All The Way

The Weekly Parsha

By Ilana Grinblat

Published February 03, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

My two-year-old daughter Hannah developed an annoying habit recently. Whatever she wants, she asks be done “all the way.” To simply put on her socks is insufficient; she wants them pulled up all the way to her knees. If she asks for milk, she wants it poured all the way to the top of the cup (so it almost spills over). To put her shoes on, she insists that I first unbuckle the strap and then fasten it so that it covers the Velcro completely — with none left showing. She frequently says: “All the way, mama, all the way.”

This week’s Torah portion contains a similar refrain. The word col which means “all” appears 34 times in the three chapters of the parsha, which recount two events. First, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, heard of “all that God had done for Moses” and the people and so he came to visit (where Moses explained to him all that had happened.) Jethro then advised Moses about setting up a system of judges for the people so that he would not have to carry the full burden of leadership alone. The Torah recounts that Moses listened to his father-in-law “and did all that that he had said.”

The second major event of the portion is when the people arrived at Mount Sinai. God offered the people a special covenant and Moses gathered the elders and told them “all the words that God had commanded. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Then God spoke the Ten Commandments directly: the text recounts, “God spoke all these words …”

This parallel, repetitive language is instructive. Just as Moses accepted Jethro’s advice and did “all that he had said,” the people agreed to do “all that God had said.” The rabbis teach that there are two main realms of action — bein adam l’chavero (between people) and bein adam lamakom (between a person and God). This parallel demonstrates that whether in our relationship with others or in our relationship with God, we should try to give our all.

Sometimes, when we embark on a large project, we may lose steam in the middle and not want to see it through. The Israelites certainly had that problem as they often lost hope during their forty-year desert trek and pined to return to Egypt. Also, we may try to do too much so that we don’t accomplish any of our tasks fully and end up doing our many activities half-heartedly. This week’s portion implicitly warns against these spiritual dangers.

The parsha reinforces the spiritual lesson that my daughter was trying to impart. When you do something, do it “all the way.”

Rabbi Ilana Grinblat teaches rabbinic literature at the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two young children.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.