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Yitro in a Nutshell

Yitro in a Nutshell

Exodus 18:1–20:23


Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, hears of the great miracles which G‑d performed for the people of Israel, and comes from Midian to the Israelite camp, bringing with him Moses’ wife and two sons. Jethro advises Moses to appoint a hierarchy of magistrates and judges to assist him in the task of governing and administering justice to the people.

The children of Israel camp opposite Mount Sinai, where they are told that G‑d has chosen them to be His “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation.” The people respond by proclaiming, “All that G‑d has spoken, we shall do.”

On the sixth day of the third month (Sivan), seven weeks after the Exodus, the entire nation of Israel assembles at the foot of Mount Sinai. G‑d descends on the mountain amidst thunder, lightning, billows of smoke and the blast of the shofar, and summons Moses to ascend.

G‑d proclaims the Ten Commandments, commanding the people of Israel to believe in G‑d, not to worship idols or take G‑d’s name in vain, to keep the Shabbat, honor their parents, not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, and not to bear false witness or covet another’s property. The people cry out to Moses that the revelation is too intense for them to bear, begging him to receive the Torah from G‑d and convey it to them.

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Discussion (11)
February 8, 2015
Jethro was originally a Priest of Midian, as he is clearly called in Exodus 2:16. According to the Medrash, Jethro had tried serving all kinds of idolatry, and came to the realization that none of them had any substance. He then called a town meeting and announced his resignations as Priest, and he handed over all of his idolatry to the town. Following his resignation, the townspeople excommunicated him, and forbade anybody from working for him. This is the reason that Moshe found the daughters of Jethro at the well watering the sheep, because no shepherd would do any work for Jethro. As well, the other shepherds would push Jethro's daughters away from the well, as they were the children of the excommunicated ex-Priest.
When Jethro heard of all the miracles that God had done for the Jews, he came to join them in the desert. There he converted to Judaism and eventually returned to Midian to convert his entire family.
Shaul Wolf
February 7, 2015
I have not been able to find more specific details as to the origin of Jethro and his family. I understand he is a Priest from Median. Does that mean that he is a Priest to other gods? Or is it that he is a descendant of Abraham and therefore his wisdom and ability to offer a sacrifice and bless Adonai derive from his priestly role in Median? I have received different answers on the subject (1) Jethro is converted and (2) He was descendant of Abraham and served G-d. Any clarification would be very helpful.
La Jolla, CA USA
February 11, 2013
Re: Yitro the Kohen of Midian
Indeed, as Rabbi Sholomo Yitzchaki - Rashi point out (Numbers 12:1) Moses wife was not actually a Cushite. Rather, this is a reference to Tziporah's great beauty.
Yehuda Shurpin for
February 1, 2013
It's interesting that they were able to hear first 2 commandments, since there is a reason behind everything in the Torah and these commandments must be extra special for them to receive directly from G-d.

I think they spoke in Egyptian because after 400 years there it became the primary language they could understand (same for me Russian is primary).

It mentions about Moses sons names and why they were named.. I am reading a it in my language it say one was named Gershom from "ger" - alien, because Moshe was in the foreign land. And another Eliezer (helped by G-d) because He saved Moses from Paro's sword. When they named children in those days they gave it a lot of thought.
Leon Sandler
Des Plaines, IL
January 31, 2013
Yitro the Kohen of Midian
Midian was east of Aquaba; Later, we know Miriam slanders the Cushite wife of Moshe--which generally refers to Ethiopia or Yemen-----How is this possible if her father is a Kohen of Midian. Even if it refers to the tribe of Midian,she could not be a Cushite. Something is in basic conflict in this element of the Torah!!
Hy Finegold
Ra''anana, Israel
February 8, 2012
RE: Egyptian Was Spoken at Sinai?
Yes, the very first word of the 10 Commandments, "anochi" is an Egyptian word for "I". (Midrash Tanchuma (Buber ed.) Yitro 16).
Rabbi Menachem Posner
February 7, 2012
Moses' Sons
The names of Moses' sons were Gershom and Eliezer. Gershom is mentioned in Exodus 2:21-22. Eliezer is not mentioned by name until Exodus 18:4

Other than that, to the best of my knowledge, there is no further mention of the two sons in the Chumash.
Pottsville, PA, USA
February 7, 2012
Egyptian Was Spoken at Sinai?
So here's what the link said that I clicked on in my email to get to this page:

"Yitro in a Nutshell

G‑d writes a book, Moses argues with angels, Egyptian is spoken at Sinai, the Ten Commandments are set in parallel stones, and the Torah is given to Israel . . . "

However, the article doesn't even mention Egyptian being spoken at Sinai, and this is the first I've ever heard of that. Please elaborate further for us, thanks!
Virginia Beach, VA
January 26, 2011
What happened was that Moses went up to the mountain. Then G-d spoke the first 2 of the 10 Commandments to them, as they stood down at the foot of the mountain. But they could not handle it, so G-d stopped speaking to them directly and instead had Moses relay the rest.
Gershon McGreevy
Wichita, KS
January 25, 2011
The Children of Isreal
According to this reading, does this mean that the children of Isreal had a choice to accompany Moses to learn as God directed? "The people cry out to Moses that the revelation is too intense for them to bear, begging him to receive the Torah from G-d and convey it to them." Does this mean the people had a choice to stand with Moses? We know Moses was chosen by God to lead his people out. I wonder if they could have accompanied Moses?
Auburn, CA, USA
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