In the month of January, Theresa and I began a Torah reading/ discussion group at Congregation Ahavas Israel. It was a new weekly Torah study group, lay-led, that met on Monday evening in the chapel. Each week, we read the current parashah (weekly Torah reading) out loud. The goal was to read and discuss the text itself, to see and understand the Torah on its own terms, to grow spiritually, and to connect with each other through Torah.
In addition we hoped it would help anyone else who was interested in the treasures of the Torah to see some different perspectives through other people's eyes and to be open to the varied wisdom and revelations offered in Hashem’s Holy Torah.
On one of the weeks, we read and discussed the parashah Yitro. What a treasure trove of knowledge and study it was. When studying profound texts, how do you pick one or two items to look at from such riches and wisdom? There are many things that are worth mentioning; however, here are a couple items that really stood out to us.
The first item that really stood out to me was the story of how Hashem told Moshe to tell the people to prepare themselves by washing themselves and their clothes and putting up a barrier to the mountain so no man or beast will touch the mountain because Hashem was going to come to them there. He would be among the children of Israel, and there were strict instructions required.
Here is where I question one of the things unsaid; because Moses would be on the mountain with Hashem, what was it that Moshe himself had to do in preparation to meet with the creator of the universe? Were there special offerings required? Were his years in the wilderness after he fled Egypt his purification?
In addition, another question that perplexed me was how is it that Yitro, a priest and most likely a pagan priest from a foreign nation, got a portion in our Torah named after him? We do not hear the parashah of Pharaoh or of Nebuchadnezzar. These questions, as well as many others, leave lots of room for vivid, vibrant discussions.
Our Ancient texts are a great heritage that have been given to us, and these treasures are for all of us to explore. Let us keep ourselves open to the wisdom of the Mighty One and his gifts to us found in the Torah. Let us never stop exploring!
Past, Past President,
Guy De Jager
Ahavas Israel Board Member