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Yitro – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

The Sedra starts with God outlining the terms of the covenant that is being proposed, that is, to become” A kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  What is being offered here is not a contract, seeking mutual interests, but a bond of loyalty and trust. Contracts are all about “Me” and “You”; covenants are about “Us.”

We were asked to agree willingly, and we responded saying “We will do everything the Lord has said.” This was a very radical idea, that government, without consent, is not acceptable.

But “the devil is in the detail”. We are told that the people said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear, but let God not speak with us lest we die”.

As the Sefer Torah is raised, we declaim V’zot ha Torah, but the next verse varies according to where you are. Here we follow the traditional Ashkenazi rite of adding “Al Pi Adonai, b,yad Moshe ( from the mouth of God by the hand of Moses.). In the Sephardic rite it can be “Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha hekilat Yaakov – (As commanded by Moses, a heritage for the congregation of Jacob). In Chabad practice the verse is followed by Etz Chayim hi, (it is the tree of life).

Our tradition here at EMS is Ashkenazi. What we recall was written down by Moses. Sephardim recall that what we have is a heritage that is to teach. The Charedi way is simply not to question.

Does it all matter?  Probably not. We are all children of the same Covenant.

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