Parshas Yisro

Words in bold represent changes to the traditional translation based on the Aramaic translation/commentary attributed to Onkelos the Ger.

Parshas Yisro

Chapter 18


1. Yisro, priest of Midian, Moshe’s father-in-law, heard all that Hashem had done for Moshe and for His people Israel, that Hashem took Israel out from Egypt.

2. Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, took Tzipporah, Moshe’s wife, after he sent her (home),

3. and her two sons, one of whom was named Gershom because he (i.e., Moshe) said, “I was a stranger in a foreign land,”

4. and the name of the (other) one was Eliezer because “The God of my father was my help and He saved me from Pharaoh’s sword.”

5. Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moshe, to the wilderness, that he camped there at the mountain on which the glory of Hashem was revealed.

6. He said to Moshe, “I, your father-in-law Yisro, am coming to you, and your wife and her two sons with her.”

7. Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law. He bowed and kissed him, each asked the other’s welfare,[1] and they came into the tent.

8. Moshe told his father-in-law everything that Hashem did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians on account of Israel, all the hardships that happened to them on the way, and that Hashem saved them.

9. Yisro rejoiced over all the goodness that Hashem had done for Israel, that He saved them from the hand of the Egyptians.

10. Yisro said, “Blessed is Hashem, Who saved you from hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, that He saved the people from under Egyptian rule.[2]

11. Now I know that Hashem is great and there is no god other than He,[3] for in the matter that the Egyptians plotted to judge Israel, they have been judged.

12. Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, offered a burnt offering and holy sacrifices before Hashem. Aharon and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread before Hashem with Moshe’s father-in-law.


13. It happened the next day, Moshe sat to judge the people. The people stood around Moshe[4] from the morning until the evening.

14. Moshe’s father-in-law saw all he did for the people. He said, “What is this thing that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone and all the people stand around you from morning until evening?”

15. Moshe said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to seek instruction from before Hashem.

16. When they have a court case,[5] they come[6] to me and I judge between a man and between his fellow. I make known to them the statutes of Hashem, and His Torah.”[7]

17. Moshe’s father-in-law said to him, “The thing you’re doing isn’t good.

18. You will surely tire also yourself and also this people that is with you. Because the matter is too heavy for you; you can’t do it by yourself.

19. Now accept it from me:[8] I will advise you and the word of Hashem will assist you! You inquire Torah from Hashem for the people and you be the one who brings the matters before Hashem,

20. Warn them about the statutes and about the Torah. Make known to them the way on which they are to go and the deed they shall perform.

21. You shall seek from all the people able men who fear Hashem, men of truth who hate to accept money. Set over them (i.e., over the people) chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, chiefs of fifties and chiefs of tens.

22. They shall judge the people at all times. It will be, every great matter they will bring to you, and every small matter they will judge. It will be lighter for you and they will bear it with you.

23. If you do this thing and Hashem commands you, then you will be able to stand, and also all this people will come to its place in peace.”


24. Moshe accepted his father-in-law’s word and did all that he said.

25. Moshe chose able men from all Israel and appointed them heads over the people – chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, chiefs of fifties and chiefs of tens.

26. They judged the people at all times; the great matter they brought to Moshe and every small matter they judged.

27. Moshe sent off his father-in-law; he went himself to his own land.

Chapter 19


1. In the third month of the departure of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, on that day, they came to the Sinai wilderness.

2. They traveled from Refidim and they came to the Sinai wilderness, and they camped in the wilderness. Israel camped there opposite the mountain,

3. Moshe went up before Hashem. Hashem called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus shall you say to the house of Yaakov and tell the children of Israel:

4. ‘You saw what I did to Egypt, and I carried you as if[9] on eagles’ wings and brought you near to My service.

5. Now, if you will surely accept My word[10] and observe My covenant, you will be beloved before Me[11] of all the peoples because the entire Earth is Mine.

6. You will be before Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.”


7. Moshe came and called to the elders of the people; he put before them all these things that Hashem commanded him.

8. All the people answered together. They said, “All that Hashem has spoken we will do!” Moshe returned the people’s words to Hashem.

9. Hashem said to Moshe, “Behold, I will be revealed to you in the thickness of the cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and also trust you forever.” Moshe told the people’s words to Hashem.

10. Hashem said to Moshe, “Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow; they shall launder[12] their clothes.

11. They shall be prepared for the third day because on the third day Hashem will be revealed, in the eyes of all the people, on Mount Sinai.

12. You shall make a border for the people all around, saying, ‘Guard yourselves from ascending the mountain or touching the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain will be executed.

13. No hand shall touch it, he shall surely be stoned or cast down; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they are permitted to ascend the mountain.”

14. Moshe descended from the mountain to the people. He sanctified the people and they washed their clothes.

15. He said to the people, “Be prepared for three days; do not draw near a woman’s side.”

16. It happened on the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder,[13] and lightning, and a thick cloud on the mountain, and the sound of the shofar – very strong. All the people who were in the camp trembled.

17. Moshe took the people out from the camp towards Hashem’s word, and they stood at the base of the mountain.

18. Mount Sinai smoked all over because Hashem was revealed on it in fire. Its smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace and the entire mountain trembled much.

19. It happened that the sound of the shofar went on and grew much stronger. Moshe spoke and from before Hashem he was answered in a voice.


20. Hashem was revealed on Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. Hashem called Moshe to the top of the mountain, and Moshe ascended.

21. Hashem said to Moshe, “Go down, charge the people lest they break through to Hashem to see, and many of them will fall.

22. And also the priests,[14] who draw near to serve before Hashem, must sanctify themselves, lest Hashem kill some of them.”

23. Moshe said to Hashem, “The people are unable to ascend Mount Sinai because You charged us, saying, ‘Set a border around the mountain and sanctify it.’”

24. Hashem said to him, “Go, descend and you ascend – you and Aharon with you. The priests and the people shall not break through to ascend to Hashem, lest He kill some of them.”

25. Moshe descended to the people and he spoke to them.

Chapter 20

1. Hashem spoke all these words, saying:

2. I am Hashem your God Who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.[15]

3. There shall not be to you other “gods” except for Me.[16]

4. Do not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness that is in the heavens above, that is on the earth below, or that is in the waters under the earth.

5. Do not bow to them and do not serve them. For I, Hashem your God, am a zealous God, revisiting the sin of fathers upon rebellious children, on the third generation and on the fourth generation of those who hate Me when the children continue to sin in the manner of the fathers,

6. and performing kindness to thousands of generations of those who love Me and observe My commandments.

7. Do not swear in the name of Hashem your God in vain, for Hashem will not acquit one who swears in His name falsely.[17]

8. Continually remember the sabbath day to sanctify it.

9. Six days you shall work and perform all your labor,

10. and the seventh day is a sabbath before Hashem your God. Do not perform any labor – you, your son and daughter, your male and female servant, your animals and the stranger who is within your gates.

11. Because (in) six days Hashem made the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. He rested on the seventh day, therefore Hashem blessed the sabbath day and sanctified it.

12. Honor your father and your mother so that your days will be lengthened on the land that Hashem your God gives to you.

13. Do not murder a soul.[18] Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false testimony against your fellow.

14. Do not covet your neighbor’s house; do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or his donkey, and everything that is your neighbor’s.


15. All the people saw the thunder[19] and the lightning, the sound of the shofar and the mountain smoking. The people saw, they trembled and they stood at a distance.

16. They said to Moshe, “You speak with us and we will accept it; let it not be spoken with us from before Hashem, lest we die.”

17. Moshe said to the people, “Do not fear because the glory of Hashem was revealed to you in order to test you, and in order that awe of Him may be before you,[20] so that you do not sin.”

18. The people stood at a distance and Moshe drew near the side of the thick cloud where Hashem’s glory was.

19. Hashem said to Moshe, “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel: You saw that I spoke to you from the heavens.

20. Do not make before Me idols[21] of silver, and idols of gold you shall not make for yourselves.

21. Make before Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your holy offerings[22] from your sheep and your oxen. In every place that I cause My presence to dwell, there I will send My blessing to you and bless you.

22. If you make an altar of stones before Me, do not build them of hewn (stones); perhaps you will brandish your sword upon it and desecrate it.

23. Do not ascend My altar by steps so that your nakedness not be revealed upon it.

[1] Literally, “a man asked his fellow for peace.”

[2] Rather than “the hand of Egypt.”

[3] As opposed to “greater than all the gods.”

[4] Rather than “on” him.

[5] Mishpat, literally judgment, as opposed to “davar” in the Chumash (“a matter”).

[6] Rather than “it comes.”

[7] The Chumash has “Torah” in the plural, meaning laws.

[8] Rather than “hear my voice.”

[9] Onkelos clarifies that the pasuk is speaking metaphorically.

[10] Rather than “if you faithfully hearken to My voice.”

[11] Rather than “a treasure to Me.”

[12] The Aramaic word chosen by Onkelos reinforces that this verse is not discussing ritual immersion in a mikvah.

[13] Literally, voices.

[14] At this point, the priests were the firstborn sons rather than Aharon and his sons.

[15] As opposed to “the house of slaves.”

[16] Rather than “in My presence.”

[17] The Hebrew word “la-shav” might be understood as “in vain” or “falsely”; Onkelos translates one instance one way and the other instance the other.

[18] i.e., a person.

[19] Again, voices.

[20] Literally, on your faces.

[21] As opposed to “gods.”

[22] Rather than “peace offerings.”

© Copyright 2021 Rabbi Jack Abramowitz