Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23)

This week, in Parashat Yitro: The Ten Commandments.

But first, we pause for a brief family interlude.  Jethro, aka Yitro, aka Reuel, the father-in-law of Moses, meets him in the wilderness, bringing him his wife Zipporah and sons Gershom and Eliezer.  However, we only read of the meeting of Moses and Jethro.  The other three promptly disappear from the Torah, though there appear to be references to their descendants in the book of Chronicles. But the reunion of Moses with his immediate family doesn’t advance the story.  Jethro, on the other hand, says Moses from burnout and revamps the judicial system.  He observes how Moses takes everything on himself and advises him to set up a hierarchical judicial system and learn to delegate.  That way, Moses deals with only the thorniest issues. 

Then we get to the giving of the Ten Commandments.  Some questions to consider:

  1. Are there 10? You can combine and split them up in many ways, but they are indeed later referred to as being 10 (Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13.  The numbering varies, though, among Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant versionsOf the three, the Jewish version, designating as #1 the statement “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” best follows the pattern of suzerain/vassal treaties in the ancient Near East:

Preamble: The identification of the suzerain by his name and titles and the history of the suzerain’s relationship with the vassal. (Ex. 20: 1-2)

Stipulations: What the vassal is required to do. (Ex. 20: 3-17)

Blessings and curses: What will befall the vassal is the stipulations are or are not met. (Ex. 5-6, 7, and 12).

  1. What did the Israelites actually see and hear? Literally, they “see” thunder in 20:15, which could be translated “perceived.” Or was this a case of synesthesiaIf so, no wonder the Israelites were freaked out.  Some commentaries have the people hearing only the first letter of the first word.
  2. The Ten Commandments can also be regarded as an introductory summary of the myriad of laws we start reading next week. Given its importance, why do we not include this section, Exodus 20:1-16, in our liturgy?  Rabbi David Golinken, cites several sources (the Nash Papyrus of 150 C.E. the Mishnah, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, among others) indicating that the Deuteronomic version was indeed included.  However, in the Talmud, we read of a concern that people would think that the Ten Commandments were the only laws they needed to obey.  Despite medieval attempts to reinstate it, public reading of the Ten Commandments during services occurs today only as they occur in the weekly and holiday (Shavuot) Torah readings. 

The haftarah, Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6 (minus the last 8 verses for Sephardim) includes another theophany.  The Lord appears to Isaiah, surrounded by angels who call to each other (6:3), “Holy, holy, holy!  The Lord of Hosts!  His presence fills all the earth!”  Yes, that’s where the Kedushah in our liturgy comes from, as well as the Sanctus in the Catholic mass.  The second-to-last verse read by Ashkenazim (9:5) is also famous, having been appropriated by Handel for his Messiah: For a child has been born to us a son has been given us.  And authority has settled on his shoulders.  He has been named ‘The Mighty God is planning grace, the Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.” (JTS translation)  Isaiah is not told explicitly to be a prophet and demurs because of “unclean lips”.  After a hot coal removes this “uncleanness,” the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send?” and Isaiah volunteers.  The future, however, includes banishment of the population.  But a tenth will remain, as does hope.

Shabbat shalom,



Delegation Quotes

When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder.
James H. Boren

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.
Byron Dorgan

For you, the state is an entity with purposes of its own that the people can be required to serve. For us the word is only a label for the arrangements by which we the people delegate to some among us responsibility for things that concern us in common.
Elliot Richardson



I was having a discussion about government inefficiency with a friend who wasn’t getting it, so I made him an organizational hierarchy to explain. (i.imgur.com) submitted 2 years ago by bobzilla

tph govt org chart

[–]Ganjajp commented: Just replace Manager with VP and change the title to Corporate America.



tph moses-newyorker20 toast














The Children’s Bible in a Nutshell (excerpt)
Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton

Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the
evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh’s people. These
plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable. 

God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them
His Top Ten Commandments.  These include: don’t lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor’s

Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.



If God Had Texted the Ten Commandments (note: in 5., pos means “parent over shoulder” and in 7. :-X means “big sloppy kiss”)

  1. no1 b4 me. 
  2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
  3. no omg’s
  4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
  5. pos ok – ur m&d r cool
  6. dnt kill ppl
  7. :-X only w/ m8
  8. dnt steal
  9. dnt lie re: bf
  10. dnt ogle ur bf’s m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.


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