Parsha Yitro: The Gift of the Torah

January 21, 2022
BBYO Weekly Parsha


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Imagine that I hand you $500 cash. You didn’t ask for the money, but I gave it to you anyway. As I handed it over, I said the following: “This is a gift for you. Feel free to use it as you wish.. It is yours.”

Now imagine that I hand you that same $500. But this time when I hand it over, I say with a sense of expectation,” I have $500 and I am choosing to give it to you, and to you alone. But, if you choose to accept this gift, you must follow the rules that go with it.”

This week’s Parsha, Yitro (Exodus 18:1–20:23), is arguably one of the most quintessential pieces in Judaism. It is in this Parshat that G-d descended to Mount Sinai to give the Jewish people, His people, the Torah. It is here that G-d proclaims the 10 Commandments. These are as follows:

  1. First Commandment (Exodus 20:2): I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

  1. Second Commandment (Exodus 20:3-6): You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of anything that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

  1. Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7): You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

  1. Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11): Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord Your God, in it, you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

  1. Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12): Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord God gives you.

  1. Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not murder.

  1. Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not commit adultery.

  1. Eighth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not steal.

  1. Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  1. Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:14): You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, nor his wife, his man-servant, his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

When I handed you that $500 the first time, there were no strings attached. Feel free to use it as you wish and whatever you choose to do is fine with me. However, when I gave the money the second time, there were complete strings attached. But, if you choose to accept this gift, you must follow my rules.”

As in the later case, when G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah at Mount Sinai, expectations were established. In this Torah Portion, G-d stated, “Now, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the people.” This “If” statement clearly defines the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. Essentially, “If” you do what I am asking and follow the rules I have given you then the agreement will remain intact. BUT, if you violate the contract there will be consequences.

This becomes clear when the Jews sent spies to scout Israel in an act of defiance to G-d’s commandments, G-d punished the Jews by condemning them to 40 years in the desert. In this situation, G-d is punishing the Jews for their actions. This situation exemplifies the notion that the Jewish people were no longer the chosen people because although they received the 10 Commandments and the Torah, they did not carry out G-d’s word in the 10 Commandments and the Torah. The covenant was broken. The people would have to show their commitment to restore their place as G-d’s people.

The Cardinal Principles of the Aleph Zadik Aleph and the Menorah Pledge Principles of the B’nai Brith Girls are our covenant. As the future Jewish leaders of the world, take a moment to read through the principles and see how you can apply them to your daily life.  In BBYO, we are given numerous opportunities to make a lasting difference in our community. This could be through inspiring a younger member, aspiring for leadership positions, or attending local programs to promote a strong chapter. As you make your way through BBYO, use the theoretical 10 Commandments that we have been given. Always remember, that it is not just a gift. Like the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai, it comes with a responsibility to adhere to its principles every day. It is worth far more than $500!

Shabbat Shalom,

Max Perry, KIO BBYO Shaliach

Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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