D’var Torah: Naomi Stoll (Yitro)

This week’s parsha is named after Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro. 

At the beginning of the parsha Yitro visits Moshe in the desert. During his visit Yitro sees how Moshe worked relentlessly from morning until evening settling disputes and solving problems.

 In Exodus 18:14 it states 

וַיַּרְא֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא עֹשֶׂ֖ה לָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מָֽה־הַדָּבָ֤ר הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתָּ֤ה עֹשֶׂה֙ לָעָ֔ם מַדּ֗וּעַ אַתָּ֤ה יוֹשֵׁב֙ לְבַדֶּ֔ךָ וְכָל־הָעָ֛ם נִצָּ֥ב עָלֶ֖יךָ מִן־בֹּ֥קֶר עַד־עָֽרֶב׃

Yitro asks Moshe, what is this thing you are doing to the people? And why are you doing it by yourself? After Moshe had answered Yitro, Yitro gave Moshe advice. His advice was to appoint more judges to handle the small cases and bring the bigger and harder ones to Moshe. Moses followed the advice from his father-in-law and did exactly that.

In explaining the plan to Moshe, Yitro says that if Moshe keeps trying to do everything himself he would tire himself out. Yitro states that delegation would be good for Moshe but I also believe that it benefited B’nei Yisrael too. Because of delegation Moshe would not have to worry about solving problems quickly he could spend time carefully thinking about each problem and coming up with the best solution possible. This would benefit B’nei Yisrael because the solutions improve since moshe could concentrate and spend adequate time on each of the problems. Another reason it would benefit B’nei Yisrael is that their problems would be solved more quickly. It’s like if you went to the grocery store and there was only one checkout line open. The lines would be longer than if there were 10 checkout lines open. Also when there are more people there are more opinions. With more opinions it could be a fairer system of justice than having one person make all the decisions all the time. We can see delegation in action all the time in our own lives.

One example of delegation is our justice system. In our justice system we have district courts and appellate courts. Even in the supreme court there are nine judges and not just one. While delegation is important it can also be hard. Sometimes we might want to control everything ourselves but we have to step back and remember that dividing up work is important. When I was preparing for the math fair at school with my group we also used delegation. Each of us worked on one part of the project which made us work more efficiently and our different opinions on fun and math allowed us to make it better for everybody. The rabbis of the talmud also used Yitro’s advice as a model in designing their judicial system. The Babylonian Talmud, in Zevachim 116a, It tells of a dispute between the sons of Rabbi Ḥiyya and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi over whether the story with Yitro was before the giving of the Torah or after the giving of the Torah. Whether it was before or after, it was good advice.

Naomi Stoll ’21

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