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TOP MANAGER JETHRO or YITRO – Conversion to Judaism

Exodus 18:1–20:26; Isaiah 6:1-7; 7:1-6; 9:5-6
By Michael Schneider, Jerusalem

Commentary:
Our Torah portion “Jethro” is one of the six readings named after a person. The others include Noah, Sarah, Korah, Balak and Pinchas (Phinneas). Our reading was named for the heathen and pagan priest of Midian who eventually became Moses’ father-in-law. It is here, we read in the heart of the Torah the most important scripture in the Jewish faith with the giving of the law and here it is named after a heathen (goy).

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On 15 Shevat was the New Year of Trees → Tu B’Shvat.
More or less a whole new life began.
Also in the first sentence of this week’s Torah portion which begins with the three main personality traits of a person (here Jethro) in relation to his Creator:
your own name,
to take the Exodus from Egypt for true,
believe that this God, alone, Israel has brought out there.

In fact, we meet in this sentence the name of the three top managers of Judaism: Israel (Yisrael people), Jethro and Moses. Strikingly, however, is the middle one, because he – Yitro (Jethro or Yethro) – was not a Jew. Rather the complete opposite: CEO of an idol nation. It is this aspect opens up a particular perspective of God to the non-Jewish people, and far beyond to look beyond for all top leaders of these nations to do THEIR job, an order that they and only they can do alone. Dear Sir Top Manager: Leave, firstly yourself, your idol gods – convert to the God of Israel, then get your people out there (Egypt) and bring them into the position that they can receive and understand the Commandments of God (Chapter 20), blessed be He, by choosing people able to bring them all in a holy row, “moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them”
by Jethro’s prototype and according to his instructions here → click Exodus 18
and Moshe’s model there → click Ex. 12,38-49 “And a mixed multitude went up also with them” (49 “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you”) . . .

. . . for this is (forever) how the Bible ends (2 Chronicles 36,23): “Whosoever there is among you of all His people – the LORD his God be with him – let him go up.”

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For his conversion to Judaism the non-Jew Jethro, Moses‘ father in law, just “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses‘ father in law before God” (Exodus 18:12), while the conversion of the non-Jewish woman Ruth was just the statement to her Jewish mother in law: “for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). In the Torah an instruction for the giyur cannot be found, except, of course, this one in Exodus 12:48: „And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you“ …in principle saying: You are welcome! More about conversion to Judaism today, read here »

This shows us again that God’s Word was made available to all of mankind.

Moses described ‘all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey’ but never ceased to give honor and praise to God Almighty! This is not a story filled with complaints, but rather one that is encouraging. We can learn from this when we encounter the hardships of life – give praises to God!

The heathen priest recognized God for who he was: “The LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed” (18:11).

Jethro gave Moses advice in changing the justice system, as a loving father-in-law, from one judge (Moses) to 70 – with one rationale: “You will surely wear out (naval), both yourself and these people who are with you…” (18:18).

The verb ‘naval’ was given in the verse twice, emphasizing the weight of the word that means ‘to wither, to wilt and to dry-out’ like the leaves (Psalm 1:3). He meant that Moses’ antithesis could slowly dry-out. But, it also meant that naval is a vile person, a miscreant, scoundrel (see Nabal, the evil and harsh husband of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25). Therefore, it was the last thing that Jethro desires for his son-in-law.

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Commentary by Rabbi Chaim Richman, The Temple Institute, Jerusalem:

„I am Hashem your G-d.“ (Exodus 20:2) This is the first commandment and it is essentially the last. G-d has woven His name throughout the entire Torah, and His presence throughout all of creation. To know His name and to believe in Him is the entirety of of all the commandments.

God many times calls a person, blesses them, but with those abundants of blessings comes a need for help. A man of God, like Moses should humble himself and let go of the little things and allow others to administer the small ‘cases’. Believe me, it’s not always easy for them to do this.

“’Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:5-6).

The Receiving of the Torah (the Law; correct translation: guidance or teaching) three months after the exodus from Egypt, falls according to Jewish scholars during Hebrew year of 2448 (1312 befor).

When the Jewish people came to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah they practiced humility! Humility is the key to unity!

The Ten Commandments were engraved on two tablets. Both tablets were of equal size and contrary to popular belief, the two tablets were square and not rounded on top.

The right tablet contained the commandments about GOD and the left contained the commandments concerning man. The five commandments on the right contained 146 words and the five others on the left had only 26 words. Why? How the Jewish scholars explain this?

The left tablets, with mitzvot (commandments) for man, where written with bigger letters to add emphasis. Because one cannot claim piety by meticulously do Mitzvot toward God and ignore the commandments of how to treat our neighbor. Our relationship towards others plays a huge role in our relationship with God. Someone who is not faithful to people will not be faithful to God.

Why ten (commandments)? The Talmud tells us that the Ten Commandments correspond to the ten sayings God used to create the world. “So it teaches us that by keeping the ten Commandments, one preserves the universe!” – that’s why we need to be doers of the Word!
Shabbat Shalom



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