Parashat Yitro: Questions

Questions for the members of the congregation to consider as they follow along with this week’s parasha, Parashat Yitro.

By Eyal Bitton



  • Why does Jethro leave the comfort of his home to see Moses in the wilderness?
  • Twice in the aliyah, it says that Jethro had heard of what God had done with respect to Israel and Egypt. Only once does it say that Jethro rejoiced as a result. When and why does he rejoice at that moment?



  • Jethro counsels Moses on creating a justice system. He says, “You shall also seek out from among all the capable men who fear God, trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain.” Rashi says that “capable men” refers to wealthy men. Is he right? (Exodus 18:21)



  • Why does Moses learn how to create a better judicial system from Jethro, who is not a Hebrew? Why not receive such instruction from God?



  • God establishes a conditional covenant with the people of Israel (Ch. 19:5). Are we, the Jewish people, still God’s treasured possession?



  • At the start of the aliyah, Moses speaks to the elders of the nation. The next verse (Exodus 19:8), it says “All the people answered as one.” Does this refer to the elders or to the entire nation? And do the subsequent instructions about purification and preparations for the receiving of the Law only apply to the elders or to all the people?


  • There are only ten commandments along with listed here. Lying is not one of them. Why not? Is lying permitted? What else could have been included here and were not? And does that mean that these behaviours are permitted?



  • The people of Israel are afraid when they witness the thunder and lightning at the foot of Mount Sinai. Moses comforts them and says, “Be not afraid; for God has come only in order to test you…” In other versions, the text is translated as “God has come to exalt you…”
    • If the meaning is “to test”, then how has God come to test the people of Israel?
    • If the meaning is “to exalt”, then how has God come to exalt the people of Israel?