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Parshat Yitro:. The Four Stages of Ma'amad Har Sinai. Shiur by Menachem Leibtag. Presentation by Ronni Libson. Chapter 19. 4 sections:. I. Proposition (19:1-8) II. Preparation (19:9-15) III. Revelation (19:16-19) IV. Limitation (19:20-25). Proposition (19:1-8).

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Parshat yitro

Parshat Yitro:

The Four Stages of Ma'amad Har Sinai

Shiur by Menachem Leibtag

Presentation by Ronni Libson

Parshat yitro

Chapter 19

4 sections:

I. Proposition (19:1-8)

II. Preparation (19:9-15)

III. Revelation (19:16-19)

IV. Limitation (19:20-25)

Parshat yitro

Proposition (19:1-8)

If: You will obey Me faithfully and keep My Covenant

Then: You shall be for Me a 'mamlechet Kohanim v'goy kadosh.."

Theme of Sefer Breishit:

Bnei Yisrael will be a 'model' nation


to represent God


to all mankind


  • Before receiving Torah Bnei Yisrael must:

  • Confirm readiness to obey God's commandments

  • Recognize that mitzvot will facilitate achievement of Divine goal

Bnei Yisrael accept these terms:

Parshat yitro

Preparation (19:9-15)

Next step after accepting proposal - receive mitzvot

God first addresses how Bnei Yisrael will receive mitzvot:

  • Moshe will be intermediary conveying mitzvot to Bnei Yisrael

  • Bnei Yisrael will 'overhear' God's communion with Moshe to strengthen belief that laws come from God

Expect Moshe to convey message to Bnei Yisrael (as in 19:7)


Never tells what Bnei Yisrael responded, just that Moshe relayed the people's response back to God!

Parshat yitro


Adds line to narrative:

Bnei Yisrael don't accept original plan

Demand to hear the Dibrot directly from God

Structure of pasuk:

Bnei Yisrael’s response (second half) relates to God's plan for Matan Torah (first half)

Parshat yitro

Look at God's response to understand Bnei Yisrael's request:

New plan for Matan Torah!

Plan A: Moshe will act as intermediary (19:9)

Plan B: Bnei Yisrael themselves will see God (19:11)

Change of plan

Now Bnei Yisrael require 3 days of preparation - higher level of spiritual readiness

Can Bnei Yisrael reach this level?

  • If so, why doesn't God suggest this in the first place?

  • If not, why does God now agree to their request?

Parshat yitro

Revelation (19:16-19)

Plan A or Plan B?

  • Intensity of "hitgalut" - may reflect intense level of Plan B

  • Description of a "thick cloud" covering Har Sinai - God's description of Plan A (19:9)

Bnei Yisrael frightened

Remain in camp rather than gather at Har Sinai

Moshe brings them from camp to Har Sinai:

Description of "hitgalut":

  • Mountain covered with smoke - Plan A

  • God's descent onto the mountain - Plan B

Parshat yitro

What was Moshe saying?

What was God answering?

If Moshe was saying Dibrot

Plan A (Moshe intermediary, people 'overhearing' a “kol” from God)

What is Moshe saying and what is God answering?

If not

Parshat yitro


First two Commandments

Plan B

Last eight Commandments

Plan A

Pasuk refers to last 8 commandments


Pasuk describes conversation between God and Moshe recorded in psukim that immediately follow (19:20-25)

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Limitation (19:20-25)

  • Plan A:

  • God appears at top of mountain to Moshe alone

  • Bnei Yisrael prohibited from seeing "lest they die"

God limits His revelation to the top of the Mountain

Another story at Har Sinai:

God reverts from Plan B back to Plan A

People were frightened and overwhelmed by intense experience of "hitgalut"

Parshat yitro

Story of Bnei Yisrael being frightened - “yirah” story

Out of place!

Should be in chapter 19, not chapter 20


Entire “yirah” parshia (20:15-18) took place earlier, before Matan Torah

Described in Devarim:

Explains why immediately afterward in chapter 19 are a set of psukim describing this limitation of God's "hitgalut" before Matan Torah actually begins

Parshat yitro

Rashi and Chizkuni:

The “yirah” story (20:15-18 ) took place during Matan Torah, between the first two and last eight commandments

First two Commandments(20:2-5)

Last eight Commandments(20:6-14)

first person

third person

God commands Bnei Yisrael directly

Less direct form of communication – through Moshe

Cannot record it before Dibrot (story took place during Dibrot)

Explains transplantation of “yirah” story from chronological location to chapter 20

Cannot record it in proper place (cannot break up the Dibrot, a single unit)

Torah records it immediately after the Ten Commandments

Parshat yitro

Description of Matan Torah in Devarim:

Plan B

Plan A

Both plans were carried out

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Why is Torah unclear as to the details of Matan Torah?

Ambiguity intentional

Reflects the very nature of man's encounter with the Divine

Must constantly strive to come as close to God as possible



Must constantly retain an awareness of God's greatness and recognize his own shortcomings and unworthiness


Parshat yitro

Plan A

God's original plan for Matan Torah

Man is unable to directly confront the "Shchinah"

Uses Moshe as an intermediary

Plan B

Bnei Yisrael’s request

Desire to come as close as possible to Har Sinai and to encounter the "Shchina" directly

Expression of "ahavat Hashem"

Plan B - Ideal

Plan A - Reality

Ambiguity in Torah’s presentation

Torah emphasizes the need to find the proper balance between realism and idealism when serving God

Parshat yitro

Why does God give in to Bnei Yisrael’s request?

Bnei Yisrael – similar to a child

Despite clear incapability to perform a given task, desire to accomplish is the key to growth

Wise parent will allow child to try even though child will fail

Better one recognize the limits of his capabilities on his own rather than be told by others that he cannot accomplish

As Bnei Yisrael struggle to maintain the proper balance between "ahava" and "yirah," God must guide and they must strive