Yitro

  1. We met Gershom earlier, before Hashem tried to kill Moshe on his way back to Egypt. But we didn’t meet Eliezer except (probably) as the son to be given a bris in that incident. But when did Eliezer receive his name? It doesn’t say he received it here, we just read it here. Did he have no name for the intervening time? When Hashem tried to kill Moshe, we saw a man who was uncertain and frightened and a wife who saw what was needed. Moshe was dilly dallying instead of pushing forward. Perhaps Eliezer was named then, but only introduced now. Perhaps Tzipporah had the insight to not only perform a bris but to give a name that spoke confidently of Moshe’s coming rescue from Pharoah – “For the G-d of my father was my help and delivered me from the sword of Pharoah.” Alternatively, of course, the kid could have been unnamed for a year.
  2. The structure of judges is the only law created by man and it wasn’t even by a Jew. What is the justification? What Moshe is doing isn’t good. Goodness is the result of creation (see Hashem creating the Good, but resting to establish holiness). Goodness is not following the divine, but is the result of our own initiative. We can organize ourselves and build businesses and create new healthcare technologies etc…. and all are good activities whose fruits can yield Kedusha. These activities are not be directly commanded by Hashem, but they are core to our purpose in this world.
    1. Artscroll says: Hashem is greater than all the gods because in the matter of [the Egyptians] in which they conspired against them. A better translation might be  “Hashem is greater than all the natural forces (another translation of elohim) because of the manner in which they conspired against [the Egyptians.]” Yisro never talked to Hashem so how would he know Hashem commands all the natural forces? Because Hashem commanded them all to attack Egypt – from the river to boils to locusts and animals and the sea itself. Today, the ‘world powers’ are China, Russia and the US. Like Pharoah, Khamenei is wedded to an ideology that can not accept Hashem and his relationship with the Jewish people. He can not surrender or he will give up the very core of his existence. Sadly, it is looking like we need a miracle to beat him. We will know it will have occurred when the world powers all conspire against him.
  3. There are arguments about whether Yitro actually leaves – he here it looks like he does. Why? Perhaps he has nothing else to add? I’d suggest Yitro leaves because he is Moshe’s father-in-law. It is important that Moshe be identified as the leader. Yitro’s presence, with his greater age, experience and practical ideas, might undermine the role of Moshe and perhaps even Hashem.
  4. We see a double-barrelled phrase. Mamlechet Kohanim v Goi Kadosh. Why? What is the difference? A Goi can be an unordered rabble. They can be barbarians or highly organized. They simply identify as a nation. A holy nation is filled with people who are connected and filled with the spiritual energy of Hashem. But this image, similar to early Christian images of the ideal society, isn’t enough because it doesn’t happen spontaneously. You can’t start with Kedusha. First, you must be Mamlechet Kohanim – an organized Kingdom of servants of G-d following G-d’s law and enabling the conversion of physical creation to spiritual energy. Only then can they be a Goi Kadosh – having such Kedusha that you need not be organized to embody it.
  5. Yeshivat Har Etzion points out that here where we learn that the Shofar is associated with the revelation of Hashem. In my analysis, on Rosh Hashana we have three parts to Musaf – Malchiot, Zichronot, Shofarot. After we recognize Hashem as King (somebody we have joy in serving), he remembers us. And after that, we get Shofarot – Revelation.
  6. There is a very odd repeat here. Why does Hashem send Moshe back down to warn the people, even when Moshe said they’d already been warned and we read that they’ve been warned? Why should this immediately precede the Aserot Hadibrot? Why would the people approach – the scene is frightening? They would approach because they want to encounter the divine. Perhaps this warning is repeated because it is Dibra Zero. Don’t get too close. There is a barrier between us and the mountain and we may desire to cross it – to truly encounter the divine. But that isn’t our place. Hashem will introduce Himself to us – we don’t introduce ourselves to Him. Hashem controls the conversation, not the other way around. (I have a different answer in my Shavuot divrai Torah)
  7. Hashem is timeless and limitless. His is a ‘no risk’ world. In our world stones are long lasting – they are constant. But swords are destructive and iron tools (D 27:5) are destructive. In building the mishkan, we don’t destroy.

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