Parashat Yitro, Do not look to the altar that is hewn by human hands

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 This week’s reading is from Parashat Yitro (Shemot / Exodus 18:1-20:26) the name of the Parashah “Yitro” is the name of Moshe’s father-in-law.  The Scriptures tell us Moshe had two sons, Gershom and Eleazar (18:1-2).  Yitro (Jethro) came to Moshe bringing his wife Zipporah and his two sons (18:6-8).  Moshe told Yitro everything the Lord had done as a result Yitro said י   וַיֹּאמֶר יִתְרוֹ בָּרוּךְ יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם וּמִיַּד פַּרְעֹה אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶת-הָעָם מִתַּחַת יַד-מִצְרָיִם:   18:10 So Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. (NASB)  The telling of the miracles of God resulted in Yitro praising the Name of the Lord.  Moshe and Yitro make an offering before the Lord and then sat down to eat with the elders of Yisrael before the Lord (18:12).  The next day, Yitro saw all that Moshe was doing for the people and recommended that Moshe select leaders from the people as judges so that only the heavy matters Moshe would judge (18:13-26).  Moshe then said farewell to his father-in-law and it is written on the third month after the exodus the people arrived at the wilderness of Sinai (18:26-19:1).  Moshe brought the word of the people to the Lord and the Lord told Moshe to go to the people and consecrate them for on the third day the Lord will come down on the Mountain of Sinai (19:7-16).  The Lord warned Moshe to warn the people not to break through and gaze so they would not die (19:24-25) and God called Moshe and Aharon to come up on the mountain.  The Lord then gives the people His ten commandments (i) to have no other gods before Him (20:1-5), (ii) do not take the name of the Lord in vain (20:6-7), (iii) remember the Shabbat (20:8-11), (iv) honor your father and mother (20:12), (v) do not murder (20:13), (vi) do not commit adultery (20:14), (vii) do not steal (20:15), (viii) do not bear false witness against your neighbor (20:16), (ix) do not covet your neighbors house (20:19), and (x) do not covet your neighbors wife, male or female servants, his ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor (20:19) This week’s Parashah ends saying:

פרשת יתרו ספר שמות פרק כ פסוק כא-כג 

כא   מִזְבַּח אֲדָמָה תַּעֲשֶֹה-לִּי וְזָבַחְתָּ עָלָיו אֶת-עֹלֹתֶיךָ וְאֶת-שְׁלָמֶיךָ אֶת-צֹאנְךָ וְאֶת-בְּקָרֶךָ בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ: כב   וְאִם-מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים תַּעֲשֶֹה-לִּי לֹא-תִבְנֶה אֶתְהֶן גָּזִית כִּי חַרְבְּךָ הֵנַפְתָּ עָלֶיהָ וַתְּחַלְלֶהָ: כג   וְלֹא-תַעֲלֶה בְמַעֲלֹת עַל-מִזְבְּחִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא-תִגָּלֶה עֶרְוָתְךָ עָלָיו:

 

When making an altar to bring the burnt offering and peace offering, “in every place that my name is remembered, I will come and bless you” (בְּקָרֶךָ בְּכָל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אַזְכִּיר אֶת-שְׁמִי אָבוֹא אֵלֶיךָ וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ).  In addition to this, the Lord says וְאִם-מִזְבַּח אֲבָנִים תַּעֲשֶֹה-לִּי לֹא-תִבְנֶה אֶתְהֶן גָּזִית כִּי חַרְבְּךָ הֵנַפְתָּ עָלֶיהָ וַתְּחַלְלֶהָ  ‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. (NASB)  This command prevents man from forming an altar using his hands and the imagination of his heart.  This suggests to us that God wants an altar built according to His design and not man’s design.  The possibility of changing/modifying what God has established for our salvation is a serious temptation and the result is profaning (וַתְּחַלְלֶהָ) the Name of the Lord.  Only God can properly cover (כפר) atone for our sins, if we attempt to approach Him by anything other means we will be exposed and naked before Him and remain guilty in our sin (20:26).  Read More here.

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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!