In the Parshah of Yitro the purpose of the Exodus is achieved when, seven weeks after their liberation from Egypt, the people of Israel gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah from G‑d.
But first the Parshah describes the arrival in the Israelite camp of Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian, who has heard of the miracles of the Exodus. Jethro brings with him Moses’ wife, Tzipporah, and Moses’ two sons, Gershom and Eliezer (whom Moses had earlier sent back to Midian), and proclaims:
“Now I know that G‑d is greater than all gods . . .”
The next day, Jethro observes Moses administering justice to the people. “Why do you sit alone,” he asks his son-in-law, “and all the people stand by you from morning to evening?”
“The people come to me to seek G‑d. When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the decrees of G‑d and His instructions.”
“What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear away, you as well as this people that is with you; for this thing is too heavy for you—you are not able to perform it yourself alone.”
Jethro advises Moses to appoint a hierarchy of magistrates to share the burden:
"You be the link between the people and G‑d. . . . You shall show them the way in which they must walk, and the work that they must do.
“But you must also seek out, from amongst all the people, able and G‑d-fearing men, men of truth, who hate unjust gain; and appoint them over the [people] to be leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens.
“Let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge themselves . . . and they shall bear the burden with you.”
Moses accepts Jethro’s advice and does as he suggests, following which “Moses sent off his father-in-law, and he went his way to his own land.”
A People Are Chosen
Moses is summoned to the top of Mount Sinai, where G‑d tells him that He is taking the children of Israel as His own chosen nation:
"Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:
“You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice, and keep My covenant, you shall be My own treasure from among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine.
“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”
Moses descends from the mountain and “called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which G‑d had commanded him.”
And all the people answered together, and said: “All that G‑d has spoken, we will do." And Moses reported the words of the people to G‑d.
G‑d instructs that the people should purify and sanctify themselves for two days, “because on the third day G‑d shall descend upon Mount Sinai before the eyes of the entire people.” The mountain itself should be fenced in, and all should be warned against ascending the mountain or even “touching its edge.”
It came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and the sound of a shofar exceedingly loud, so that all the people in the camp trembled.
Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with G‑d; and they stood under the mountain.
And Mount Sinai smoked in every part, because G‑d descended upon it in fire; the smoke of it ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
The Ten Commandments
G‑d spoke all these words, saying:
You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any carved idol, or any likeness of any thing. . . . You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them . . .
You shall not take the name of the L‑rd your G‑d in vain . . .
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to G‑d. . . . For in six days G‑d made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore G‑d blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother . . .
You shall not murder.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.
You shall not covet . . . anything that is your fellow’s.
The people are overwhelmed by all that they see and hear, and beg Moses: “You speak with us, and we shall hear; but let not G‑d speak with us, lest we die.” So “the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where G‑d was.”
The Parshah concludes with a number of additional laws communicated at Sinai, including the prohibition to use any iron tools in constructing an altar to G‑d.