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January 20, 1995 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-01-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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RABBI JONATHAN V. PLAUT SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

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Azar

ow interesting that the
portion which contains the
Ten Commandments is
named after a Midianite
priest. Besides the many lessons
which can be learned from the
Decalogue, there are important
instructions for us in looking fur-
ther at Jethro, the father-in-law
of Moses.
As the weekly portion begins,
Jethro hears all that God had
done for Moses and for the Is-
raelites. When the two meet,
Jethro admits that the Lord of
the Israelites is "greater than all
gods." This is remarkable, com-
ing from a pagan priest.
He even offers a blessing upon
Israel. "Blessed be the Lord who
delivered you from the Egyptians
and from Pharaoh, and who de-
livered the people from under the
hand of the Egyptians." By this
comment, Jethro admits that the
events which transpired were
known beyond the borders of
Egypt.
The actions of the Lord were
so powerful that even Jethro had
to admit that Israel's God was
supreme. News had obviously
reached this Midianite priest who
was particularly interested in the
accomplishments of his son-in-
law. Not only did Jethro hear the
news about Moses' historic
events, but he was able to inter-
pret them, react to them and ac-
knowledge their importance.
Possibly only another priest
like Jethro, even though he was
a Midianite, could understand
Moses' tremendous responsibili-
ty in serving the Israelite God.
Jethro worried about his son-in-
law's physical well-being and the
awesome tasks the Almighty im-
posed on him. Jethro praised
God, knowing that He had just
delivered the Israelites from the
Egyptians. God's might and pow-
er were known, but many failed
to understand the rigors of lead-
ing the Israelites. A Midianite
priest who himself was burdened
with responsibility could offer
sage advice to his son-in-law.
While Jethro shows great
kindness and friendliness toward
Israel by expressing praise for
what he had heard about them,
he is unafraid to express concern
for Moses' welfare. Jethro learns
that Moses "sat as magistrate
among the people, while the peo-
ple stood about Moses from morn-
ing until evening." Like a person
driven by the weight of his re-

H

*itsctivii-leduat\--100

•Rolotatzpts)

How Much We Learn
If We Only Listen

Dr. Jonathan V. Plaut is visiting
rabbinic scholar at Temple Beth
El.

sponsibility, Moses replies to
Jethro's concern by telling him
that "it is because the people
dome to me to inquire of God.
When they have a dispute, it
comes before me, and I decide be-
tween a man and his neighbor,
and I make known the laws and
teachings of God."
Jethro realizes Moses cannot
continue this arduous work for
long, and boldly says to Moses.
"The thing you are doing is not
right; you will surely wear your-
self out and these people as well.
For the task is too heavy for you;
you cannot do it alone." Jethro
provides valuable advice on the
proper administration and dele-
gation of authority.
Our Torah clearly indicates
Moses' pleasure on hearing
Jethro's advice. Not only did
Moses listen to Jethro, but he
took his suggestions and re-
vamped the existing system. The
Midrash notes that Moses had re-
ceived a command from God to
appoint Judges, but it was con-
cealed from him in order that
Jethro should have the merit of
having this parsha recorded in
his name.

Shabbat Yitro:
Exodus 18:1-20:23
Isaiah 6:1-7:6
9:5-6.

Rabbi Haim Ben Atar, the au-
thor of Or Ha-hayim, notes that
Jethro's visit with Moses in the
wilderness intended to instruct
us that while Torah is the center
of all knowledge and law, there
are some areas the Torah leaves
to the expertise of others. Moses
realized very quickly that Jethro
offered important insights which
should be readily implemented.
This sedrah contains several
valuable lessons for us. How dif-
ficult it is to listen to the words of
counsel from a well-meaning
friend or relative. Many times our
reaction is to become defensive
and belligerent even when the ad-
vice is intended without any ill
will. Children become antago-
nistic with the suggestions of
their parents and even teachers,
just as parents or those in au-
thority may become defensive
with the suggestions and
thoughts of those much younger.
The sign of maturity is to evalu-
ate the counsel just as Moses did.
In this complex world, it is im-
possible to be proficient in every-

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