by Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber, R.J.E.
Adult Learning Specialist for the Union for Reform Judaism
When Can We Truly See
Each year when we read Parashat Yitro, many of us tend to focus on the later sections of the parashah. We are caught up in the awe and splendor of that moment at the mountain. We visualize the smoke and hear the thunder. We renew our own commitment of
– proclaiming our willingness to do and to listen. We see the power of the Divine Presence in our midst.
Prior to this inspiring segment is another, which focuses on human characteristics rather than Divine. Just after Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law arrives in the camp with Tzippora and the boys, Yitro spends some time with Moses. Moses recounts the events leading to their reunion in the desert and his sense of responsibility to take care of ALL the needs of the people. “Next day, Moses sat as magistrate among the people, while the people stood about Moses from morning until evening” (Exodus 18:13). Moses sat and judged the people—only he could do the job. And in addition to thinking that only he was capable, Moses sat while the people stood and waited. While the people stood and waited for hours, they gave up hope of even being heard by Moses, much less receiving a decision. The people were demoralized by the process and as Yitro watched he understood their pain, frustration and discomfort.
Yitro becomes the voice of reason, “The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18). Moses needed to be shown another way to act and the words of guidance needed to come from a different voice. Yitro brought a new point of view to the situation and because he was not part of the community, he could see through Moses’ perceived sense of importance and show him a different way to act.
Thus Yitro enabled Moses to move onto to other duties and prepare the people for that moment on the mountain. May we each be blessed to have a Yitro in our lives to show us another way.
For previous issues of
Torah from around the world