Parshat Yitro: Yvette Teitelbaum

Yvette Teitelbaum, Highland Park, New Jersey


Last night, I had the privilege of sitting in for a few classes at Midreshet Moriah, a seminary
in Yerushalayim. I felt that it was important that I share some of their lovely Torah ideas with the seminary that I truly call my “home away from home,” Machon Maayan.

In perek יח , pasuk יד ,Yitro comes up to Moshe and suggests a new, less centralized, more
bureaucratic type of court system than the one they already had in place. Matan Torah then occurs in the following perek, perek יט . Some may ask, why did Yitro come to Moshe before the Torah was given, and not after? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to establish a new court system after Bnei Yisrael received the Torah and Mitzvot and knew the laws on which they would be judged for?

By setting up this concept before Matan Torah, Yitro made a prerequisite for a healthy
Torah lifestyle. Yitro set up a court system of different levels of Rabbinic authority. The simpler
questions would go to local Beit Din, while more complicated ones would go to a higher court.

Yitro understood that people connect to Judaism and Torah in different ways. By
giving Bnei Yisrael the opportunity to talk to different rebbeim who fit their style of understanding within Torah, he showed them that Judaism in not a one road religion.

This is expressed in that fact that Bnei Yisrael was split into twelve tribes. Why twelve and
not just one? Each tribe had their own way of connecting to Hashem, while still being part of a
whole nation. For example, Shevet Yehuda had the kingship, whereas Shevet Levi served in the
Mishkan. Here at Machon Maayan, each of us comes from a different background and has a different way of connecting to Torah. Some of us connect more through philosophy, while others connect more through prayer. These are different pathways that, like Yitro taught us, all lead to a love for Judaism and Hashem.

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