Yitro: The Yoke of Torah

In Parashat Yitro, God decides that it is time for Bnai Yisrael to live under the yoke of Torah. Why do Bnai Yisrael deserve to receive the Torah at this point in the narrative? Why did they not receive the Torah as soon as they were freed from slavery? The Israeli Bible scholar Nehama Leibowitz states that only once Bnai Yisrael had freed themselves from the marks of an “alien yoke,” namely that of the Egyptians, were they ready to bear the yoke of Torah. The Midrash in Kohelet Rabbah 3:15 explains that Bnai Yisrael did in fact merit receiving the Torah immediately after they left Egypt. However, God believed that Bnai Yisrael first needed to regain their vigor that was lost during slavery. After a few months of enjoying Manna, God decided that Bnai Yisrael were rejuvenated and ready to receive the Torah.

  • Why do you think God waited before giving Bnai Yisrael the Torah?
  • Have you ever pushed something off knowing that you would appreciate it more at a different stage in life?

Artistic note: The “yoke” of Torah, usually refers to a wooden beam that attaches the plow to an animal, to ease the burden of a pulling a heavy load.

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