Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23)

This week:  The Ten (more or less) Commandments!

But first, a lesson in management.  Yitro (Jethro), having heard of the Exodus of the Israelites in Midian, goes out to his son-in-law Moses, bringing along his daughter and her sons, i.e., Moses’s apparently forgotten family.  Indeed, we do not read of any conversation Moses had with Tzipporah or Gershom or Eliezer, not even a greeting.  Then again, he has his hands full – too full, according to Yitro. 

When you have 600,000 or so people together, disputes arise (No doubt you’ve heard the old saying, “Two Jews, three opinions.”).  Naturally, Moses is asked to settle them all, and he does.  This reflects, not a desire to micromanage, but a simple humility: they ask him, he answers.  Seeing Moses heading toward early burnout, Yitro tells him how to set up a hierarchical judicial system, so that only the most difficult cases get all the way up to Moses and no one is burned out along the way.  This was very practical.  However, as Rashi notes, it also meant people had less personal contact with Moses himself.

It is now over two months since the Exodus.  The people are getting used to manna.  They’ve been given a few simple laws to follow.  They are being readied for Revelation (of the Ten Commandments) at Mount Sinai.  Moses is their go-between with the Lord, Who tells him to say (19:4-6),

‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ 

The people are thrilled and respond (19:8), “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!”   So far, so good.  Now they are given three days to get ready individually (e.g., wash their clothes) and warned that anyone who touches the mountain itself will die.  Then the Revelation itself is overwhelming: lightning, thunder, smoke, cloud, the blaring of the shofar.  The people, and even the mountain, trembled.  In the sensory overload, it’s unclear what words the people, other than Moses, actually heard.

The haftarah, Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6 (Sephardim, 6:1-13), includes a personal theophany (manifestation of God), in which the prophet, when he is called to serve, sees the Lord on a throne in the Temple, served by six-winged seraphim calling to each other (6:3), “Holy, holy, holy (kadosh, kadosh, kadosh)!  The Lord of Hosts!  His presence fills all the earth!”  This is the source of both the Kedushah in Jewish liturgy and the Sanctus in the Christian Mass.

As for the Commandments themselves, they are best described as a contract, like other suzerain/vassal treaties in the ancient Near East, consisting of a preamble (the parties and their relationship, Ex. 20:1-2); stipulations (what the vassal is required to do, 20:3-17); and what will happen to the vassal (blessings and curses) depending on whether the stipulations are met (20:5, 6, 7, and 12).  That’s it.  It’s not the source of all our laws.  It’s not even currently in our liturgy, lest people think those are our only laws.  And to those who want to honor the Ten Commandments by displaying them publicly, I suggest avoiding disputes as to numbering and translation by using the ancient text in Sinaiatic Hebrew:


Shabbat shalom,







Funny* Organization Titles for Your Next Reorg

*And more descriptive




Utah Park to be Overcrowded with Donated Monuments; Little League Baseball Brings Lawsuit!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008
ark that has been displaying a donated monument to the Ten Commandments has been ordered by the Supreme Court that now they must accept displays given by any and all groups to guarantee freedom of religious expression.

The Seven Aphorisms of Summum, the Four Pillars of Islam, the 619 Laws of the Torah and Roman Catholicism’s 1,932 regulations have already been delivered. On order to the park are the Quaker five principles, Luther’s Theses, Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps, the Code of Hammurabi, Jehovah’s Witnesses Seven Testimonies, The Eight Beatitudes, the Six Antitheses, ET’s Phone Messages Home and The One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

The Little League Baseball national committee announced that they will be bringing a law suit against the park’s department for destroying the children’s baseball diamond with monuments.


Washington Post, February 13, 2017, Opinions
Trump orders may reach biblical proportions
By Tom Toles (thanks, Stanley) 




Dental Contract (excerpts)

Does the very thought of a dentist set your teeth on edge? Is pudding too challenging to chew? This contract should help mitigate your pain.

AGREEMENT entered into this ____ day of ________, 20__ by anxious Patient and drill wielding Dentist.

WHEREAS, Patient views dentistry as legalized S & M; and
WHEREAS, Dentist enjoys pillaging mouths almost as much as yachting and golf;
NOW, THEREFORE, Dentist and Patient hereby agree as follows:

1. Dentist shall instruct his receptionist not to ask, “How are we today?” If we were well, we would not be here.

2. Dentist acknowledges that Patient’s time has a modicum of value. Accordingly, for every minute Dentist keeps Patient waiting, one dollar shall be subtracted from Patient’s bill. Double, if the waiting room is filled with kids.
4.Dentist shall not say “You have so many fillings, I can’t read the X-rays.” Otherwise Patient shall say, “Your invoice has so many dollars, I can’t pay the bill.”

5. Dentist shall not do any work until Patient’s mouth approaches actual numbness.

7. Dentist agrees that a mouth crammed with blood-soaked cotton and dental weaponry isn’t capable of a clear “Yes” to the question “Does it hurt?” To improve communications, the following definitions are agreed on:

                 a. “Urghh.” — “It hurts a little, but I think I can stand it.
                 b. “Uuurrggh!” — “Maybe you should give me another shot.”
                 c. “UUUURRRGGGH!!” — “If you don’t drop that drill, I will kill you.”

14. In the interest of good taste and an improved IQ, Dentist shall switch from Muzak to Mozart.

16. Dentist will stop trying to impress Patient with glossy, high-class magazines. Patient doesn’t want to read “Town & Country.” Patient wants to get the hell out of here.

17. Dentist shall not prescribe aspirin for post-visit pain. Dentist shall prescribe something that works.

19. This agreement shall be deemed effective for all future dental work that Patient may be desperate enough to seek.

WHEREFORE, We affix our signatures.

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