What is the significance that the parsha that contains the events of Mattan Torah and the Aseret Hadibrot is called "Yitro", who was a convert?

I understand that the simple answer is that "Yitro" is one of the first words in the parsha and therefore it is named this, but I was looking for more of a drash/dvar Torah.

  • 2
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    – mbloch
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 15:54
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    1. It's customary to call Parshiot by the first couple of words, regardlessly of the main issue of the Parsha 2. Yotro had a couple of merits: like being Moses' in-law, giving Moses and the whole nation great advice of appointing judges, having the merit of converting his family etc. So it's not so strange after all.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 16:17
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/98821/…
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 26, 2019 at 16:44
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    Because it is true that the revelation at Sinai was a unique, once-in-history event. But for a son in law to accept a father-in-law's advice, without even arguing... That's TRULY amazing! <grin> I think Al Berko have the real answer. Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 17:32
  • Hi TheWoman, welcome to Mi Yodeya. I've edited your question a bit to make it more clear. If for some reason this isn't what you meant, feel free to edit it back.
    – ezra
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


I think it's simply that Yisro is the first interesting word in the text. (As Al Berko wrote in his comment.)

But we shouldn't underestimate how much his contribution added to the giving of the Torah. We generally discuss his suggestion to have a hierarchy of "sarim" (leaders) in terms of courts and adjudication. But they were there to answer questions in general. Yisro invented the idea of having a rabbinate. Of having someone available when the question is beyond your skills, or you're too personally motivated to reach an objectively good answer.

If it weren't for Yisro, there would be no chain of people to be teaching and passing the torch of the Oral Torah.

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    I was thinking about this, this morning. The first "interesting" word would be "vayishma" in the same way that "vayera" and "vayeitzei" are when they precede a name of somepone important. Of course, this also makes me wonder about why "toldot" is not used by Noach, but is used instead of "Yitzcha" -- did it suddenly become interesting?
    – rosends
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 13:25

The Zohar (vol. 2, p. 67b) states that Yisro's recognition of Hashem was a necessary prerequisite for the Torah to be given:

רָזָא דְּמִלָּה, בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּהַאי מֶלֶךְ וְהַאי כֹּהֵן אִתְכַּפְיָין, וְאִתְּבָּרוּ, כְּדֵין כָּל סִטְרִין אַחֲרָנִין אִתְכַּפְיָין, וְאוֹדָן לֵיהּ לְּקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, כְּדֵין קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא שָׁלִיט בִּלְחוֹדוֹי עֵילָּא וְתַתָּא, כְּמָה דְאַתְּ אָמֵר, (ישעיהו ב׳:י״א) וְנִשְׂגַּב יְיָ' לְבַדּוֹ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא.

כְּגַוְונָא דָּא, וְרָזָא דָּא מַמָּשׁ, עָבַד קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בְּאַרְעָא, דְּתָבַר מֶלֶךְ זָקֵן וּכְסִיל, וְדָא הוּא פַּרְעֹה, בְּשַׁעֲתָא דְּאָתָא מֹשֶׁה לְפַרְעֹה, וְאָמַר, (שמות ה׳:ג׳) אֱלהֵי הָעִבְרִים נִקְרָא עָלֵינוּ, פָּתַח וְאָמַר, לֹא יָדַעְתִּי אֶת יְיָ', וּבָעָא קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא דְּיִתְיָקַּר שְׁמֵיהּ בְּאַרְעָא, כְּמָה דְּאִיהוּ יַקִּירָא לְעֵילָּא. כֵּיוָן דְּאַלְקֵי לֵיהּ וּלְעַמֵּיהּ, אָתָא וְאוֹדֵי לֵיהּ לְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא.

וּלְבָתַר אִתְּבַר וְאִתְכַּפְיָיא הַהוּא כֹּהֵן אוֹן, יִתְרוֹ, דִּמְשַׁמֵּשׁ תְּחוֹתֵיהּ, עַד דְּאָתָא וְאוֹדֵי לֵיהּ לְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, וְאָמַר בָּרוּךְ יְיָ' אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם וְגוֹ', עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי גָּדוֹל יְיָ' וְגוֹ'... וְכֵיוָן דְּהַהוּא מֶלֶךְ וְכֹהֵן אוֹדוּ לְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא, וְאִתְּבָּרוּ קָמֵיהּ, כְּדֵין אִסְתְּלַק קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בִּיקָרֵיהּ עַל כֹּלָּא, עֵילָּא וְתַתָּא, וְעַד דְּאִסְתַּלָּק קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בִּיקָרֵיהּ, כַּד אוֹדָן אִלֵּין קָמֵיהּ, לָא אִתְיְיהִיבַת אוֹרַיְיתָא. עַד לְבָתַר דְּאָתָא יִתְרוֹ, וְאוֹדֵי וְאָמַר, עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי גָּדוֹל יְיָ' מִכָּל הָאֱלֹהִים. בָּרוּךְ יְיָ' אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם וְגוֹ'. כְּדֵין אִסְתַּלָּק קוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא בִּיקָרֵיהּ, עֵילָּא וְתַתָּא, וּלְבָתַר יָהַב אוֹרַיְיתָא בִּשְׁלִימוּ, דְּשֻׁלְטָנוּ עַל כֹּלָּא.

The gist is that the supreme king and priest of unholiness (and thus all of their subordinates) had to be forced to accept Hashem's mastery, in order for Hashem's exclusive rule over the world to be established, and for the Torah to be given. The king was Pharaoh, who started by saying "I don't know Hashem" but eventually was forced to recognize Him; the priest is Yisro, who declared "Now I know that Hashem is greater than all other powers."

So that makes it appropriate for the parsha in which the Torah is given to be named for Yisro, who made it possible.

  • Very nice +1 answer though i must mention that this goes according to the opinion that Yisro came before Mattan Torah. If Yisro came after Mattan Torah one would need to find another reason
    – user15464
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 23:54

R Tzvi Hersh Weinreb (TorahTidbits here, p. 49) quotes R Simcha Zissel Broida (the Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva in Jerusalem) explaining the importance of Yitro and the messages we can learn from him. The importance of this message might have been a reason to name a parsha after him

Our tradition respects the seeker, the person who searches for the truth and never tires of that search, no matter how many blind alleys he encounters and no matter how much frustration he experiences. Yitro is described as an individual who worshiped every idol in the world in search of the truth. As he became disappointed with each faith that he explored and with each religion that he practiced, he rejected that path and renewed his search. He retains the title High Priest of Midyan because that title represents the heights he could achieve in the religious hierarchy within which he sought truth. That title is symbolic of the degree to which Yitro was a seeker of truth.

That lesson is best conveyed in the words of Talmud in Gittin 43a: 'No man truly achieves Torah knowledge without first experiencing error.' When a person's errors in life culminate in his finally making proper choices and correct decisions, then those errors are to be publicized and respected, because they are indicators of the degree to which that person was a seeker.

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