Below is a collection of Parashat Yitro resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: In Parashat Yitro, the Israelites receive the Ten Commandments. Many of these are important laws like not killing or stealing which are common to all nations. Some are special to the Jewish people like keeping Shabbat. Most are connected to deeds or belief in God. But the last commandment is connected to thoughts. We are commanded not to be jealous of the house and property of another. We are being given an important message that it’s possible not to be jealous and that we can control our thoughts and feelings. It’s not always easy, but it can be done!
How do you deal with jealousy? Do you ever feel bad when your brother or sister or friend gets a really special toy or game you wish you had? Does it make you feel jealous? Is it possible to control these bad feelings and thoughts?
Look inside the text, (Shemot 20:14),
לֹא תַחְמֹד בֵּית רֵעֶךָ לֹא תַחְמֹד אֵשֶׁת רֵעֶךָ וְעַבְדּוֹ וַאֲמָתוֹ וְשׁוֹרוֹ וַחֲמֹרוֹ וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְרֵעֶךָ – You should not be jealous of your neighbor’s house: you should not be jealous of your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
Question #2: Why are the ways things are designed important? When you look at the Aron Kodesh at your synagogue or school, how does it make you feel? What’s so special about the way it looks? What do you think the designer or artist was thinking? What is important to include in such a design? At the end of Parashat Yitro, we are given instructions about how the mizbeach (the altar) was to be made. One important rule was that it be made of whole stones and no iron or metal tool can be used to cut the stone. Commentators explain that metal is used for war, and therefore cannot be used to make the mizbeach which was to be a symbol of peace.
Look inside the text, (Shemot 20:22),
וְאִם מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה לִּי לֹא תִבְנֶה אֶתְהֶן גָּזִית – And if you make for Me an altar of stones, do not build it of metal stones.
Question #3: When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, God offered them an upgrade to their relationship with Him – they would have to perform the mitzvot (commandments) and adhere to the covenant, and in return, their status will be changed and they will become God’s special nation. Everyone likes to feel special, but what motivates that desire? Does highlighting the uniqueness of the individual run the risk of creating self-centered narcissists who believe that they are better than everyone else? Are there circumstances when we should stand on our need to feel special?
Question #4: A close reading of the Torah reveals that Moses is at the bottom of the mountain when the Ten Commandments are proclaimed, but some of the commentaries suggest re-ordering the text so that Moses is at the top. How do we want to view our leaders and heroes? Do we want them to be superhuman and untouchable, above our experience, or are we more comfortable with flawed characters who share our struggles and look like us? Why do some people want superheroes and others want regular people who rise above? What happens when we discover that our superhero is not so super or that the person who we thought was just like us turns out to be different?