Vayishma Yitro, cohen Midian, choten Moshe, et kol asher asah Elohim l’Moshe ul’Yisrael amo, ki hotzi YHVH et Yisrael miMitzrayim.
Jethro, priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses and Israel, how YHVH had brought Israel out from Egypt. (Exodus 18:1)
In this week’s Torah portion, the Children of Israel encamp at Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments. What could be more central to the Torah than this very moment of communion between YHVH and the people that YHVH has liberated? One might find it odd, therefore, that the name of this portion is Yitro, “Jethro”. Why is it not named “Mount Sinai”, or some other title that would draw us to the most sublime moment in the Torah?
I love asking this kind of question about the Torah. By following these byways Jewish Torah commentators unearth hidden insights from our sacred narrative. So let us ask today, what was so important about Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, that he merits the portion containing the Ten Commandments to be named in his honor?
One can argue that without Jethro’s presence in Moses’ life, Moses would never have been able to lead the Children of Israel to freedom.