This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Yitro, is remarkable. Only six Torah portions (out of a total of 54) are named for one of the individuals advancing the drama within its text. ... And this portion is named for Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro (Yitro) — a non-Israelite, Midianite priest. In the portion, Yitro offers sage advice and Moses accepts it.
“Oh my goodness, you’re Jewish? I love Jews. Y’all are God’s chosen people.” Spending my formative years in Texas, I often heard this from classmates, teachers, and others who happened to notice the colorful Star of David necklace I wore throughout high school. ... Growing up in Reform synagogues and summer camps, this notion of chosenness rarely came up. ... Yet, the notion of Jewish chosenness is there in its clearest iteration in Parashat Yitro. As the Israelites stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai, in the preamble to the smoke and fire and blaring of the shofar, the drama of Revelation, and of matan Torah, “the gift of Torah,” God speaks to the people through Moses, saying: