Torah – Exodus 18:1-20:23 Haftarah – Isaiah 6:1-7;9:5-6 Brit Chadashah – Matthew 8:5-20
Parasha (portion) Yitro, the Hebrew name commonly known as Jethro is our focus of study this week. Yitro, Moshe’s (Moses) father-in-law was a pagan high priest from Midian. Naturally, it may seem a bit odd at first for such an important set of events in Jewish and indeed world history that this gentile would be honored with holding the title to this week’s portion.
We know of course from reading the text and hearing what the sages have to say about him that after hearing the report of Moshe and his accounts of how the One True G-d delivered them with a mighty hand out of Egypt that Yitro acknowledged YHVH to be the One True G-d.
This parasha is known for the leadership wisdom given to Moshe from his father-in-law. It is well-known for the events at Mt. Sinai and the giving of Torah, and the listing of the Ten Commandments.
I want to focus on one quick idea regarding the “gathering” at the foot of the mountain.
Exodus 19:2-18, “For they had departed from Rephidim, had come [to] the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to G-d, and the L-RD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and [how] I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [is] Mine. 6 ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These [are] the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the L-RD commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the L-RD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the L-RD. 9 And the L-RD said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” So Moses told the words of the people to the L-RD. 10 Then the L-RD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. 11 “And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the L-RD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 “You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves [that] you do [not] go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 ‘Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot [with an arrow]; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not come near [your] wives.” 16 Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who [were] in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai [was] completely in smoke, because the L-RD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.” (NKJV)
This is surely one of the greatest displays of awesome power ever witnessed by man. A truly epic event in history. Clearly “gods” of wood and stone who are no gods at all have never displayed such awesome power in the sight of so many.
In fact, this is my point for the week. We know there to be about 600,000 adult men at this place and time. Scholars generally agree that when you account for women and children there was likely a gathering of closer to three million people! Mainly this population was made up of the Hebrew children, but we know there were some Egyptian converts to Judaism that were among the souls present.
Speaking of souls present, the sages teach that not only were these people present, but that HaShem had gathered every soul that was destined to ever be born at this place and time! Just ponder that thought for a moment and let it sink in.
The Word teaches that by the testimony of two or three witnesses a matter is established. Clearly, this is the most wonderful, miraculous event to be experienced in the history of the world. This thing was established by a factor of a million!