by: Mark Kirschbaum on January 17th, 2014 | Comments Off
I. Yitro’s Visit As Response:
This week’s reading is a momentous one, it contains the narrative of the revelation at Mt Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, as described in the longer essay below. What is striking is that this week’s reading doesn’t begin with that crucial section, it actually begins with a family visit of Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, and in fact, this central reading is not known in traditional circles as “Sinai” or “Giving of the Torah” but as Perashat Yitro, by the name of an outsider, described as a foreign Priest!
Even if the division of the weekly readings is viewed as accidental, still, why is this the section immediately preceding the central section of the Torah, in fact, some of the medieval commentators argue that the meeting with Yitro actually happened after Sinai. Thus placing Yitro’s visit ahead of the revelation of Sinai is meant to be intentional.
The Tiferet Shelomo sees this meeting with Yitro as a prologue to Sinai, in a Buddhist like teaching. The Tiferet Shelomo explains that we must be like Yitro in the way we approach Torah. Every day, we must approach our Torah study and observance as though this moment is the first time we are hearing Torah; we must eternal present ourself to study as though we were complete outsiders with no preconceptions, in a state of humility and with an open mind. The Tiferet Shelomo supports this approach with a lovely textual proof, a de-contextualized reading of a verse from the story of Joseph and his brothers – The verse reads “The individual who shall be found with the goblet shall become my servant”. In the episode, this is a threat about an assumed stolen bit of silverware, but to the Tiferet Shelomo, the message of the verse is beyond the actual narrative and teaches us that the person who is like an empty container, into which spirituality and Torah can be poured, that individual is the true servant of the Divine. Without achieving self-effacement, an overcoming of the ego, there is no space in the mind, as it were, to see the world in new ways, to dream, to think clearly and envision novel insights. This approach to Torah, of coming to it every time with the excitement of an outsider, is, according to the Tiferet Shelomo, the message of the placement of the Yitro episode before the revelation of Sinai chapter.