Parshat Yitro Summary

Parshat Yitro is the 5th parsha in Sefer Shemot (also known as Exodus).

This parsha is verses Exodus 18:1 – 20:23, or a total of 75 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Exodus 18:1 – 18:12, 12 verses

Moses’s father-in-law, named Jethro (Hebrew: Yitro), comes to visit the Jewish people in the wilderness. He brings with him Moses’s wife and his two sons. Jethro rejoices when he hears all that has happened to the Jewish people.

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Aliyah 2: Exodus 18:13 – 18:23, 11 verses

Jethro sees that Moses is burdened with the task of judging the Jewish people. Jethro suggests that Moses set up a system of small group leaders to take some of burden.

Aliyah 3: Exodus 18:24 – 18:27, 4 verses

Moses accepts Jethro’s advice and sets up a system of leaders for groups of 10, 50, 100, and 1000. After this Jethro leaves and returns to his land.

Aliyah 4: Exodus 19:1 – 19:6, 6 verses

The Jewish people left Egypt in the month of Nissan. On the first day of the 3rd month (the month of Sivan) they arrive in the Wilderness of Sinai. Moses ascends to the top of Mount Sinai and meets with God.

Aliyah 5: Exodus 19:7 – 19:19, 13 verses

Moses meets with the people and prepares them to receive the Torah. They are to refrain from marital relations, wash their clothing, and set a boundary around the mountain.

On the 3rd day in the morning, Moses brings the people to the base of the mountain. Mount Sinai is smoking (from the presence of God) and a shofar blast is sounding.

Aliyah 6: Exodus 19:20 – 20:14, 20 verses

Moses goes up on Mount Sinai. God sends him back down to be with the people and to warn them not to approach the mountain.

God speaks to the people and proclaims the 10 Commandments.

Parshat Yitro Stained Glass of the 10 Commandments

Aliyah 7: Exodus 20:15 – 20:23, 9 verses

The people appoint Moses to be their intermediary with God. God delivers to Moses additional commandments to not make images of heavenly bodies and how to construct an altar.

How Many Verses in Parshat Yitro?

I wrote above that there are 75 verse in Parshat Yitro. According to the received tradition there are only 72 verses.

The Gemara has a discussion about which verse is the middle verse in the Torah.

Kiddushin 30a

Abaye said to him [Rav Yosef], “For the verses at least we can bring [a Sefer Torah] and count them.”

For the verses, too, we are not experts. Because when Rav Acha bar Ada came [from Israel to Babylon], he said, “In the West [Israel] they break this verse into 3 verses, ‘And Hashem said to Moses, behold I come to in a thick cloud … (Exodus 19:9).'”

So we see there is a verse in Parshat Yitro that we count as 1 verse, but others count it as 3 verses! Here is the entire verse (Artscroll translation):

Exodus 19:9

Hashem said to Moses, “Behold! I come to you in the thickness of the cloud, so that the people will hear as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever.” Moses related the words of the people to Hashem.

I will leave as an exercise for you to think about how these words might be divided into 3 separate verses.

In conclusion, we don’t know for sure how many verses there are in the entire Torah. We have traditional counts for each parsha but they do not always match the way we divide up verses in our printed books.

Haftarah Summary

The haftarah is read from the book of Isaiah verses 6:1 – 7:6 plus 9:5 – 6. According to the Sephardic tradition, they read only Isaiah 6:1 – 6:13.

The prophet Isaiah relates the vision he was shown in the year King Uzziah died. The fear that Isaiah felt upon seeing this vision is similar to the reaction of the Jewish people at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 20:15-16).

Further Reading

I’ve written other articles about Parshat Yitro. Here’s one that asks several questions on the parsha for you to ponder.


A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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