In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Yitro, Exodus 18:1 – 20:23, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, hears of the great miracles which God performed for the people of Israel, and comes from Midian to the Israelite camp, bringing with him Moses’ wife and two sons. Jethro advises Moses to appoint a hierarchy of magistrates and judges to assist him in the task of governing and administering justice to the people.

The children of Israel camp opposite Mount Sinai, where they are told that God has chosen them to be His “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation.” The people respond by proclaiming, “All that God has spoken, we shall do.”

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In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading Isaiah 6:1–13 , discusses Isaiah’s vision of the Heavenly Chariot (the merkavah), a revelation that was experienced by all the Israelites when God spoke the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai—an event recounted in this week’s Torah reading.

Isaiah perceives God sitting on a throne surrounded by angels. Isaiah vividly describes the angels and their behavior (in anthropomorphic terms). During the course of this vision, Isaiah volunteers to be God’s emissary to transmit His message to the Israelites. He is immediately given a depressing prophecy regarding the exile the nation will suffer as punishment for their many sins—and the Land of Israel will be left empty and desolate, though there will be left a “trunk” of the Jewish people that eventually will regrow.

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