July 13, 2020

Rabbi Josh Stanton on Exodus 18 -- "Jethro -- Moses's Gentile Father-in-Law, Hero and Mentor."

This week Mark is extremely excited to welcome his very good friend, Rabbi Josh Stanton, to the podcast. Rabbi Josh was ordained from Hebrew Union College in 2013 where he was recognized for his accomplishments in many areas including academics and ecumenical relations. He has served as Associate Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey, Associate Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College, Director of Communications for the Coexist Foundation, and is currently the very much beloved Senior Rabbi at the East End Temple in Manhattan. Rabbi Josh has worked with both Jewish and Christian communities in Europe and the Vatican, and has written on subjects as wide ranging as human condition in Buddhist and Muslim texts to modern day social justice. The passage he has selected to discuss is Exodus 18.

Rabbi Josh begins the discussion by revealing just who Jethro is, and then he and Mark provide an extensive analysis of the text, incorporating the thoughts of other great scholars. They then reflect upon the significance of names throughout the Torah, and draw a number of fascinating parallels and lessons from the passage and their relevance to the present day. Rabbi Josh finishes by offering the lessons he has learned about mankind, one of which is exemplified in this very passage which ‘resonates in so many areas of [his] life’. This dynamic conversation between two highly passionate and knowledgeable seekers of the truth demonstrates the powerful role that questioning plays in education and discovery, and reaffirms the incalculable value of the Torah as a timeless guide for us all.

Episode Highlights:

Who is Jethro? Mark and Rabbi Stanton’s analysis of the text The existential significance of names in the Torah The elements of this passage that offer parallels and lessons regarding present day powerful leaders and their children, work of Chaplains in hospitals, ‘user experience’, and trusted advisors What Josh has learned about mankind


“It is a passage that resonates in so many areas of my life, and I would venture to say brings forth the universal figure of Jethro, which I think all of us have in our lives.”

“And so this is a Torah portion about experimentation and it’s all catalyzed by that one unlikely figure, Moses’ father-in-law.”

“The majesty of parable grows up from the white space in the text itself.”

“Jethro almost understands the Israelites, and the incredible reality they have lived into, better than Moses does.”

“No one cares what you know until they know you care…Moses knows that Jethro cares, and therefore he accepts the rebuke…he hears it and he acts on it immediately.”

“We saw this in the last financial crisis, that what broke many companies was the inability of leaders to trust the people getting them information.”

“People need the affirmation of role and relationship.”

“Hear truth from whatever source it comes.”

“Our tradition, in many ways, is all about holding both…and in this case, at times of war, we can still find allies even though we need to protect ourselves from those who are enemies.”

Exodus 18 “Blessed be the LORD,” Jethro said, “who delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.18?lang=bi&aliyot=0


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