Posted on March 23, 2011
by Charlene Thrope, USY 2010 Religion/Education Vice President, 5770
February 6, 2010 / 22 Shevat 5770
Parashat Yitro is known for containing the Aseret ha-Dibrot, the Ten Commandments. The revelation at Mount Sinai is a powerful experience, complete with smoke, fire, shofar blowing, and many midrashim explaining its significance. One story describes God offering the Torah to many other peoples, but only the Israelites accept it. However, the text makes it clear that God intended to give the Torah to the Israelites.
The Israelites are special – God made that clear with a covenant with Abraham. God demonstrates the Israelites’ uniqueness by taking them out of Egypt, and now, God makes another promise:
“Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Shemot 19:5-6)
The entire world belongs to God, but the Israelites are the chosen people – the only ones lucky enough to receive the Torah. But being chosen comes with responsibilities. As a kingdom of priests, the Israelites must be dedicated to serving God, and becoming a holy nation requires certain restrictions. The Israelites’ chosenness is itself a choice, dependent on whether or not the Israelites keep the mitzvot.
Whenever we accept a leadership role, we are also choosing to accept any responsibilities that come with it. We may need to give up time with our friends, other activities, and even a little sleep in order to fulfill our duties. However, the benefits we will receive might turn out to be comparable to the benefit the Israelites received – the Torah.