Yitro (parsha)

Yitro (parsha)

Yitro, Yithro, or Yisro (יתרו — Hebrew for “Jethro,” the second word and first distinctive word in the parshah) is the seventeenth weekly Torah portion ("parshah") in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fifth in the book of Exodus. It constitutes Exodus [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm 18:1–20:23.] Jews in the Diaspora read it the seventeenth Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in late January or February.


Jethro reforms adjudication

Moses’ father-in-law Jethro heard all that God had done for the Israelites and brought Moses’ wife Zipporah and her two sons Gershom (“I have been a stranger here”) and Eliezer (“God was my help") to Moses in the wilderness at Mount Sinai. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#1 Ex. 18:1–5.] ) Jethro rejoiced, blessed God, and offered sacrifices to God. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#9 Ex. 18:9–12.] ) The people stood from morning until evening waiting for Moses to adjudicate their disputes. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#13 Ex. 18:13.] ) Jethro counselled Moses to make known the law, and then choose capable, trustworthy, God-fearing men to serve as chiefs to judge the people, bringing only the most difficult matters to Moses. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#14 Ex. 18:14–23.] ) Moses heeded Jethro’s advice. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#24 Ex. 18:24.] ) Then Moses bade Jethro farewell, and Jethro went home. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm#27 Ex. 18:27.] )

The Ten Commandments

Three months to the day after the Israelites left Egypt, they entered the wilderness at the foot of Mount Sinai. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#1 Ex. 19:1–2.] ) Moses went up the mountain, and God told him to tell the Israelites that if they would obey God faithfully and keep God’s covenant, they would be God’s treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#3 Ex. 19:3–6.] ) When Moses told the elders, all the people answered: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the people’s words to God. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#7 Ex. 19:7–8.] ) God instructed Moses to have the people stay pure, wash their clothes, and prepare for the third day, when God would come down in the sight of the people, on Mount Sinai. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#10 Ex. 19:10–11.] ) God told Moses to set bounds round the mountain, threatening whoever touched the mountain with death, and Moses did so. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#12 Ex. 19:12–15.] )

At dawn of the third day, there was thunder, lightning, a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#16 Ex. 19:16.] ) Moses led the people to the foot of the mountain. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#17 Ex. 19:17.] ) Mount Sinai was all in smoke, the mountain trembled violently, the blare of the horn grew louder and louder, and God answered Moses in thunder. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#18 Ex. 19:18–19.] ) God came down on the top of Mount Sinai, and called Moses up. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#20 Ex. 19:20.] ) God again commanded Moses to warn the people not to break through. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0219.htm#21 Ex. 19:21.] )God spoke the Ten Commandments:
*“I the Lord am your God.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#2 Ex. 20:2.] )
*“You shall have no other gods besides Me. You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#3 Ex. 20:3–6.] )
*“You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#7 Ex. 20:7.] )
*“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#8 Ex. 20:8-10.] )
*“Honor your father and your mother.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#11 Ex. 20:12.] )
*“You shall not murder.”
*“You shall not commit adultery.”
*“You shall not steal.”
*“You shall not bear false witness.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#12 Ex. 20:13.] )
*“You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor’s.” ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#13 Ex. 20:14.] )

Seeing the thunder, lightning, and the mountain smoking, the people fell back and asked Moses to speak to them instead of God. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#15 Ex. 20:15-16.] ) God told Moses to tell the people not make any gods of silver or gold, but an altar of earth for sacrifices. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#17 Ex. 20:17-21.] ) God prohibited hewing the stones to make a stone altar. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#22 Ex. 20:22.] ) And God prohibited ascending the altar by steps, so as not to exposed the priests’ nakedness. ( [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0220.htm#23 Ex. 20:23.] )

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Exodus chapter 19

The Mishnah noted that oxen were the same as all other beasts insofar as they were required by (in the JPS; Exodus 20:5 in the NJPS) and were not executed. (Mishnah ; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 60b.)

Tractates Nedarim and Shevuot in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of vows in and (in the JPS; Exodus 20:10 in the NJPS) to teach that on the Sabbath, animals could wear their tethers, and their caretakers could lead them by their tethers and sprinkle or immerse them with water. (Mishnah Shabbat 5:1; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 51b.) The Mishnah taught that a donkey could go out with a saddle cushion tied to it, rams strapped, ewes covered, and goats with their udders tied. Rabbi Jose forbade all these, except covering ewes. Rabbi Judah allowed goats to go out with their udders tied to dry, but not to save their milk. (Mishnah Shabbat 5:2; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 52b.) The Mishnah taught that animals could not go out with a pad tied to their tails. A driver could not tie camels together and pull one of them, but a driver could take the leads of several camels in hand and pull them. (Mishnah Shabbat 5:3; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54a.) The Mishnah prohibited donkeys with untied cushions, bells, ladder-shaped yokes, or thongs around their feet; fowls with ribbons or leg straps; rams with wagons; ewes protected by wood chips in their noses; calves with little yokes; and cows with hedgehog skins or straps between their horns. The Mishnah reported that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah’s cow used to go out with a thong between its horns, but without the consent of the Rabbis. (Mishnah Shabbat 5:4; Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b.)

According to the Mishnah, if witnesses testified that a person was liable to receive 40 lashes, and the witnesses turned out to have perjured themselves, then Rabbi Meir taught that the perjurers received 80 lashes — 40 on account of the commandment of (in the JPS; Exodus 20:21 in the NJPS) that even when only a single person sat occupied with Torah, the Shekhinah was with the student. (Mishnah Avot 3:6.)


According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 3 positive and 14 negative commandments in the parshah:
*To know there is a God ()
*Not to worship idols in the manner they are worshiped ()
*To sanctify the Sabbath with Kiddush and Havdalah ()
*Not to murder ()
*Not to testify falsely ()
*Not to build the altar with hewn stones ( ) And both the parshah and the haftarah speak of making Israel a holy community. ( (punishing children for fathers’ sin).
*Leviticus [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0305.htm 5:1–10] (vows); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0319.htm#12 19:12] (vows).
*Numbers [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0414.htm#18 14:18] (punishing children for fathers’ sin); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0430.htm#2 30:2–17] (vows).
*Deuteronomy [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0501.htm#9 1:9–18] (sharing administrative duties); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0505.htm#2 5:2–28] (ten commandments); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0505.htm#8 5:8 in JPS,] 5:9 in NJPS (punishing children for fathers’ sin); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0523.htm#22 23:22–24] (vows); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0524.htm#16 24:16] ("no" capital punishment of children for fathers’ sin).
*Jeremiah [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt1131.htm#29 31:28–29 in JPS, 31:29–30 in NJPS] ("not" punishing children for fathers’ sin).
*Ezekiel [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt1218.htm 18:1–4] ("not" punishing children for fathers’ sin); [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt1218.htm#5 18:5–7] (the just does not rob).
*Psalms [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt2697.htm#7 97:7] (graven images).

Early nonrabbinic

*Josephus. "Antiquities of the Jews". [http://www.interhack.net/projects/library/antiquities-jews/b3c3.html 3:3:1] [http://www.interhack.net/projects/library/antiquities-jews/b3c4.html –] [http://www.interhack.net/projects/library/antiquities-jews/b3c5.html 3:5:6.] Circa 93–94. Reprinted in, e.g., "The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition". Translated by William Whiston, 83–85. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 1987. ISBN 0-913573-86-8.

Classical rabbinic

*Mishnah: Shabbat 5:1–4, 9:3; Bava Kamma 5:7; Makkot 1:3; Avot 3:6. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., "The Mishnah: A New Translation". Translated by Jacob Neusner, 184, 190, 515, 598, 610, 679. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
*Tosefta: Maaser Sheni 5:27; Shabbat 1:21; Sukkah 4:3; Megillah 3:5, 24; Sotah 4:1, 7:2; Bava Kamma 3:2–3, 4:6, 6:4, 14, 7:5, 9:7, 17, 20, 22, 26; Sanhedrin 3:2, 4:7, 12:3; Makkot 1:7; Shevuot 3:6, 8; Arakhin 2:10, 5:9. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., "The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction". Translated by Jacob Neusner, vol. 1: 330, 360, 579, 645, 650, 844, 860; vol. 2: 962–63, 972, 978, 980, 987, 1001, 1004–06, 1150, 1159, 1185, 1201, 1232–34, 1499, 1514. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
*Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 5a, 12b–13a, 39a, 50b, 87a; Peah 6b; Sheviit 1a, 2a; Bikkurim 23b. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., "Talmud Yerushalmi". Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1–3, 6a, 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006–2007.
*Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael 47:1–57:1. Land of Israel, late 4th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., "Mekhilta According to Rabbi Ishmael". Translated by Jacob Neusner, vol. 2, 37–103. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. ISBN 1-55540-237-2.
*Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 20:3; 26:1; 34:2; 44:1–2; 46:1–57:3; 68:1–2; 74:4, 6; 77:4; 78:4; 82:1. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., "Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai". Translated by W. David Nelson, 83–84, 113, 147, 186, 195–209, 212–58, 305, 347, 349, 359, 364, 372–73. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
*Babylonian Talmud: Berakhot 6a–b, 20b, 33a, 45a, 54a, 57a, 64a, 86a–b, 87b–88a; Shabbat 10a, 33b, 51b, 86b, 88b, 94a, 105a, 114b, 117b, 120a–b, 153a–b; Pesachim 5b, 47b–48a, 54a, 63b, 106a, 117b; Yoma 4a, 86a; Sukkah 5a, 53a; Beitzah 5a–b, 15b; Rosh Hashanah 3a, 24a–b, 27a; Taanit 21b; Megillah 31a; Moed Katan 5a, 7b, 13a, 15a; Chagigah 3b, 6a, 12b–13a, 14a, 18a, 27a; Yevamot 46b, 62a, 79a; Ketubot 103a, 111a; Nedarim 18a, 20a, 38a; Nazir 45a; Sotah 31a, 33a, 38a, 42a; Gittin 57b; Kiddushin 2b, 30a–32a, 76b; Bava Kamma 54b, 74b, 99b; Bava Metzia 5b, 30b, 32a, 61b; Sanhedrin 2b, 7a–b, 10a, 15b–17a, 18a–b, 21b, 34b, 35b, 36b, 45a, 50a, 56b, 59b, 61a–62a, 63a, 67a, 86a–b, 94a, 99a; Makkot 2b, 4a–b, 7b, 8b, 10a, 13b; Shevuot 20b–21a, 29a, 30b–31a, 39a, 47b; Avodah Zarah 2b, 5a, 14b, 42b, 43b, 54a; Horayot 4b, 8a; Zevachim 8a, 19a, 58a, 59a, 61b, 115b–16a; Menachot 5b; Chullin 110b; Arakhin 11a; Temurah 3a–b; Keritot 3b; Niddah 13b, 42a. Babylonia, 6th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., "Talmud Bavli". Edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, Chaim Malinowitz, and Mordechai Marcus, 72 vols. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2006.


*Saadia Gaon. "The Book of Beliefs and Opinions", Intro. 6; 2:12; 5:4, 6; 6:6; 9:2; 10:11. Baghdad, Babylonia, 933. Translated by Samuel Rosenblatt, 31–32, 128, 130, 219–20, 225–26, 254, 327–28, 385. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1948. ISBN 0-300-04490-9.
*Exodus Rabbah 27:1–29:9. 10th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., "Midrash Rabbah: Exodus". Translated by S. M. Lehrman, vol. 3. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
*Rashi. "Commentary". [http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=9879&showrashi=true Exodus 18–20.] Troyes, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. "The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated". Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 2:205–46. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-89906-027-7.
*Judah Halevi. "Kuzari". Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. "Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel." Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 60–63, 87, 172, 290. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
*Zohar [http://www.kabbalah.com/k/index.php/p=zohar/zohar&vol=19 2:67a–94a.] Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g, "The Zohar". Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.


*Thomas Hobbes. "Leviathan", England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 258, 444, 449, 464–65, 501–02, 504, 545–47, 672, 676. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
*Edward Taylor. “18. Meditation. Heb. 13.10. Wee Have an Altar.” In "Preliminary Meditations: First Series". Cambridge, Mass.: Early 18th Century. In Harold Bloom. "American Religious Poems", 21–22. New York: Library of America, 2006. ISBN 978-1-931082-74-7.
*Thomas Mann. "Joseph and His Brothers". Translated by John E. Woods, 257, 325, 612, 788. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as "Joseph und seine Brüder". Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
*Abraham Joshua Heschel. "The Sabbath". New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1951. Reprinted 2005. ISBN 0-374-52975-2.
*Martin Buber. "On the Bible: Eighteen studies", 80–121. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
*Walter J. Harrelson. "The Ten Commandments and Human Rights". Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980. ISBN 0-8006-1527-1. Revised ed. Mercer Univ. Press, 1997. ISBN 0865545421.
*S.Y. Agnon. "Present at Sinai: The Giving of the Law". Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994. ISBN 0-8276-0503-X.
*William H.C. Propp. "Exodus 1–18", 2:622–35. New York: Anchor Bible, 1998. ISBN 0-385-14804-6.
*William H.C. Propp. "Exodus 19–40", 2A:101–85. New York: Anchor Bible, 2006. ISBN 0-385-24693-5.

External links


* [http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0218.htm Masoretic text and 1917 JPS translation]
* [http://Bible.ort.org/books/torahd5.asp?action=displaypage&book=2&chapter=18&verse=1&portion=17 hear the parshah chanted]


* [http://www.jtsa.edu/x1941.xml Commentaries] from the Jewish Theological Seminary
* [http://judaism.uj.edu/Content/InfoUnits.asp?CID=912 Commentaries] from the University of Judaism
* [http://www.uscj.org/Yitro_57677221.html Torah Sparks] from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
* [http://www.ou.org/torah/archive2.htm Commentaries] from the Orthodox Union
* [http://ajrsem.org/index.php?id=201 Commentaries] from the Academy for Jewish Religion
* [http://www.urj.org/torah/exodus/ Commentaries] and [http://urj.org/shabbat/exodus/ Family Shabbat Table Talk] from the Union for Reform Judaism
* [http://www.chabad.org/article.asp?AID=15563 Commentaries] from Chabad.org
* [http://www4.jrf.org/recon-dt#Yitro Commentaries] from Reconstructionist Judaism
* [http://www.torah.org/learning/parsha/parsha.html?id1=25 Commentaries] from [http://www.torah.org/ Torah.org]
* [http://www.aish.com/torahPortion/pArchive.asp?eventType=17&eventName=Yitro Commentaries] from [http://www.aish.com/ Aish.com]
* [http://www.shiur.com/index.php?id=C0_159_6&spar=159&s_id=159 Commentaries] from [http://www.shiur.com/ Shiur.com]
* [http://www.tfdixie.com/parshat/yitro/ Commentaries] from [http://www.tfdixie.com/ Torah from Dixie]
* [http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/2505 Commentary] from [http://ohr.edu/index.php Ohr Sameach]
* [http://www.judaic.org/addtl_files/yitro.htm Commentaries] and [http://www.judaic.org/tabletalk/yitro5762.htm Shabbat Table Talk] from [http://www.judaic.org/ The Sephardic Institute]
* [http://www.teach613.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=48 Commentary] from [http://www.teach613.org/index.php Teach613.org, Torah Education at Cherry Hill]
* [http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Weekly_Torah_Commentary/yitro_index.htm Commentaries] from [http://www.myjewishlearning.com/index.htm MyJewishLearning.com]
* [http://www.anshe.org/parsha/yisro.htm Commentary] from [http://www.anshe.org/ Anshe Emes Synagogue, Los Angeles]
* [http://www.rabbishmuel.com/files/torah_sermons124.serm-yitro.doc Torah Sermon] and [http://www.rabbishmuel.com/browse.cgi?type=torah_tidbits Torah Tidbits] from [http://www.ostt.org/ Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah]
* [http://www.chiefrabbi.org/tt-index.html Commentaries] from the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

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