Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Yitro - 5776

My friends,

The main event in this week's Parasha is the Revelation at Mount Sinai, or the Giving of the Torah.

Following the Exodus and the Crossing of the Sea, the Israelites reach Mount Sinai, the place where G-d had first appeared to Moses thru the burning bush. Moses is told to ask the people whether they want to become a special people and a holy congregation by accepting to follow the laws of the the Torah. Their answer is positive. Three days of preparation follow as the people had to prepare themselves physically and spiritually, to be able to hear the words of G-d.

On the 6th day of Sivan, fifty days to the day after they had left Egypt, they woke up to an unusual display of lightning, thunder, and a thick cloud upon the mountain. Mt Sinai was covered with smoke, because G-d had descended upon it in fire, and the smoke was like the smoke of a furnace, and the entire mountain shook, and there was the sound of a Shofar that grew louder and louder. In the midst of this unusual display, the Ten Commandments are given.

We know the rest of the story. Moses tarries on the mountain for forty days. The people believe that he must have died and ask Aaron to make them a god that will lead them out of the wilderness, and that's how the Golden Calf comes around.

The question is: How could all these people who witnessed G-d's miracles and this Revelation at Sinai turn away from G-d in such a short time?

It would seem that developing faith in G-d is a slow and long process. It comes from within rather than from watching unusual one-time occurrences.

The first tablets containing the Ten Commandments that were given in this Parasha in the midst of thunder and lightning were thrown and broken into pieces when Moses came down and saw the Golden Calf. The second tablets that were given quietly to Moses are the ones that we continue to respect and study to this day. It will take forty years of wandering in the wilderness, where the people will learn and study Torah, which will help them develop into a people who respect G-d and one another.

For our people, the faith in G-d has withstood the challenges of time, wars and oppressions.

I will conclude with a brief discussion in the Talmud.

What are the most important laws in the Torah?

The consensus is, two verses from the Torah. "Shma Yisrael" - "Hear O Israel the L-rd our G-d the L-rd is one", and "Veahavta Lereacha Kamocha" - "Love your neighbor like yourself".

Faith and belief in G-d and treating other people fairly -the Ten Commandments have that balance. The first five are between G-d and humans, and the last five are between people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram