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The following chronology follows Rashi’s understanding of the verses.


1 Sivan - Bnei Yisrael arrive at Har Sinai (Shemos 19:1 - Yisro)

2 Sivan - Moshe is told that we are to be a Mamleches Kohanim V'goy Kadosh; the people answer Na'aseh (Rashi to 19:3 - Yisro)

3 Sivan - Moshe is instructed to prepare the people and Har Sinai for Matan Torah (Rashi to 19:8 - Yisro)

4 Sivan - Moshe makes a Bris with Bnei Yisrael and writes a Torah scroll; the people answer Na'aseh V'Nishmah (Rashi to 24:1 - Mishpatim)

5 Sivan - No information is given about the events of this day. Presumably the people continued preparing for Matan Torah

6 Sivan - HaShem held the mountain over Klal Yisrael (Rashi to 19:16 - Yisro)

6 or 7 Sivan - Matan Torah (Rashi to 19:15 - Yisro)

7 or 8 Sivan - Moshe is instructed to go up Har Sinai for 40 days (Rashi to 24:12 - Mishpatim)

---40 days (Presumably the laws of 20:20-23:33 - Yisro and Mishpatim - were given now)---

17 Tammuz - Eigel HaZahav (Rashi to 32:1 - Ki Sisa)

---40 days (34:28 - Ki Sisa; the laws of 25:1-31:17, Terumah-Ki Sisa, were given during this period - Rashi to 31:18)---

10 Tishrei - Moshe descends (34:29 - Ki Sisa)

11 Tishrei - Yisro reprimands Moshe regarding his judging methods (Rashi to 18:13 - Yisro)

Next several months - Mishkan was built (Vayakhel-Pekudei) and dedicated (first several parshios of Vayikra and Bamidbar)


As you can see from the above, the events of Yisro, Mishpatim, Terumah, Tetzaveh, and Ki Sisa are all mixed up, with the normal order being resumed with Vayakhel. Why? Granted that the Torah is not necessarily written in order (Pesachim 6a, cited by Rashi to Shemos 31:18), there's always a reason why everything is where it is. So why are these events not written in order?

Rashi in his comments throughout Rishon of Yisro seems to indicate that he personally holds that Yisro came before Matan Torah, while later addressing the other opinion as an aside. So this question will not seek an answer addressing that particular piece since it is in place according to him.

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It says in Likutei Sichos for example, parshas Terumah volume 3 section 7:

"In parshas Yisro, it speaks about the giving of the Torah, where there was the accomplishment of the connection of spirituality with the physical, the combining of "upper" and "lower". And the same idea (although with a slight addition {see later}), was this also in parshas Mishpatim, {like Rashi says:} "and these add on the first (commandments). This is however only the connection from spiritual with physical regarding physical things, and only at the time of doing {a particular mitzvah, he means that when we do a Mitzvah after the giving of the Torah then during the performance of the Mitzvah there is a connection of physical and spiritual, but only then}. However, parshas Terumah speaks about "And make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell in them" -- the connection from the upper with the lower not only in Mitzvos {and in the time of doing Mitzvos}; rather, also with "permitted things", "you should know him with all of your ways"." {as explained earlier in the sicha}

So THEN he goes on to explain the main meaning of the order of the parshios:

"This is also the general order of the parshios that are in Sefer Shemos, {they are in a way of} from lower to higher {from a lower level to a higher one}: in the first parshios, it's told over about the entire order of: the exile of Egypt , then the exodus from Egypt, which was all a precursor and a preparation to the giving of the Torah; afterwards, (in parshos Yisro and {even} parshas Mishpatim), the idea and accomplishment of the giving of the Torah {which he explained elsewhere that in Mishpatim there was the completion of the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people since they had the blood sprinkled on them etc..}, which is the combination of spiritual with Mitzvos in physicallity, and after this from parshas Terumah until the end of the book of Shemos is the idea of "and you should know him in all of your ways"

Regarding the very last point he said, that from Terumah until the end of Shemos, he explains each parsha individually in note 43:

"And also in these parshios themselves, the order is from "below" to "above" {meaning from a lower level to a higher level}: in parshas Terumah and Tetzaveh, is the idea of the Mishkan that Moshe commanded be built {but not in actuality yet}, from the command of Hashem {only}, and in parshas Vayakheil Pikudei, it talks about the actual / physical Mishkan that the people of Yisroel actually made down here {in this world -- not just in potential}, and in this Mishkan {I guess maybe referring to the physical Mishkan as opposed to it's spiritual counterpart alluded to in the "command" from Hashem to Moshe}, was completed the {inner} intention {of Hashem} to have "a dwelling place in the lower realms", {which that means that this physical Mishkan represents the} most high level possible -- {at the end of Shemos}

So basically, even though the Parshas aren't in chronological order, but they are organized in the order of the Jewish people getting closer and closer to Hashem. Interesting, in the above explanation from Likutei Sichos (which everyone should look up in the original BTW, again Cheilek Gimel Os Zayein - volume 3 section 7), the only parsha he doesn't mention is this one -- Tisa!!!! I was thinking how that can fit in to being part of the Jewish people getting closer to Hashem, and I was thinking that possibly it refers to the level of Teshuva, but I still wonder why he didn't mention it.

SO that's the general idea of why the parshios are ordered the way they are, for each specific event, it talks about it throughout Likutei Sichos, I guess you'll just have to learn the whole thing to find out all of them :)

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