Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekly Torah Readings (Parashat Yitro) For 16-22 January 2011 (11-17 Shvat 5771)


Weekly Torah Readings:

Parashat Yitro / פרשת יתרו

Last updated on 21 October 2010

Torah Portion: Exodus 18:1 - 20:23

Full Kriyah

1: 18:1-12 (12 p'sukim)
18:1 First Reading

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, sheik of Midian, heard about all that God had done for Moses and His people Israel when He brought Israel out of Egypt.

Vayishma Yitro chohen Midyan choten Moshe et kol-asher asah Elohim le-Moshe ule-Yisra'el amo ki-hotsi Adonay et-Yisra'el miMitsrayim.

18:2 Jethro brought along Moses' wife, Tzipporah, who had been sent home earlier,

Vayikach Yitro choten Moshe et-Tsiporah eshet Moshe achar shilucheyha.


2: 18:13-23 (11 p'sukim)

18:12 Jethro brought burnt offerings and [other] sacrifices to God. Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to share the meal with Moses' father-in-law before God.

Vayikach Yitro choten Moshe olah uzvachim l'Elohim vayavo Aharon vechol zikney Yisra'el le'echol-lechem im-choten Moshe lifney ha'Elohim.

18:13 Second Reading

The next day, Moses sat to judge the people. They stood around Moses from morning to evening.

Vayehi mimachorat vayeshev Moshe lishpot et-ha'am vaya'amod ha'am al-Moshe min-haboker ad-ha'arev.

3: 18:24-27 (4 p'sukim)

18:23 If you agree to this, and God concurs, you will be able to survive. This entire nation will then also be able to attain its goal of peace.'

Im et-hadavar hazeh ta'aseh vetsivecha Elohim veyacholta amod vegam kol-ha'am hazeh al-mekomo yavo veshalom.

18:24 Third Reading

Moses took his father-in-law's advice, and did all that he said.

Vayishma Moshe lekol chotno vaya'as kol asher amar.

4: 19:1-6 (6 p'sukim)

18:27 Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his homeland.

Vayeshalach Moshe et-chotno vayelech lo el-artso.

19:1 Fourth Reading

In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first of the month, they came to the desert of Sinai.

Bachodesh hashlishi letset beney-Yisra'el me'erets Mitsrayim bayom hazeh ba'u midbar Sinay.

5: 19:7-19 (13 p'sukim)

19:7 Fifth Reading

Moses came [back] and summoned the elders of the people, conveying to them all that God had said.

Vayavo Moshe vayikra lezikney ha'am vayasem lifneyhem et kol-hadevarim ha'eleh asher tsivahu Adonay


6: 19:20-20:14 (20 p'sukim)

19:20 Sixth Reading

God came down on Mount Sinai, to the peak of the mountain. He summoned Moses to the mountain peak, and Moses climbed up.

Vayered Adonay al-har Sinay el-rosh hahar vayikra Adonay le-Moshe el-rosh hahar vaya'al Moshe.

19:21 God said to Moses, 'Go back down and warn the people that they must not cross the boundary in order to see the Divine, because this will cause many to die.

Vayomer Adonay el-Moshe red ha'ed ba'am pen-yehersu el-Adonay lir'ot venafal mimenu rav.

7: 20:15-23 (9 p'sukim)

20:15 Seventh Reading

All the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of the ram's horn, and the mountain smoking. The people trembled when they saw it, keeping their distance.

Vechol-ha'am ro'im et-hakolot ve'et-halapidim ve'et kol hashofar ve'et-hahar ashen vayar ha'am vayanu'u vaya'amdu merachok.

20:16 They said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will listen. But let God not speak with us any more, for we will die if He does.'

Vayomru el-Moshe daber-atah imanu venishma'ah ve'al-yedaber imanu Elohim pen-namut.

maf: 20:19-23 (5 p'sukim)

20:19 Last Reading

God said to Moses: This is what you must tell the Israelites:

You have seen that I spoke to you from heaven.

Vayomer Adonay el-Moshe koh tomar el-beney Yisra'el atem re'item ki min-hashamayim dibarti imachem.

20:20 Do not make a representation of anything that is with Me. Do not make silver or gold gods for yourselves.

Lo ta'asun iti elohey chesef ve'elohey zahav lo ta'asu lachem


Haftarah for Ashkenazim: Isaiah 6:1 - 7:6; 9:5 - 9:6

Haftarah for Yitro

Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6

This translation was taken from the JPS Tanakh

Chapter 6

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple. 2 Seraphs stood in attendance on Him. Each of them had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.

3 And one would call to the other,

"Holy, holy, holy!

The Lord of Hosts!

His presence fills all the earth!"

4 The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke. 5 I cried,

"Woe is me; I am lost!

For I am a man of unclean lips

And I live among a people

Of unclean lips;

Yet my own eyes have beheld

The King Lord of Hosts."

6 Then one of the seraphs flew over to me with a live coal, which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched it to my lips and declared,

"Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt shall depart

And your sin be purged away."

8 Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me." 9 And He said, "Go, say to that people:

'Hear, indeed, but do not understand;

See, indeed, but do not grasp.'

10 Dull that people's mind,

Stop its ears,

And seal its eyes —

Lest, seeing with its eyes

And hearing with its ears,

It also grasp with its mind,

And repent and save itself."

11 I asked, "How long, my Lord?" And He replied:

"Till towns lie waste without inhabitants

And houses without people,

And the ground lies waste and desolate —

12 For the Lord will banish the population —

And deserted sites are many

In the midst of the land.

13"But while a tenth part yet remains in it, it shall repent. It shall be ravaged like the terebinth and the oak, of which stumps are left even when they are felled: its stump shall be a holy seed."

Sepharadim end here

Chapter 7

1 In the reign of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel marched upon Jerusalem to attack it; but they were not able to attack it.

2 Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of their people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind. 3 But the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the Upper Pool, by the road of the Fuller's Field. 4 And say to him: Be firm and be calm. Do not be afraid and do not lose heart on account of those two smoking stubs of firebrands, on account of the raging of Rezin and his Arameans and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because the Arameans — with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah — have plotted against you, saying, 6 'We will march against Judah and invade and conquer it, and we will set up as king in it the son of Tabeel,'

Chapter 9

5 For a child has been born to us,

A son has been given us.

And authority has settled on his shoulders.

He has been named

"The Mighty God is planning grace;

The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler" —

6 In token of abundant authority

And of peace without limit

Upon David's throne and kingdom,

That it may be firmly established

In justice and in equity

Now and evermore.

The zeal of the Lord of Hosts

Shall bring this to pass.

Taken from Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, (Philadelphia, Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society) 1985.

Used by permission of The Jewish Publication Society. Copyright ©1962, 1992

Third Edition by the Jewish Publication Society. No part of this text can be reproduced or forwarded without written permission.

Please visit the JPS website for more fine books of Jewish literature and tradition.

Haftarah for Sephardim: Isaiah 6:1 - 6:13

Shabbat Parashat Yitro - 22 Shevat 5770 - Parents and Children -

February 6, 2010 / 22 Shevat 5770

By: Rabbi Elliot Dorff Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University

Torah Reading: Exodus 18:1 - 20:23

Haftarah Reading: Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6

The Ten Commandments are probably the most well-known part of the Torah, and along with the prohibitions against murder and theft, the commandment to honor one's parents is probably the most well remembered of the Ten. As a child, I thought that this commandment was addressed to young children and their parents and that it required me to obey my parents - and my parents did not disabuse me of that interpretation!

In Jewish law, though, it actually applies to adult children of elderly parents. The Rabbis define this demand of giving parents honor (kavod) and the parallel commandment in Leviticus 19:3 of treating them with fear or respect (mora) as requiring this:

Our Rabbis taught: What is reverence (mora) and what is honor (kavod)? Reverence means that he [the son] must neither stand in his [the father's] place, nor sit in his place, nor contradict his words, nor tip the scales against him [in an argument with others]. Honor means that he must give him food and drink, clothe and cover him, lead him in and out.1

Even though this source refers to fathers and sons, the Torah specifies that the same duties are owed to mothers, and the Talmud and later codes make clear that daughters are equally obligated as sons. According to this definition, then, respect entails a number of actions that we must not do vis-a-vis our parents, and honor refers to some things that we must do for them.

As one might expect, interpretations of these duties vary, but the phrases in this Rabbinic ruling that prohibit us from contradicting our parents are usually understood to apply only in public, where children contradicting their parents would be the source of embarrassment for the parent. In private, though, children need not agree with their parents, although in line with the demand that we revere our parents, disagreements with them must be done respectfully.

The commandment to honor our parents has special relevance for us in our time as people live longer and thus much more commonly come to depend on their adult children for their care in the later years of their lives. Between the 1990 and 2000 United States census, in fact, the decade of life that saw the largest percentage increase of people was between 90 and 100. This has meant that people much more often have the blessing of seeing not only grandchildren but even great grandchildren, and, depending on their financial resources, it gives them a longer opportunity to do in retirement whatever interests them, but it also makes us prone to diseases and physical conditions that our ancestors never had because they died before most people contract them.

The Rabbinic ruling cited above assumes that children would provide these services to their parents on their own. Indeed, until the middle of the twentieth century, most families lived in extended family arrangements, and parents thus lived out their last years in the same neighborhood, and sometimes even in the same building, as the one in which their children lived with their families. In that context, adult children and their own children did in fact provide these services to the elderly members of their family. Now, however, adult children often live many miles away from where their parents are living, and all middle-aged adults of most families are working in order to earn a living, leaving the home without anyone to provide care for elderly people during the day. As a result, more and more elderly people are living on their own for as long as possible and then in assisted living quarters and ultimately in skilled nursing facilities and maybe hospitals or convalescent homes.

If these are the facts of our current lives, how should we fulfill these duties in our time? Although the tradition definitely preferred that we perform these duties toward our parents personally and directly, it also allows us to fulfill most of our duties through an agent. Thus the parents' duty to teach their children Torah can be, and usually is, fulfilled at least in part by providing teachers to teach them. Even so, the parents retain the duty to teach their children, and thus parents can and should engage in frequent conversations with their children about what they are learning and try to advance their children's mastery of that knowledge.

Similarly, even if we fulfill our duties to honor our parents primarily through agents who run assisted living facilities, and even if we live thousands of miles away, we must continue to take a role in providing these services to our parents. That means that we must not only check periodically that the arrangements we have made for our parents are indeed fulfilling their physical needs, but we must also contact them often and keep them informed about what is happening in the family. This is because even though the Rabbis defined what is entailed in the duties to honor and respect our parents in terms of specific actions, our attitudes toward them, as expressed in how we interact with them, are also critical in fulfilling this commandment:

A man may feed his father on fattened chickens and inherit Hell [as his reward], and another may put his father to work in a mill and inherit Paradise.

How is it possible that a man might feed his father fattened chickens and inherit Hell? It once happened that a man used to feed his father fattened chickens. Once his father said to him: "My son, where did you get these?" He answered: "Old man, old man, eat and be silent, just as dogs eat and are silent." In such an instance, he feeds his father fattened chickens, but he inherits Hell.

How is it possible that a man might put his father to work in a mill and inherit Paradise? It once happened that a man was working in a mill. The king decreed that his aged father should be brought to work for him. The son said to his father: "Father, go and work in the mill in place of me [and I will go to work for the king]. For it may be [that the workers for the king will be] ill-treated, in which case let me be ill-treated instead of you. And it may be [that the workers for the king will be] beaten, in which case let me be beaten instead of you." In such an instance, he puts his father to work in a mill, but he inherits Paradise. 2

What happens, though, if the parents neglected their children or downright abused them as they were growing up? Do these duties still apply?

Rabbinic rulings on this vary. Some maintain that these duties apply even to the worst of parents. Others maintain that if a parent abandoned a child or was truly abusive, then these duties to such parents no longer apply. Clearly, even the latter stream of thought removes our duties to our parents only if they are bad in the extreme. Parents carry out their parental duties to their children in varying degrees of skill and love, and one does not have to have terrific parents to be obligated by the duties to honor and respect them.

Notice, finally, that neither commandment regarding our parents requires that we love them. Even if the parent-child relationship is fraught with tension and disharmony, these duties still apply. Jewish sources, though, then allow children to separate from their parents and arrange for others to fulfill their filial duties. Clearly, though, the tradition hopes that whatever problems we have with our parents - and every parent-child relationship has its issues -- we still love them. Fulfilling our obligations to our parents is, of course, emotionally much easier if the history of our relationships is one of support and love. May that be case for as many of us as possible as we take on the adult obligations of respecting and honoring our parents.

* * * * * *

Readers may learn more about this topic in Elliot N. Dorff, Love Your Neighbor and Yourself: A Jewish Approach to Modern Personal Ethics (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2003), Chapter Four ("Parents and Children") and Chapter Five ("Family Violence").

1 B. Kiddushin 31b. Cf. M.T. Laws of Rebels 6:3; S.A. Yoreh De'ah 240:2, 4; 228:11

2 J. Pe'ah 1:1 (15c); cf. B. Kiddushin 31a-31b; S.A. Yoreh De'ah 240:4.

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