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Listening to Good Advice

Parashat Yitro


After witnessing the splitting of the sea, Israel begins to travel through the desert towards Mount Sinai, and receives a visitor: Moses’s father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro). The Israelites receive their visitor very warmly.

While visiting, Yitro notices that the Israelite society could be functioning in a much more efficient way. He sees that Moses is judging the entire people all by himself, from morning to evening without even taking a break. Yitro tells Moses that if he continues in that way he will burn out, and suggests setting up a system of lower and higher courts to judge every day matters. Moses can preside over the Supreme Court and bring the most difficult cases to God for decisions; everything else can be handled by less expert judges. Moses accepts Yitro’s advice and sets up the court system.

Despite his close, constant connection with God and being between the two most major Divine revelations in history – the splitting of the sea and the giving of the ten commandments – Moses doesn’t shy away from taking advice on how to lead God’s people from a non-Israelite idolatrous priest who brings a very practical, human, modern-secular idea. This is another example of Moses’ greatness, his humility: his ability to rethink what is being done and adjust to even better situations, considering good advice no matter the source. Even more so, it’s an example of our people’s ability to blur the lines between the sacred and the secular and combine them together to bring society to a better place.

Shabbat Shalom.