Parashat Yitro

Parashat Yitro contains the Torah’s first version of the Ten Commandments. On the first commandment, Ibn Ezra, the 12th century Spanish commentator, asks the following question: Why does the Torah state that “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2) rather than “I am the Lord your God who made the heavens and the earth, as well as humanity?” Ibn Ezra explains how the first commandment was designed to accommodate different types of learners.

The first half of the commandment addresses “intellectuals,” individuals who Ibn Ezra designates as being capable of understanding the existence of God by learning about the complexity of the world. The second half of the commandment satisfies the needs of “experiential learners,” those who learn best through witnessing God’s miracles.  Ibn Ezra’s interpretation reflects the Torah’s sensitivity to the notion that individuals take different paths to secure their beliefs in God. The first commandment conveys an appreciation for the various ways in which people can come to recognize God’s presence in their lives.

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