Commentary of Parashat Yitro (Jethro)


This week’s portion of reading from the Torah is called Jethro. The same Jethro who was the father-in-law of Moses. I know that there are very few men who want to take advice from their fathers-in-law, but Moses needed this advice just like I need the same advice too. It is hard to be a leader that delegates authority in a healthy and organized way. Here is the text:

“And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”” (Exodus 18:13–23 NKJV)

Jethro gave Moses over 3000 years ago the best corporate advice that any manager would be wise to receive and practice. We have here a text that is near 3000 years old, given by a non-Jew, a gentile pagan priest and Moses goes out and does his best to preform and put to practice the principles of leadership that Jethro gave him. It is not easy to take advice from our fathers-in-law, but if you read the text in Exodus 18 you will see how many times the words “Father-in-law” appear you will understand that the Holy Spirit specifically stresses this fact so that we all know that a good father-in-law can give you good advice that is worth learning. As Israelites, we are good in many things, but organization is not one of these areas that we are very strong. Moses took Jethro’s advice and this was a great help, but at the same time later it was one of the causes of the Korahite rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Too much organization and too much of a pyramid structure can also be not beneficial.

This article originally appeared as a part of The Jerusalem Prayer List by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, February 16, 2017, and reposted with permission.