Parashah Yitro 2020 (Jethro) Exodus 18-20

Moshe and the people have been traveling and are nearing Midyan, so Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro is the English version of his name), comes out with Zipporah and Moshe’s two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to meet him and return them to him.

The Chumash notes that Moshe must have sent them back in Exodus 4:24 when he stopped along the way to Egypt and the Lord was angry with him, which was quelled when Zipporah circumcised Gershom.

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While with Moshe, Yitro sees him judging all the people, all by himself, and recommends that he delegate his authority to others who are trustworthy. This was to make it easier on Moshe, as well as to ensure that the people waiting for judgment also had it easier. Consequently, this was such a good idea that this form of management has been used ever since.

Next, the people come to Sinai, and God gives the 10 Commandments to Moshe, saying that so long as the people obey God’s words, they will be his chosen people and a kingdom of priests.

When the people hear the sound of the shofar, see the burning mountaintop covered in thick smoke, and feel the earth trembling under their feet, they tell Moshe that he should go to God and they will do whatever God tells them to do through Moshe, but they are too afraid to bear witness to God. This is where the parashah ends.

This parashah has the 10 Commandments: how can I even begin to start to talk about them without writing a book? There is too much, and even if I did one message on each of the individual commandments, it would take a book for each one to truly do them justice.

So I am copping out on this one- maybe, if enough people ask me, I will do a teaching series on the 10 Commandments, but I am not going to talk about them today.

Today, I am going to talk about what I have talked about many times in postings and answers to questions raised in different discussion groups regarding the validity of the Torah for Christians.

Here is what God told Moshe to tell the people just before giving him the Big 10 (Exodus 19:5-6):

Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ These are the words you are to speak to the people of Israel.

God has given a commission, if you will, to the Jewish people, which is to be his nation of priests. But priests to whom?

I tried to find a standard definition or listing of the responsibilities of a priest, but couldn’t find any two that gave the same answer. The one I am to show you seemed to be the most generic (I apologize for the length, but I believe the entire thing really has to be seen, and the part underlined is by me):

There is no common definition of the duties of priesthood between faiths; but generally it includes mediating the relationship between one’s congregation, worshippers, and other members of the religious body, and its deity or deities, and administering religious rituals and rites. These often include blessing worshipers with prayers of joy at marriages, after a birth, and at consecrations, teaching the wisdom and dogma of the faith at any regular worship service, and mediating and easing the experience of grief and death at funerals – maintaining a spiritual connection to the afterlife in faiths where such a concept exists. Administering religious building grounds and office affairs and papers, including any religious library or collection of sacred texts, is also commonly a responsibility – for example, the modern term for clerical duties in a secular office refers originally to the duties of a cleric.

When Moshe was alive, he was the one who taught the people what God required of them; the priesthood was restricted to physical and clerical care of the Tabernacle and the performance of rituals, such as sacrifice and cleansing of those who had become unclean.

This role expanded after Moshe’s death and entry into the Land of Israel to include the teaching of the Torah and judging of the people in religious and civil matters.

Today the role of a priest or rabbi is pretty much to be the intermediary between the congregants and God and to teach them the way to live as God requires.

Now, let’s go back to God telling Moshe that the Jews will be his nation of cohanim: because the cohen serves God in the performance of the rituals and (God knew this) would eventually also be the ones to teach the congregants how to live and worship according to God’s commands, that means the answer to the question, “To whom will the Jews be a nation of priests?” is: to the world!

God separated within the Jews the tribe of Levi to serve as cohanim to the Jews; he then separated the Jews to be cohanim to the world, which means that the question of whether or not the Torah is still valid for everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is unquestionably declared by God to be: YES!! 

God gave the Torah to the Jews to bring to the world: God never said all laws were for Jews but only these for Catholics, those for Episcopalians, and here are 15 just for Protestants.  No, he didn’t do that: he gave Moshe his instructions on how we worship God and how we treat each other and told him that the Jews would be the ones to bring this to the rest of the world.

This means that if you have been taught the Torah is only for Jews, then what you have been taught is against what God said. Sorry- that is a hard word to hear: it means your religious leaders and family members who you love and trust have led you not to eternal joy but to eternal damnation for sinning against God, but, well…that’s how it is. They didn’t do it on purpose because they were told the same lies by those they trusted and loved, as well, who were told the same lies by those who they loved and trusted, all the way back to somewhere around the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd Century CE.

So, there you have it. This parashah contains the most important set of rules that have ever been created or written down but are meaningless if people think these are the only rules God gave that apply to everyone.

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Until next time, Shabbat shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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