This week’s Parsha, named Yitro, after Moses’ Midianite father-in-law, places us at the foot of Mount Sinai. For the first time in history an entire people, men and women, agree to a Covenant with the Creator. For the first time a relationship with the Ultimate One is established with a people and not only with individuals. The earlier Patriarchs and Matriarchs all had personal relationships with God. Yitro, or Jethro, a non-Israelite, also had a personal relationship the God, and, most likely, mentored Moses in monotheism.
Now, for the first time, an entire people are addressed and enter into a sacred agreement with the Life-Force of the Universe. For the first time the purpose and mission of a people, a nation, is to accept and advance a moral agenda that protects the rights of the poor, the stranger and all those in need. It is a divine covenant that is rooted in fairness and justice. Everyone is accountable before the law. It is a Covenant that is rooted in democratic principles. There is no doubt about the influence of this Covenant in the founding of this country.
“Now, if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, you will be My treasured possession, for the whole earth is Mine. You will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…’” (Ex.19:5,6)
A lot of folk struggle with the concept of a personal God and the God language in the Torah and this idea of a Covenantal relationship. Perhaps if we see “God” as the power of Life and the universal force that calls us to seek freedom, happiness and peace, we may be able to more fully appreciate what it means “to stand at Sinai.” In silence the people hear the 10 Words (Commandments). The first Word or Statement is “I am the Ineffable, your God, who brought you out of the land of bondage...”. The yearning to be free is the first attribute of the Divine.
The Divine yearning for freedom and a peaceful society is rooted in justice, compassion and morality. Our monotheism is an ethical monotheism. Anyone who fights for a just and peaceful society is living up to this Covenant. If we, as a people and as individuals, live up to our side of the Covenant then the Ineffable Holy One of Being will favor us.
We read Yitro on this Presidents’ weekend. Our nation is struggling with the future of American Covenant that has guided our nation since the beginning. We are standing at Sinai once again. B’Shalom, Reb David