Parshat Yitro

By: Herschel Karp (10th Grade)

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Yitro, is named after Moshe’s father-in-law. Yitro was not only a non-Jew, but he also happened to be a high priest of idol worship in Midyan. While in Midyan, he heard about the miracles performed by Hashem for the Jews, from the plagues to the splitting of the sea. From this, he recognized that these were the chosen people. Yitro wanted to be a part of this nation, so he came to join Bnei Yisrael in the desert, leaving everything else behind.

Upon arrival, he sees hundreds of people lined up outside Moshe’s tent with various different Halachic questions and disputes. At this point, Moshe was the sole judge in all legal and ethical matters for all of the millions of Jews, and he was occupied with hearing cases from early in the morning to late at night. Yitro understands that this system is clearly dysfunctional, realizing that Moshe shouldn’t need to carry the legal burden of all the Jews.  He suggests a system in which there would be a hierarchy of judges, where only the hardest cases would be passed up to him. This setup was then instituted by Moshe, and he was relieved of the great legal burden he had thus far.

It is unreasonable to assume that Moshe hadn’t thought of a system like this before.  Delegating jobs wasn’t a novel idea that Yitro invented, and Moshe most likely knew of this possibility. Why then did Moshe choose not to go with this route originally, and what did Yitro tell him that made Moshe change his mind?

At first, Moshe believed his job as a leader was to lead, which would require him to do everything, no matter how difficult it may be; he had the most authority. In his mind, the nation was far more likely to listen to him than an appointee. However, Yitro managed to persuade him to delegate.

Yitro says in regards to the appointees, “All of these people will come upon their place in peace.” Yitro’s argument was not that Moshe would benefit from the assistance, but that the people he delegated would benefit as well. He showed Moshe that not only was he unburdening himself, but more importantly, he was helping the people, particularly the ones who would now also be in key leadership positions.

In life, when you delegate properly, you are turning delegates into partners, not subsidiaries. Sharing the burden doesn’t bring other people down, it actually allows them to take part in the process themselves, making them investors rather than solely “employees”.  It is greatly beneficial to have partners who share a vision and work towards a common goal. While we often see delegation as a way of getting other people to do something one can’t or doesn’t want to do, it is actually a way of changing the dynamic of a relationship. This is what Moshe understood through Yitro, which was he immediately adopted the idea.