Parashat Yitro // “Jethro”

- ס י ט -

How can we earn the divine crown every day?

God offers the Israelites an everlasting covenant at Mount Sinai

“And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine, And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do” Exodus 19:8

  • The Israelites are about to be given the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai. They have transitioned from darkness to light and are ready to come into contact with the divine presence. The Israelites have reached this spiritual level in the period spanning their exodus from Egypt to their arrival at Sinai. Spiritual work is not enough. We are also required to correct at least one bad behavior every single day. We can always change our wrong habitsand it is even necessary that we do so before we can ascend spiritually.
  • One of the requirements for receiving the Torah is Israel’s consent: “All that God has spoken we will faithfully do!” (Exodus 24:7). Similarly, the Torah can only be followed if done willingly. This is a covenant to which the entire people willingly agree. 

Moses receives the Tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai

“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” Exodus 19:16 – 20

  • “When Israel accorded precedence to the declaration ‘we will do’ over the declaration ‘we will hear’, 600,000 ministering angels came and tied two crowns to each and every member of the Jewish people, one corresponding to ‘we will do’ and one corresponding to ‘we will hear'” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate of Shabbat 98a).
  • We learn from the revelation at Sinai that every person has the ability to earn a divine crown. To be deserving of God’s light, we must correct our ways and multiply our merits. Insofar as we are physical beings, it is natural that at times we may find the sublime Torah unappealing. After all, human beings were created out of lowly dust, whereas the Torah is an ethereal creation. 

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “Jethro”

  • We must constantly strive to move forward, even if there are many obstacles along the way – just as the Israelites do on their wanderings. We must cling to our big plans and objectives and not be intimidated by our instincts or fears.
  • If we stand united, we can discover new horizons, revel in God’s creation, and correct the world. True happiness and spiritual elevation can only occur if we act freely and collectively.
  • Each of us can, in our own personal way, earn back our crown. Once we improve our actions, we can become “vessels of merits” and relive the revelation that took place when the Torah was given.
  • The journey to Mount Sinai entails leaving darkness for the sake of light. Spiritual work is not enough for this. We must also get rid of our negativity, unnecessary criticism, and bad habits.  
  • Every person must exercise their uniqueness and contribute their share. God alone is one party to this covenant. The other is Israel – a large multitude. Good can be achieved when we find the balance between plurality and uniformity. 

Flexibility is being able to receive guidance and change course