So, we come to Yitro, one of, if not the most famous of portions. The Ten Commandments at Sinai is the main event this Shabbat. So much flows from this event, so much Jewish thought, theology, theory and fable. No doubt your weekly Torah study will find more richness here.
I was struck this week with a text that comes the section before Sinai. It is also a well quoted passage, a “must” for congregational leadership and students of management. In Exodus 18: 13-23 we read of Jethro, Moses’s father in law, dispensing great time true advice. Moses sits as magistrate, educating issues of law and is overwhelmed, burnt out, so to speak. Jethro calls on Moses and reminds him that you cannot do everything alone and expect success. Delegate, learn from others’ experience and share the vision. This Moses does!
What I thought of as I looked at this section, and note that the establishment of a judicial system comes before the Revelation, was that this speaks to the need for each of us to have a sense of infrastructure in order to carry out our own vision. We have written and we teach a lot about people of our age developing a “maturing spirituality”. We now have a lifetime of experience to draw on. That experience can form a structure upon which we can base the rest of our life. We have learned from experience, and that experience is invaluable in helping us shape the rest of our lives.
Likewise ,our spiritual life. That same life experience has provided us the opportunity to define what the God in our life really is. We need not fear fantasy laden mythologies of reward and punishment. Each of us will come to our own understanding of what this idea of God is, what it means for us and how we relate to this concept. Surely the God we worship now is not the one we held to when we were children. Life has taken care of that.
What this portion is also about the, is a reminder that each of us needs that ethical and moral foundation in order to function. Moses crates this judicial system over and against which we Commandments can operate. The vision is defined by structure, just as, for us, we hope, the vision of what out lives will be is defined by the structure of the circumstances of our own life. Without structure there is chaos, be in in society, or personal life. We learn from and with others in this shared journey we call life.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.