Confusion of Revelation

Jan 25, 2019 By Barry Holtz | Commentary | Yitro

We have now come to Parashat Yitro in our annual Torah reading cycle, arguably the most significant sedra in the Humash. While Parashat Bereishit has the mythic power of the creation stories and Parashat Beshallah includes the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Sea, it is in Yitro that we see the culmination of that crossing, for here in Parashat Yitro we read about our first connection to the Torah, the single most significant element of Judaism as it later evolved.

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Where Do We Look to Find Our Center?

Where Do We Look to Find Our Center?

Feb 2, 2018 By Adam Berman | Commentary | Yitro

We Jews read the Torah bit by bit, or parashah by parashah, over the course of a year. As a result, traditional Jewish interpretation of the Bible tends to focus on small units such as individual verses or short passages. But the Torah sometimes uses overarching structures in longer units to convey key themes. An important example occurs in this week’s parashah.

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Power and Love

Power and Love

Feb 17, 2017 By Rachel Rosenthal | Commentary | Yitro

[P]ower without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

― Martin Luther King Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?” (1967)

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Why Did Moses Listen to Yitro’s Advice?

Why Did Moses Listen to Yitro’s Advice?

Feb 17, 2017 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Yitro

Yitro heard that God had done wonders for Moses and Israel and had redeemed them from Egypt. He journeyed from Midian with Moses’s wife and sons to the Israelites’ encampment at the mountain of God. We hear nothing of Moses’s reunion with his wife and children, but rather a detailed account of Yitro’s organizational advice to Moses.

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Nothing Is Enough

Nothing Is Enough

Jan 29, 2016 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Yitro

sitting amid your litter, feet buried
by accumulated jars of buttons,
glasses lost beneath a decade of bank statements
and funny poems.

The obligation to honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12) is never simple, but it’s especially complicated when relations between parent and child are strained. In her moving poem “Mother,” Alicia Ostriker gives voice to the ethical challenge of caring for her mother when the conflicts of the past loom large.

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Whose Revelation Is It, Anyway?

Whose Revelation Is It, Anyway?

Jan 29, 2016 By Stephen P. Garfinkel | Commentary | Yitro

Parashat Yitro is a Torah reading of monumental ideas, foundational concepts, and widely-recognized importance. By all measures, this week’s portion must be considered a highlight of the entire Torah, since it includes no less (and a lot more!) than the Ten Commandments. This seems to be the right place to explore questions such as these: what did the actual revelation (Exodus 20) include? What were God’s commandments? Why were these statements singled out, especially given the amount of law scattered throughout the Torah? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive importance? 

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Shabbat: A Model Of, and For, the World

Shabbat: A Model Of, and For, the World

Feb 6, 2015 By William Friedman | Commentary | Yitro

In Parashat Yitro, the command to “remember” Shabbat (Exod. 20:8) is observed in order to recognize the eternal sanctity of the day on which God rested on the seventh day of Creation. This command is recapitulated in Deuteronomy with significant revision: the Israelites are to “observe” Shabbat (Deut. 5:12) in order to ensure that slaves (i.e., workers) are given an opportunity for rest. What are we to make of these dual aspects of Shabbat, one in which we reenact God’s primordial resting; the other in which we attempt to achieve a measure of protection for the economically vulnerable?

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The Bite of Desire

The Bite of Desire

Feb 6, 2015 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Yitro

Do you covet? I do, and it makes me sad. Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. We all see things that we want, don’t have, and wish we did. There is too much in the world that is bright and shiny—offering pleasure and excitement—not to see it and feel the ache of its absence in my life. And I speak not only of the ephemeral delights that beckon. Even more difficult to contemplate are my fellow human beings whose personal and professional lives leave me despondent when measuring myself against them: scholars who have written books that I haven’t, friends who seem to be better spouses or more successful parents, people who have paid off their mortgages, men who still have all their hair. In short, the list is endless.

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Exodus 18: The Proverbial Visit of the In-Laws

Exodus 18: The Proverbial Visit of the In-Laws

Jan 15, 2014 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Yitro

“Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named . . . Jethro!”

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A Lesson in Interreligious Dialogue

A Lesson in Interreligious Dialogue

Jan 15, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Yitro

If one were asked to identify the most central parashah to Israelite identity and to Judaism, one would certainly point to Parashat Yitro, which describes the moment of revelation at Sinai.

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How We Believe in God

How We Believe in God

Jan 30, 2013 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Yitro

The Mishnah and the two Talmuds mostly address details of Jewish observance; they rarely discuss the purpose of individual commandments, nor how the mitzvot mesh to create an integrated religious ethos.

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Torah and the Supreme Court

Torah and the Supreme Court

Feb 11, 2012 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Yitro

These are all the essential ingredients for the recipe of how we interpret the Torah at JTS—language, history, tradition, precedent, purpose, and consequence. It is these very same principles that define our vision for study, law, and practice.

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The Resiliency and Faith of Youth

The Resiliency and Faith of Youth

Feb 11, 2012 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Yitro

Why do bad things happen to good people?

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Bearing Witness to Torah

Bearing Witness to Torah

Jan 22, 2011 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Yitro

Everything that precedes Sinai in the Torah’s narrative leads up to it. Everything that comes afterward—in the Torah, the Bible and Judaism as a whole—follows from the fact of Covenant and works out its consequences for Israel and the world. Your life and mine are shaped by the account presented in this week’s parashah. I would like to suggest two major ways in which that is so.

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