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?Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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)
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.Read More