Hearing of the miracles G-d performed for Bnei Yisrael, Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro arrives with Moshe’s wife & sons in the desert. Yitro, impressed by Hashem’s power, converts & joins Am Yisrael. He recommends that local judges be appointed to adjudicate smaller matters so that Moshe may attend to larger issues; Moshe accepts his advice.

Bnei Yisrael arrive at Mt. Sinai where the Torah is offered to them. They accept & prepare for 3 days to receive the Torah. On the 3rd day, amidst dramatic thunder & lightning, G-d’s voice emanates from the mountain & announces the Aseret HaDibrot:

1) Believe in Hashem
2) Don’t have other gods
3) Don’t use Hashem’s name in vain
4) Observe Shabbat
5) Honor your parents
6) Don’t murder
7) Don’t commit adultery
8) Don’t kidnap
9) Don’t testify falsely
10) Don’t covet.

After receiving the first 2 commandments directly from Hashem, the Jewish People are terrified & ask that Moshe intercedes & relays Hashem’s word to them.

The Haftora is from Yeshayahu 6:1. It contains the vivid image of the “Merkava,” the heavenly chariot that was also described by Yechezkael. Yeshayahu speaks about the eventual downfall of the kingdom of Judea due to its failure to keep the commandments that are highlighted in the parsha of Yitro. We also meet Isaiah’s son – his name, “Shaar-Yashuv,” a “remnant shall remain” – presages the stark reality that throughout our history, only a fraction of the entire Jewish People will survive and faithfully maintain our eternal existence.

We bentsch Rosh Chodesh Adar this Shabbat; it will be 2 days, Friday and next Shabbat.


The highlight of our Sedra – and perhaps all the Torah! is the reading of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments. The Torahs intro to this earth-shaking event – And G-d spoke ALL these things, saying. is puzzling; of course Hashem spoke all these things! And so Rashi explains:

Hashem first spoke all 10 commandments at the same time (an act that is humanly impossible), and then He delineated each of them one by one.

The obvious question is that if a human being could not process all the commandments presented simultaneously, then what was the purpose of doing it? Particularly if we were soon going to hear them individually anyway!

I suggest that G-d was sending a crucial message: While every Mitzva is a “stand-alone” important act that brings merit and meaning to our lives, we must also appreciate the totality of the Torah. We cannot pick and choose which Mitzvot we will keep, and discard the others. We also cannot decide which “type” of Mitzvot we will respect – those that are between us and Hashem, or those which are between us and our fellow human being – and just focus on those alone. It is a package deal – just as you cannot keep your lungs healthy yet neglect your heart, or follow a healthy diet only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Sadly, we have seen too many people promote the admirable practice of studying Torah, or bringing happiness to brides and grooms, or honoring the deceased, while at the same time endangering the welfare of others around them (not to mention
their own well-being!). That is what Chazal call, “Mitzva haba b’aveira,” a meritorious act that is accomplished by illicit means (the classic case:stealing another person’s Lulav and Etrog in order to make a blessing on it!). The positive is swallowed up by the negative.

The goal is to strive to be wholly holy – that’s the package we must deliver to the Almighty.

Written by Rabbi Weiss