Yitro, High Priest of Midian, who has practiced every type of god-worship in the ancient world, recognizes that the God of Moshe is the real thing.
Yitro refers to God’s wonders in Egypt and at the Sea, but the true novelty for all civilization comes at Sinai when God sets up clear boundaries of who He is, who we are, and how we are to continue His justice and compassion in our world.
1,2,&3 of the Ten Commandments: He is the One God who took us out of Egypt – “You saw I spoke with you from Heaven”, he reminds them later. He has no form, so do not waste energy making gods of silver and gold. 4 – Remember Shabbat, the day He created for us to feel most human and connected. 5 – Honor your parents to internalize gratitude and humility.
And do not take or desire what is not yours – 6- someone’s life, 7 – someone’s husband or wife, 8 – even someone’s pencil, 9 – someone’s chance for justice (be a truthful witness!) 10 – someone’s belongings.
Invest your love, talents and efforts in the people, blessings and challenges that God has sent to you alone – they are there to make you grow, with His help.
And the crux is – a society that learns not to take wrongly from the other, but also where individuals are not obsessed with themselves (selfies, self-promotion) because there is a God above us all, becomes sensitive to others’ needs.
סור מרע ועשה טוב –
Refrain from harm and do good.
When our religious identities and ethical boundaries are clear, we are open to Chesed and fulfilling God’s desire that we give back to the world.
So we may hotly disagree on many issues, but we will be the first out to save lives after a devastating earthquake in Turkey or set up a complex operation to rescue fruits and vegetables to feed the poor (volunteered in Leket this week) or help improve lives and lend a hand in endless other capacities.
This is the secret of our eternal People, rooted in the guide to life and peace that we received in our Torah at Sinai.