I was supposed to write this week's d'var Torah for the wonderful parsha Yitro, which includes the revelation at Sinai and the Ten Words, or Commandments. Obviously, I didn't do it when it should have been done, and I apologize, even more so as it was my Bat Mitzvah parsha a few years ago, and I asked to do it.

So I am writing a few words about it, though not a complete d'var Torah.

At my Bat Mitzvah, I asked the question, why is this parsha, which contains the defining event in Jewish history, named for Moses' father-in-law?

Moses' life is generally broken into three periods - 40 years as a prince in Egypt, 40 years of exile, where is lives with Jethro as a shepherd and marries Jethro's daughter Zipporah, and 40 years leading the Israelites. Now, Egyptian royalty were often considered as demigods so in his first 40 years he was apart from ordinary people. And the period of leading the Israelites is also marked by his closeness to God as a prophet, also separated from most of the people surrounding him.

Only during the years he spent with Jethro was he allowed to be simply human, simply himself. I think this was the only time in his life that he was happy. Here he was husband, father, son. The focus of his life was on important relationships with family.

When Jethro hears of the exodus and the victories over enemies along the way, he brings Moses' wife and sons to him. I can here him saying to himself, "that sounds like a man who needs his wife." Jethro experiences the revelation with the Israelites and adopts the belief in God, but leaves to return home.

Moses prepares for the revelation and for going up the mountain by washing and staying away from his wife for three nights, like the other Israelites. But before he can ascend to meet God, he needs to be reminded of his humanity, of the people he loves and who love him. This is the real reason for the name of this parsha.

Since Shabbat is over, I wish you all Shavuot tov - a good week.

Originally posted to ramara on Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 08:17 PM PST.

Also republished by Elders of Zion and Street Prophets .

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