Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23)

I am starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by work yet my brain seems to be stuck at the moment and I really like the comments I wrote last year, so I hope you’ll forgive me for the rerun (commentary only).

This week: Revelation!  Theophany!  And not just in the Torah reading.  There’s another theophany in the Haftarah, Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6 (minus the last 8 verses for Sephardim ). BTW, as used herein, the term “Revelation” refers to the revelation of the Law (at least the Ten Commandments) to Moses and Israel at Mt. Sinai and the term “theophany” refers to a manifestation or appearance of God to at least one person. (I have to write like that all the time at work.)

But first, Moses gets a very useful lesson in management from his father-is-law, Jethro (Yitro), who, appreciative of the implications of the splitting of the sea everyone’s talking about, has come to the camp in the wilderness, bringing in tow the wife (Zipporah) and two sons of Moses, whom we (as well as Moses?) never hear from again.  Jethro observes Moses trying to be a one-man judicial system and not only tells him he must delegate or collapse, but practically hands him an organization chart (names to be filled in), so that only the most difficult cases will go all the way up to Moses.  We probably all know people who micromanage and refuse to delegate because they desire control and/or they think only they can get it right.  In the case of Moses, a truly humble man, it is likely that he simply wanted to help the people who came to him, not turn them away.

I have written elsewhere in these missives that I think the Children and Israel are inadequately prepared for the wonders at Sinai, subjected to thunder, lightning, earth tremors, and of course a very loud voice of God, and that, because their fear prevented them from fully hearing and appreciating it, this helps plant the seeds of doubt that lead to disaster later.  This year, I appreciate that many pains are taken beforehand.  They have several weeks to recover and decompress after escaping from Egypt.  They are exposed to only a few laws to deal with at a time.  They are given manna as sustenance and a means of developing faith in God.   And they are told that God wants to have a special relationship with them, that God bore them on eagles’ wings out of Egypt.  They are to be a treasured possession and a kingdom of priests and a holy people.  (All they have to do is obey.)  They are told how to prepare physically three days ahead of time.  But the Revelation at Sinai still overwhelms them.

About the eagles’ wings: Nechama Leibowitz reviews several commentators’ takes on this in her book, New Studies in Shemot, vol. 1, pp. 290-302 (some of the text is at http://www.ramahwisconsin.com/site/epage/56422_697.htm , the top half, and it may be available elsewhere online).  “…I bore you aloft on eagles’ wings” (19:4) is an image of love and compassion, of eagles carrying their fledglings on top of their wings, soaring beyond the earth.  But the words that follow are at least as important:  “and brought you unto Myself.”  The Exodus was not so much from as to, i.e., from slavery in Egypt but, more importantly, to the service of God.

Shabbat shalom,




A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.
Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.

“Careful,” he said, “CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOD!
You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them!
TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOD!
WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They’re going to STICK!
Careful! CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL!
You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up!
Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don’t forget to salt them.
You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt.

The wife stared at him. “What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”

The husband calmly replied, “I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.”

Am I good at delegating? You bet! I always find someone to blame!


 I know the Torah isn’t talking about our Eagles, but these seem unfortunately apropos.  

Philadelphia Eagles jokes [selected]

>  Q: What do you call 47 people sitting around a TV watching the Super Bowl?
>  A: The Philadelphia Eagles.
> Q: What do the Philadelphia Eagles and Billy Graham have in common?
> A: They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell “Jesus Christ”.
> Q: How do you keep a Philadelphia Eagle out of your yard?
> A: Put up goal posts.
> Q: What do you call a Philadelphia Eagle with a Super Bowl ring?
> A: A thief.
> Q: What’s the difference between the Philadelphia Eagles and a dollar bill?
> A: You can still get four quarters out of a dollar.
> Q: How many Philadelphia Eagles does it take to win a Super Bowl?
> A: Nobody knows and we may never find out.

Yeah, yeah, I  know, wait ’til next year…



Ten Commandments Quotes

If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments.
 Zig Ziglar quotes (American motivational Speaker and Author. )

America, where thanks to Congress, there are forty million laws to enforce the Ten Commandments
 Anatole France quotes (FrenchWriter, member of the French Academy and Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921, 18441924)

I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US congress
 Ronald Reagan quotes (American 40th US President (1981- 89), 19112004)

 “The minute a thing is long and complicated it confuses. Whoever wrote the Ten Commandments made ’em short. They may not always be kept but they are understood.
 Will Rogers quotes (American entertainer, famous for his pithy and homespun humour, 18791935)

The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice”  [unknown source]

It is said that from Mount Sinai God gave, amid thunderings and lightnings, ten commandments for the guidance of mankind; and yet among them is not found Thou shalt believe The Bible
 Robert Green Ingersoll quotes (AmericanStatesman and Orator, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of atheism. 18331899)



The Ten Commandments (1956) –  More Trivia
As a publicity stunt, Cecil B. DeMille had public displays and monuments of the Ten Commandments erected around the country. Known as decalogues, most of them were placed in, on or near government buildings.

Considerable controversy exists over who supplied the voice of God for the film, for which no on-screen credit is given. The voice used was heavily modified and mixed with other sound effects, making identification extremely difficult. Various people have either claimed or been rumored to have supplied the voice: Cecil B. DeMille himself (he narrated the film), Charlton Heston and Delos Jewkes, to name a few. DeMille’s publicist and biographer Donald Hayne maintains that Heston provided the voice of God at the burning bush, but he himself provided the voice of God giving the commandments. In the 2004 DVD release, Heston in an interview admitted that he was the voice of God.


Dave Coverly 2/19/11



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