In last week's parsha, Bshalach, the Jewish nation completed their redemption from Egypt with the splitting of the Yam Suf, their crossing it on dry land, and the death of the Egyptian army. In this week's parsha, Yisro, the Jewish nation receives the Torah at Mount Sinai
In the first aliyah, Yisro, Moshe's father-in-law, having heard all about what G-d did for Moshe and the Jews, comes to them in the desert bringing with him Moshe's wife and two sons. Moshe and all the leaders of the Jews go to meet Yisro. (From this we learn how to respect fathers'-in-law.) Moshe tells Yisro all about their being delivered out of Egypt, the splitting of the sea of reeds, the manna, the water, and the war with Amalak. Yisro responds using the phrase: "Boruch Hashem" (Blessed be G-d).
According to Rashi, the second aliyah actually happens after the giving of the Torah. Here, Yisro finds Moshe sitting before thousands of people from morning to evening and acting as a judge in their disputes. He would tell them what the laws of G-d say about their particular case.
Yisro suggests a system of delegating Moshe's responsibility, where Moshe would appoint heads of thousands, heads of hundreds, heads of fifties, heads of tens, able men, G-d fearing men, men whose word will be believed, for them to judge most cases leaving only the most difficult for Moshe.
In the third aliyah Moshe does everything his father-in-law suggests, setting up a hierarchical judicial system. Yisro returns to his own land (Rashi says to convert the members of his family to Judaism).
In the fourth aliyah the Torah returns to the subject of the Jewish people approaching Mt. Sinai. The Torah says they arrived there in the third month after leaving Egypt on the "same day". Rashi says the term "same day" is used to indicate that the Torah should be considered by each of us as new as if it were given today.
Moshe goes up the mountain alone to talk to G-d. G-d tells Moshe to "tell the Jews that they've seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle's wings. If you will keep My covenant you will be My treasured people and a kingdom of priests."
In the fifth aliyah G-d says to Moshe to tell the people to sanctify themselves. They should immerse in the mikvah, and husbands and wives are to separate for three days. They should set bounds around about Mt. Sinai, and no man or beast should go past the bounds.
On the third day (the sixth of Sivan), in the morning, there is thundering and lightning and a thick cloud. The sound of an exceedingly loud shofar is heard. Mt. Sinai is seen smoking and shaking, and the shofar grows louder and louder.
In the sixth aliyah the Ten Commandments are given. G-d is revealed to the whole world. The Jewish people look to the east, west, north, south, up, and down, and SEE the revelation of G-d. As explained in the Zohar, there was no place from which G-d did not speak to them. At every divine utterance, their souls took flight, and G-d revived them with the dew with which He will revive the dead when Moshiach comes (may it happen speedily in our day).
The Ten Commandments are encapsulated in the first two commandments, and all 613 commandments are encapsulated in the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments are:
- Believe in G-d
- Do not worship idols
- Do not use G-d's name in vain
- Remember Shabbos to keep it holy
- Honor your father and mother
- You shall not kill
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not be a false witness
- You shall not be jealous of your friend's possessions
It is a custom that we all stand while listening to the Ten Commandments being read.
The seventh aliyah says that the people trembled at the thunder and lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and were afraid. They were also afraid because during the first two commandments the people expired and were revived because they couldn't take the Divine revelation. As a result, they ask Moshe to be a go-between and get the rest of the Torah for them. Moshe does so, and receives the other 611 commandments on Mt. Sinai.
It is interesting to note that the gematria (numerical value) of the word "Torah" is 611. The Jewish people heard two commandments directly from G-d, and the other 611 through Moshe.
As the aliyah continues, the Torah continues with the commandments forbidding the making of idols.