Jews should also look to the great non-Jews of the world for advice, tips, insights and words of wisdom. Together we can make the world a better place.
This week’s Torah portion is “Yitro” (Ex 18:1-20:23) and it’s a very exciting one. It contains the episode of the Ten Commandments, and more. But before we get to the story of the Ten Commandments, the reading opens up with an introduction to the namesake of this week’s Torah portion: Yitro, also known as Jethro, former priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses.
When Yitro joins the Jewish people, he notices Moses’ heavy work load. Moses’ primary job for quite some time was adjudicating disputes between people. He was the town judge. Anyone who had a dispute with anybody about anything would go to Moses for a ruling on who was right and how to proceed. Yitro saw that Moses was quickly burning out from the pressure and long hours. As such, Yitro advises Moses to set up numerous courts with many judges who would share the work load with him. As leader of the nation, Moses should only have to decide the most complicated cases.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that there is a dispute in the Talmud as to whether the arrival (and advice) of Yitro took place before the episode of the Ten Commandments, as it appears in the Torah, or whether the events were not recorded in chronological order, in which case the story of Yitro actually took place after the Ten Commandments were given. Indeed, this isn’t the only passage in the Torah that has led the commentators to debate whether or not the Torah was written in chronological order.
Back to Yitro and his advice. Our sages say that we can learn something very important from Yitro’s advice, and even more so, from the fact that it was heeded. Yitro was not Jewish (some commentaries say that he converted to Judaism, while others say that he simply became a monotheist); nevertheless, Moses, the man of God, the number one Jew, appreciated his advice and acted on it. Although Moses probably would have realized, sooner or later, that such a solution was necessary, Yitro thought of it first. Moses accepted the advice and implemented it.
Non-Jews also possess wisdom, from which the Jewish people can learn. The Jewish people are not the “Chosen People” because they are wiser. Jews are the Chosen People because God chose them to lead by example and to be a “light unto the nations,” by sanctifying the world with acts of goodness and kindness through the teachings of the Torah.
The lesson of Yitro is that non-Jews have much to offer the Jewish people. Jews should look to the great non-Jews of the world for advice, tips, insights and words of wisdom on how to become better people. Together we can make the world a better place.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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