Family Corner: Parshat Yitro

Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Posted by: Family Corner

Family Corner is a space to offer interactive and thoughtful ideas for family engagement with the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading).   

This week in the Parsha (Yitro) we encounter themes of the Ten Commandments, Shabbat, honoring parents and honesty.  

Parsha Summary  

  • Yitro brings his daughter Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to his son-in-law Moses. (18:1-12) 
  • Moses follows Yitro's advice and appoints judges to help him lead the people. (18:13-27) 
  • The Children of Israel camp in front of Mount Sinai. Upon hearing the covenant, the Israelites respond, "All that God has spoken we will do." (19:1-8) 
  • After three days of preparation, the Israelites encounter God at Mount Sinai. (19:9-25) 
  • God gives the Ten Commandments aloud directly to the people. (20:1-14) 
  • Frightened, the Children of Israel ask Moses to serve as an intermediary between God and them. Moses tells the people not to be afraid. (20:15-18) 

Torah Thought 

וַיְסַפֵּ֤ר מֹשֶׁה֙ לְחֹ֣תְנ֔וֹ אֵת֩ ל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה יְהֹוָה   

Moses then recounted to his father-in-law everything that the LORD had done  

וַיֹּ֘אמֶר֮ יִתְרוֹ֒ בָּר֣וּךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִצִּ֥יל אֶתְכֶ֛ם מִיַּ֥ד מִצְרַ֖יִם וּמִיַּ֣ד פַּרְעֹ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר הִצִּיל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם מִתַּ֖חַת יַד־מִצְרָֽיִם׃ 

"Blessed be the LORD,” Jethro said, “who delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. (Ex. 18: 8-10) 

Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter, the fourth Rebbe of the Ger Hassidic dynasty sees these verses as a lesson on how to tell a good story.  

He points out that the general practice is to make a blessing on the occurrence of a miracle only when one  see the actual place where the miracle took place. In this case, Jethro after just hearing about the miracles (w/o seeing the place) that God did for the Israelite's, blessed God.  

Rabbi Alter answers that Moshe told the story so well, with such detail, excitement that Jethro felt that he WAS actually witnessing the miracle. Rabbi Alter compares it to showing someone a picture of a place the way it looked in the past.  It can transport us back. 

This is a delightful teaching as it reminds us that the way we tell a story of our values and faith can transform the listener. If we share our thoughts about our religious life with our children by expressing excitement, wonder and that we feel privileged to be Jewish, there is a better chance that our kids will feel the same way.  

One of my favorite prayers is this one, which describes Judaism as:  “Firm, established and enduring, right, faithful, beloved, cherished, delightful, pleasant, awesome, mighty, perfect, accepted, good and beautiful is this faith for us forever.” 

If we focus our story telling on what is beloved, cherished, delightful and pleasant, then maybe, those around us, will feel similarly.  

Follow up: 

  • Spend some time this Shabbat talking with your family about what you love about being Jewish. 
  • Ask your family members what they love about being Jewish.  
  • Create a “Top 10 reasons the XYZ family loves Judaism” and hang it on your fridge. 

Activities, Videos, Crafts and More!    

PJ Library Recommendation 

Shh....shh...Shabbat by Linda Elovitz Marshall 
Ages: 3-5
Synopsis: All week long, animals are hustling and bustling, this way and that. But when Friday evening arrives, everyone quiets down to enjoy the peace of Shabbat -- frogs, turtles, mice, even humans!

Devash (Published by Hadar): Devash is a weekly parashah magazine that makes learning Torah sweet. By engaging directly with texts and taking kids seriously as Jews, Devash helps children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion. Devash is designed for kids aged 7-11 to read independently, or together with families and teachers.

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Category: Family Corner