Parashat Yitro
Rabbi Jill Hammer

Revelations: Three Kavvanot for Parashat Yitro


“Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, brought Moses’s sons and wife to him in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God…When Moses’s father-in-law saw everything he was doing for the people, he said: “What is this that you are doing to the people?” Exodus 18:6
I am the old one
listen to me
before you break yourself against the evenings

before you throw yourself against the mornings

don’t listen to the voice that says

carry the mountain on your back

you will find truth
not in the strong hand
but in the outstretched arms of others
you will find peace
not in parting the sea
but in crossing the soul’s river
you will find love

not in greatness but in weakness

I have come a long way
through the years of your life
through the hours of your regret
through the songs of your kinfolk
through the nights of your liberation

to tell you

lay down the bones of the world

they were never yours


“They came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, for God called to him from the mountain…” Exodus 19:2-3
I am the mountain
veiled in the smoke of my breath

flame in the chambers of my heart

O my friend
who came walking in the tracks of the flock
you took off your shoes
lifted your hands to the fire
burned yourself speaking my name

don’t you remember

I have missed you
we are both so much older now
but you know the paths
the crevices

where the mountain goats spring upward

come, do not be afraid
wash your feet in my rivers
let me open your eyes
see thunder
let me whisper in your ears

hear lightning

I have crouched for centuries

listening for the sound of your footsteps

I am the mountain
the bones of the world

and I am yours


“An altar of earth shall you make for me… and if you make for me an altar of stones, do not build it of hewn stones, for by wielding a sharp edge upon them, you have profaned them.” Exodus 21:21-22
I am the altar
the stone horse
step on my back

and I will carry you to heaven

I am the earth
I am your body
I am your wholeness

I bear the gift of you skyward

I am the tablets
broken and mended
hewn by the hand of God

I am the frail bones of the world

long after you leave the mountain
I will be your mountain
Rabbi Jill Hammer is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion.