Hello and welcome to Torah Thoughts from Adas Israel the Jewish Congregation of Mason City, Iowa. We hope this bit of inspiration carries you through the Sabbath and well into next week. Let's get started!
This is Shabbat Yitro (Jethro) where we read Exodus 18:1 - 20:23. It is called Yitro because that is the the first word in this week's Torah reading, "Jethro, the minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moses heard everything that G-d did to Moses and to Israel, His people..."
What happens is that Jethro, a distinguished person and former adviser to Pharaoh decides to cast his lot with Israel. At first Moses was seen by Jethro as a homeless wanderer who married his daughter. But now he understands the plan G-d has for Israel and he converts. An interesting fact is that his name was Jether but after his conversion the letter vav was added which changed his name to Jethro. In a way, he was added to the people of Israel. In this portion we also learn that Jethro advises Moses on how to better serve and judge the people. Our thanks to Cecil B. Demille for casting Carlton Heston huh?
This is also the Torah portion that contains the Ten Commandments. Did you know that there are differences in the Ten Commandments as stated here (Exodus 20:1 -14) and restated later in Deuteronomy 5:6 - 18? No, really. Go ahead and look it up. We are told that the first two were heard directly from G-d by every Jew and then the people begged Moses to be their intermediary for the remaining eight because the experience was too intense. Can you imagine what that must have been like?
An interesting side-story about this photo. Some people thought the light coming from Moses was really...horns. Often anti-Jewish images of Moses show him with horns...
The Torah portion ends with the Almighty telling Moses to instruct the Jewish people not to make any images of G-d. To this day if you walk into any synagogue it is highly unlikely that you will see images of anything least of all a person. So strong is this commandment that we are very careful not to even hint at the idea we worship something or someone other than G-d.
They were then commanded to make an earthen altar; and eventually to make a stone altar, but without the use of a sword or metal tool. Why? Because the alter was to be holy and the intent was to honor G-d and not take up a weapon in the building.
It looks like our next Friday night service will be on the 16th of February at 7:15PM and our Midrash (Bible Study) will take place on the 17th starting at 10:00AM. All are welcome to attend our services and our Torah study.
May you have a wonderful Shabbat!
See you in Shul!