Monday, February 2, 2015


Exodus 18:1–20:23

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Words of God

The week's parashah, Yitro, takes its name from the opening line which states "And Yitro (Jethro) father-in-law of Moses heard all that God had done to Moses and to Israel his people, that God had taken Israel out of Egypt." The parashah then continues on with Yitro's advice to Moses not to take on the duty of judging the people's grievances alone, but to appoint judges to help him. Finally, the parashah reaches a climax with the central event of our religious mythology, the giving of the law/Torah at Sinai. It is at Sinai that the ragtag bunch of former slaves finally covenants themselves to God as a people. At Sinai the nation/people of Israel is born.

At this point I must confess to you that I do not believe in Sinai as a literal, factual, or historical event. I doubt that it happened at all, just as I doubt the historical veracity of the exodus, the splitting of the Sea of Reeds and so many other events in the Torah. But that does not concern me. What concerns me is not the "fact" of these mythic narratives, but rather, the "Truth" of them. I care what the message is that the tale is meant to teach. I care what the ethics, values and beliefs are that underlie the story, and not whether or not a mountain named Sinai ever existed or a man named Moses ever ascended its heights.

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