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Prashat Yitro- "Taking Advice"

The Torah in Parashat Yitro tells about the arrival of Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro – for whom the Parasha is named – to join Beneh Yisrael as they encamped at Mount Sinai. Yitro was formerly an idolater – in fact, he was the pagan priest of Midyan – and he now embraced the belief in the one, true God and underwent conversion to become part of Am Yisrael.

The Torah tells that after Yitro’s arrival, he advised Moshe to change his procedure of judging the people and answering their questions. Yitro saw that Moshe handled all the nation’s questions personally. The people stood in a long line waiting for their turn to bring their questions and disputes to Moshe. Yitro alerted Moshe to the fact that he cannot shoulder this burden by himself; it is simply too much for one person to handle. He urged Moshe to establish a network of scholars and judges to whom the people could bring their questions, such that Moshe would be called upon to decide only the most difficult cases. Moshe accepted Yitro’s advice, and he appointed scholarly and righteous men to serve as judges to help him bear the responsibility of resolving the people’s questions.

We know from elsewhere that Moshe appointed judges only after God commanded him to do so. This measure was taken not as a result of Yitro’s suggestion, but rather in fulfillment of the divine command. The obvious question thus arises as to why God waited until after Yitro proposed the idea before instructing Moshe to appoint a judicial network. If this is what God wanted, why had he not told Moshe to make these appointments earlier? Why was it necessary for Yitro to first suggest the idea before God issued the command?

It seems that God wanted to demonstrate the importance of seeking and accepting advice, even from people of lesser stature. He of course wanted Moshe to appoint judges; but He decided to allow Yitro to make the suggestion so that Moshe could accept the advice and thereby teach us an important lesson. Yitro was formerly a pagan priest, deeply entrenched in the world of idolatry. He had only recently come to the Israelite camp and accepted the belief in God. Without question, Moshe’s credentials far surpassed his. Moshe was God’s personally appointed messenger, the greatest prophet that every lived. We might have expected Moshe to say something to the effect of, "Who are you to start telling me how to run the nation? Don’t you think I have more experience than you? And don’t realize that God Himself tells me what to do?"

But instead, Moshe humbly listened and accepted Yitro’s advice, to show us that a person should never feel too proud or too important to hear or accept advice, regardless of who offered it.

In Parashat Bereshit, we read that before God created Adam, He said, "Na’aseh Adam" ("Let us make man"), as if speaking to other people. The Sages explain that before the creation of man, God "consulted," as it were, with the heavenly angels. Obviously, this was His decision, and not theirs. Nevertheless, God convened a "meeting," so-to-speak, in order to teach us the importance of consultation, of hearing another opinion, of listening to what others have to say.

A person with a healthy ego welcomes other opinions and other people’s advice. He feels confident enough in his capabilities to hear a different view, and even to defer to another person’s expertise. It is the insecure person who feels uneasy about consulting, who is afraid to expose himself the possibility that somebody else might have an idea that he did not think of himself.

The remarkable story of Moshe and Yitro thus teaches a critically important lesson about humble regard for other people’s advice. We have much to gain by availing ourselves of the ideas and knowledge of the people around us, rather than stubbornly insisting that we have all the answers and all the right ideas. If Moshe could accept advice from Yitro, then we certainly should be prepared to hear and accept the advice of our colleagues and peers.

Parashat Mishpatim: Our Religious Resume
Parashat Yitro- Partnering With Hashem
Parashat BeShalah- A New Understanding of the Splitting of the Sea
Parashat Bo- Pharaoh and His Advisors
Parashat Vaera- Moshe Was Human
Parashat Shemot- The Egyptian “Furnace”
Parashat Vayehi- Yaakob’s Blessing to His Grandchildren
Parashat Vayigash- The Antidote to Adversity
Hanukah- When Building a Foundation
Parashat Vayeshev- The Precious Value of Silence
Parashat Vayishlah- The Dangers of the Gentle Touch
Parashat Vayeseh- Beware the “Laban Syndrome”
Parashat Toldot: Hard Work and Effort
Parashat Hayeh-Sara: Shidduchim and G-d’s Angel
Parashat Vayera- Lot’s Delayed Escape From Sedom
1002 Parashot found