The reading of the Torah and the Prophets this next Shabbat is Parashat Yitro (Jethro) from Exodus 18:1 – 20:23. The Haftarah (the reading from the Prophets) is from Isaiah 6:1 – 7:6; 9:5 – 9:6 for Ashkenazi Jews and for the Sephardic Jews, Isaiah 6:1 – 6:13. From the New Testament the reading is from Matthew 8:5-20.
This reading has some of the most dramatic texts in the Bible. The children of Israel only two months after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, are now gathered below Mt. Sinai and commanded to get ready for an encounter of the first class.
The first thing that we encounter in this Torah reading is very interesting for me.
“And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people–that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land’) and the name of the other was Eliezer (for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’); and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wildern ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.’ So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent.” – Exodus 18:1-7 [NKJV]
We learn that all the time that Moses was in Egypt dealing with Pharaoh and demanding the release of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, Moses was not with his family. He had deposited his wife and children with his father-in-law Jethro, a priest of Midian. For me this is very interesting. It shows that Moses who had a personal encounter with the almighty God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the creator of the Universe, didn’t feel enmity or religious zealotry toward Jethro his father-in-law.
What is even more interesting to me is that Moses was not antagonistic with his father-in-law but was willing to accept good administrative management advice on how to manage his leadership with regard to the Children of Israel. What do I learn about myself from this text? A person can be a great teacher a bible scholar, even a good father, but he might not be a great and an efficient administrator.
Jethro, a Midianite priest, is teaching Moses how to delegate authority and structure the administration of the camp of Israel. Here is what I would like to see from the leadership of the Christian Churches and movements:
First, no enmity against leaders of other religious groups even if they differ drastically from your own faith.
Second, respect and honor for the leaders and the members of other religious convictions and always a civil attitude, even if there is sharp criticism and disagreements. You can criticize and discuss and even argue with each other, but also give credit where credit is due. Yeshua is a big critic of the Pharisees, but at the same time Yeshua gives them mega credit:
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.’” – Matthew 23:1-3 [NKJV]
It is possible to disagree and to argue and still give credit where credit is due. In the meeting between Moses and Jethro,
“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent.” – Exodus 18:7 [NKJV]
Third, when you receive good advice take it and implement it. You can learn good things from anyone at times even from your opponents, and even from those with whom you have serious disagreements. Much more beneficial to any situation is to be civilized and honest and when there are disagreements and arguments, to discuss the issues and not discredit the people. Yeshua’s criticism of the Pharisees is very sharp and strong, but it is done after giving them credit and recognizing their authority. There is so much that we all have to learn from the Torah and the Prophets.
Fourth, every time that I read this portion of the Torah, I feel guilty that it took me so long to learn to delegate authority and share my burdens in the Lord’s work with the younger leaders of Netivyah. I think that after a long time, and just in the last moments just before the coronavirus pandemic I managed to delegate leadership to the next generation of leaders that is so much more organized and capable than I. I ask all of you, who support and pray for Netivyah to give full backing and full support in every way to the young leaders, Yehuda, David, and the staff, Daniel, Adam, Nir, Enoch, Tigis, and Nancy, and to the board of directors, Gary, Saiichi, and Jai… These are all men and women of the highest quality and dedication to the Lord!
The other very big thing in our Torah reading is the giving of the Torah to Moses and to the Children of Israel in Mt. Sinai. This is one of the most important events in the history of Israel, but also in the history of the world.
There is no event in the history of mankind that has shaped the face of humanity more than the giving of the Torah to Israel on that occasion when Moses went up the mountain and after 40 days came down with the Torah, and especially with the Ten Commandments.
I have to share with you my experience in the city of Wuhan in China. I was invited by the vice president of the Chinese province of Wuhbei to come and teach in the government-supported Christian seminaries. On the first day that I arrived in Wuhan, during lunch with the vice president of that province that has 80,000,000 people and is bigger than the territory of France, the vice president said that she has enjoyed reading the Bible.
I asked her why? She said: Because it is the first communist document! I was shocked! How? I asked. She said: “This is the first place that it is commanded, ‘If you don’t work you don’t eat!’”
But, much more than that, she continued: “If there were no Bible, there would be no Magna Carta, no workers’ rights, no social security, and no human rights for anyone.” I had to agree with the vice president on this point.
There is no joy without some tragedy. The people lost their courage and hope and asked Aaron the brother of Moses to give them a god that would lead them because a long time had passed, and Moses had still not returned.
Aaron, Moses’ brother made them a golden calf, the symbol of one of Egypt’s main goddesses, the goddess Hathor! The lack of trust and the fear and insecurity of the people of Israel caused them to fall back into idolatry. But, even at this terrible and bad moment – the Lord didn’t reject the whole nation.
The guilty were punished and many died, but the nation did receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. Here is a literal translation from the Hebrew, of the event of giving the Torah to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai:
“And all the people are seeing the voices, and the flames, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mount smoking; and the people see, and move, and stand afar off…” – Exodus 20:18 [Young’s Literal Translation]
This is the text that describes the events that are repeated on the day of Pentecost at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Yeshua at Mt. Zion, in Jerusalem. God is speaking, but the people hear the voices (in the plural – many voices spoken from one mouth), and see the storm and the flames of fire…
There is so much more to learn from this portion of the Torah and remember that the apostles and the elders of the community in Jerusalem recommended to the disciples of Yeshua from among the Gentiles to go hear the Torah read in the Synagogues on Shabbat. Now each one has his own Bible and can even stay home and read the word of God.
There is no replacement or substitute for the reading of the word of God, read in order and daily. You will be enriched both spiritually and mentally.
Just one more point! I sometimes try to imagine how it would be to spend 40 days and nights in the presence of the Almighty God, creator of the universe and discuss the Torah and the laws and the instructions that were to be given to Israel and through Israel to the whole world.
I am looking forward to spending eternity in the presence of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, David, and people like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Elijah would be a very interesting man with whom to share five o’clock tea and crumpets.
I think that we ought to really take more seriously the Lord’s promises of eternal life, and to bank on Yeshua’s return and on the New Jerusalem, and on fellowship with the saints. To really accept and believe and trust in these great promises of our Lord is much more strengthening and empowering and encouraging than any earthly prosperity, wealth, or position that this world can offer me or you!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.