This Week’s Parsha (Exodus 19:1–20:23)

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I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs every Monday at 7pm PST on my live cam and YouTube.

This week’s parsha is Yitro.

* What do you think of Sarah Palin saying she was a victim of a blood libel?

* What role does race play in Torah? I know that it is virtually absent as a theme in the Bible. No skin color is superior to another. In my understanding, this is true of the larger Jewish tradition.

* What does Martin Luther King mean to you? What should it mean to Orthodox Jews? Martin Luther King plagiarized his PhD thesis at Boston College and was a serial adulterer. Does this matter? How come we have no national holidays for Torah scholars or any other special interest?

* Does the Torah believe in not holding people accountable for their behavior because of their past suffering?

* Why does the parsha keep referring to Yitro as Moshe’s father-in-law? Wouldn’t once or twice be enough?

* How come there is only one parsha (Torah portion) named after a Jew (Pinchas) but three after non-Jews (Noach, Balak)?

* The Torah’s view of non-Jews is largely positive. For example, Pharoah’s daughter saves Moshe. Moshe takes advice from Yitro.

* Jews are the first nation in the world you could convert to. You could not convert to being an Egyptian. You can convert to a religion but it is difficult to convert to full membership in a people.

* If Moshe listens to Yitro’s advice, why should not Jews listen to what the wise non-Jews have to say about Torah?

* Yitro is the first person to use the phrase, “Baruch HaShem.” Orthodox Jews tend to say “Baruch HaShem” (praise God) over anything.

* The Torah talks about a lot of non-Jews (eiruv rav) came out of Egypt with the Jews. The Torah says nothing bad about them, though the rabbinic tradition does, blaming them for the Golden Calf. The Torah is less blood-oriented than later generations.

* In comparison with other bibles, the Torah stands out for its even-handed approach to non-adherents.

* Moshe was killing himself trying to hear all the Jews’ disputes. If you are killing yourself doing something good, you are still killing yourself and probably should dial back.

* Moshe apparently sent his wife and kids away during the plagues and Exodus. I wonder what kind of father and husband Moshe was? The Vilna Gaon studied Torah 18 hours a day. What kind of husband and father he was? When a man takes on a mission, his family usually pays the price. If you do feel compelled to save the world, perhaps you shouldn’t have kids. Such kids are usually cheated of a father and/or mother.

* Ex. 18:21. Good judges are people who despise money.

* Nothing about compassion in its listing of qualifications for judges. They have to love truth.

* Ex. 19:15 Why abstain from sex for three days prior to the divine revelation? Is there something about sex that is impure?

* Are bloggers a threat to Orthodox Judaism?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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