December 3, 2023
Parashat Yitro

When you Choose Shabbat, you choose to learn that every Shabbat is different and special. This week I learned that Parashat Yitro (יִתְרוֹ‎) is the 17th weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings.

According to Wikipedia, Yitro (יִתְרוֹ‎) contains 4,022 Hebrew letters, 1,105 words and 75 verses, making Yitro the shortest weekly Torah portion in the Book of Exodus. Yitro (יִתְרוֹ‎) tells of Jethro’s organizational counsel to Moses and God’s revelation of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Rabbi Michael D Klein of Temple Torat Emet offers his insights on this week’s Torah reading, Yitro (יִתְרוֹ‎):

“What does it mean to be a “moral person”? Before the time of the 10 Commandments, any person who lived their life following the 7 Laws given to Noah was deemed to be living a moral life. Indeed, to this day, we consider any person who is not of the Jewish faith who observes these laws to be a righteous gentile. After the time of Mattan Torah, that we read about in this weeks Torah portion, Yitro, the minimum requirement is that, as Jews, we adhere to the commandments.

Unfortunately, if you were to ask most people, and even many who call themselves Jewish, to recite and explain the 10 Commandments, I suspect that many could not. Observing the state of the world today, I also suspect, that many people today, probably either don’t know the 10 Commandments or choose to ignore them. Our society today is so accustomed to violent actions because they grow up without any connection to or knowledge of the 10 Commandments!

As Jews, we are held to a higher standard. The 10 Commandments are the minimum requirements that are the first 10 of 613 Commandments that G-d has given us to make our lives meaningful and kind. Many of these mitzvot are applicable only to men or women. Many mitzvot apply only to those living in Eretz Yisroel. Many mitzvot cannot be followed since the time of the destruction of the 2nd Temple. What remains is the framework of commandments and good deeds that, if adhered to, form the framework of a moral and just society. Most of the laws contained in the Torah involve common sense, decency, and kindness and respect for all creation. They are not difficult to adhere to but many people eschew them because their requirements sometimes interfere with their “me first” hedonistic pursuits. Judaism is above all a religion of balance. We acknowledge our animal instincts and elevate them to the level of Kedusha (Holiness). The 613 Mitzvot teach us to sanctify time and space and how to utilize our time to make our lives whole and meaningful. We are supposed to be an “OR OLAM” -a light to the world- leading all the nations toward a more peaceful and just existence.

Questions to ponder:

  1. As Moses ascends Har Sinai the voice of the Shofar is sounded. Where was this shofar originally found and what is its location?
  2. How do we honor the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy?
  3. On what day of the week was the Torah given?
  4. What advice did Yitro give to Moses?
  5. How does Yitro acknowledge the supremacy of Hashem?”

Rabbi Michael D. Klein

Rabbi Michael D. Klein attended Yeshiva College of South Florida and served as Torah Reader, Hebrew teacher, Chazzan and spiritual leader of various synagogues throughout South Florida. In January 2015 he became Ritual Director, Bnai/Bnot Mitzvah instructor and 7th grade Hebrew instructor for Temple Torat Emet of Boynton Beach. In October 2019 he was accepted into an accelerated track and received his shicha from Yeshiva Adath Wolkowisk and has been the Rabbinic leadership of Temple Torat Emet since August 2020. In September of 2022 he was appointed Rabbinic and Spiritual Advisor of the Florida Region of FJMC.

Choose Shabbat; choose to celebrate, to light candles, sing songs and learn a little Torah.

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