TORAH PARASHAT YITRO 

Shemot (Ex) 18:1-20:23 

The Readings here presented are in the manner of the seven courses of the Torah reading in the Orthodox Synagogue on Shabbat (annual reading cycle), broken down instead to the seven days of the week, with Sunday of course labeled as “First Day” (the Biblical method of labeling days up to the Babylonian captivity when use of pagan names for days and months began). 

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural references are taken from “The Scriptures 2009” 

1. 18:1-12 First Day 

Moshe is reunited with his wife, Tsipporah, and two sons who were delivered to him by his father-in-law, Yitro; who is also known as “the priest of Midyan”. Moshe recounts the events that had taken place from Mitzrayim to their present time and Yitro is filled with praise and rejoicing.  

9 And Yithro rejoiced for all the good which יהוה had done for Yisra’ĕl, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Mitsrites. 10 And Yithro said, “Blessed be יהוה, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Mitsrites and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Mitsrites. 11 “Now I know that יהוה is greater than all the mighty ones, indeed in the matter in which they acted proudly, above them.” 

He then brings “an ascending offering and other slaughterings unto Elohim” then breaks bread with Moshe and the Elders of Yisra’el before HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He)! 

From the short time that Yisra’el had ‘crossed over’. to the time they had arrived at the base of the mountain; news of this miraculous event had traveled to Midyan and Yitro. Word of what had happened at the Yom Suf (Sea of Reeds/Red Sea) had, without radio, TV, or social media; spread like wildfire among the peoples of the then known world.  

Try to imagine if you will; the wonder, excitement, and sheer awe created in remote communities who were hearing about the El of Yisra’el and His awesome power for what might have been the first time! Not accustomed as we are to receiving the latest news about anything, on demand 24/7; the speed at which this news traveled only emphasized its importance and possibly life-altering effect it must have had on those who might have had ‘ears to hear’!   

2. 18:13-23 Second Day 

17 And the father-in-law of Mosheh said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 “Both you and these people with you shall certainly wear yourselves out. For the matter is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it by yourself.   

Upon seeing the daily task of judging over the people as was conducted by Moshe, Yitro is impressed to give Moshe counsel on a better, more efficient way to conduct this responsibility as we see at the end of this days reading: 

21 “But you yourself, seek out from all the people able men, who fear Elohim, men of truth, hating unfair gain. And place these over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 “And they shall rightly rule the people at all times. And it shall be that they bring every great matter to you, but they themselves rightly rule every small matter. So, make it lighter for yourself, for they shall bear with you. 23 “If you do this word, and Elohim shall command you, then you shall be able to stand and all this people also go to their place in peace.” 

Moshe being the man of El that he was, was able to discern the truth of what Yitro was telling him.

3. 18:24-27 THIRD DAY 

24 And Mosheh listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said. 25 And Mosheh chose able men out of all Yisra’ĕl, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 And they rightly ruled the people at all times – the hard matters they brought to Mosheh, but they rightly ruled every small matter themselves. 27 And Mosheh sent off his father-in-law, and he went away to his own land.

The text gives rise to several questions for your prayerful study and consideration. Please feel free to discuss and comment on the following:  

Yitro was not an Yisra’elite, why then would Mosheh listen to what he had to say, then act upon his suggestions by doing “…all that he said”? 

Why in such an important matter, that planted the seed for a government over the people; did not Elohim Himself give these instructions to Yisra’el through Mosheh instead of going through a heathen priest? 

How were these men, and Moshe, able to judge for the people without Torah, which was yet to be given?  

4.19:1-6 4th day

1 In the third new moon after the children of Yisra’ĕl had come out of the land of Mitsrayim, on this day they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they set out from Rephiḏim, and had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Yisra’ĕl camped there before the mountain. 3 And Mosheh went up to Elohim, and יהוה called to him from the mountain, saying, “This is what you are to say to the house of Ya‛aqoḇ, and declare to the children of Yisra’ĕl: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Mitsrites, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘And now, if you diligently obey My voice, and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples – for all the earth is Mine – 6 ‘and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and a set-apart nation.’ Those are the words which you are to speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl.” 

 “In the third new moon…”, of course, is speaking of the third month of the Biblical year after the only month named by Elohim, the month of Abib. You will not find the use of additional names of months until the Hebrews adopt the pagan names of the Nations surrounding them. Notice if you will the circumstances of the repetitive use of groups of three throughout Scripture, just as there are groups of sevens, tens, and multiples of them. Whenever Elohim really wants to get our attention, He’s going to repeat a topic or theme at least twice in order to emphasize its’ importance or to underscore the deep spiritual message wrapped up into His special ‘time capsule’ as it were. What do you think the message of this ‘time capsule’ is?

Yisra’el arrives at the plain that exists before Har Sinai, and establishes camp as Mosheh makes his first trip up into its’ Holy precincts to meet with יהוה (B’H). Here Elohim gives Mosheh a message to deliver, not only to B’ney Yisra’el as they stood before Him at the base of the Mount, but to Kol Yisra’el all the way down through the ages of time to our day and beyond, ‘…if you diligently obey My voice, and shall guard My covenant, then you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples – for all the earth is Mine – ‘and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and a set-apart nation.’  

Can we understand from this, just how ludicrous it is for us to say today that we are no longer required to obey His Torah? Not only are we to ‘…obey…’, but we are to ‘…guard…’ His covenant according to the author of it! It is then and ONLY THEN, that ‘…you shall be My treasured possession above all the peoples…and you shall be to Me a reign of priests and a set-apart nation.’! How can we possibly lay claim to this promise without guarded obedience to His covenant? You teachers who claim to speak for Him and yet deny His Torah beware! You are teaching a different Torah and you are not guarding His covenant! So what will you do? Will you continue to read these words and then purposely disregard them and teach something contrary, knowing all the while that His Word which never changes, is like Him; the same yesterday, today, and forever? Or will you in all humility allow the conviction that speaks to your heart even now to cause you to make teshuva, to turn away from your antinomian teaching and return to His Torah? To return to a Father who waits patiently for you, and then with open arms welcomes you home with joy and great celebration?  

If this should describe you in any way, I pray that you will not put off the call of His Ruach any longer, as He calls each of us today to repent, and return!