So, we come to the famous portion Yitro. SO much to unpack! The portion begins with this famous dialogue between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, and the discussion on best to manage the Israelites. This is management 101 as the message of delegation rings true. (Chapter 18). However, the thrust and power of this portion is in the Revelation at Sinai (20).
No doubt many of your will delve into this at Torah study this week. I wanted to raise with you for our purposes the idea of revelation itself. The issue of the Biblical revelation is of great importance as the acceptance or non-acceptance of it is the great source of the difference in interpretation between traditional Judaism and non-halachic forms of Judaism. Do you believe in the Divine Revelation, or do you believe that the Torah was written by people. It stems from this 20th chapter.
But beyond that, what do we mean by revelation today? Look back in our life span. How has the sacred been “revealed” to each of us? Was it in some powerful “aha” moment, or slowly over time, when new truths were revealed and understood. Our life experience has, I am sure, revealed many truths as the various stages of life that we have lived. What were they? What did these moments teach us? How were we changed? How open have we been to see the mysterious acting in our lives?
There is one additional issue that I want to raise that also flows from this portion. In the Plaut commentary to the Torah, he cites a quote from Maurice Samuel that states “Just as Genesis is an explosive denial of the randomness of the physical universe, so the revelation at Sinai is a repudiation of the meaninglessness of history” (p. 518). History is part of Judaism. We are a people tied to history. Sadly, in our times, the study of history seems to have been left behind. We do so at our own peril. Every day we are witnessing Santayana’s famous cliché that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Be it personal history or Jewish history, it is necessary to look and study what has been “revealed” to us, learn from it, so we may make choices that sanctify 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.