Torah Fax

Friday, February 15, 2008 - 18 Shevat, 5768

Torah Reading:  Yitro (Exodus 18:1 - 20:23)
Candle Lighting: 4:46 PM
Shabbat ends: 5:49 PM

Uncompromised Delegation

When Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, observed how Moses would single-handedly judge the people, "from morning until evening," he admonished him: "What is this thing that you are doing to this nation? Why do you sit by yourself, while all the people stand before you from morning until evening? You will surely wear yourself out, along with this nation that is with you! For the matter is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone!"


Jethro then proceeded to explain to Moses how he should delegate responsibility to other judges. But, even before he counseled Moses about how to appoint lower level courts and judges, he advised him about what his role ought to be:


"You (should represent) the people before G‑d, and you will bring (their disputes) to G‑d. You will caution them about the statutes and the teachings, and you will show them the path to follow, and the things they must do."


Only after these introductory words of advice to Moses did Jethro proceed to advise him as to the qualifications of the judges he should appoint: "You should seek out from among all the people, men who fear G‑d etc."


The obvious question here is that Jethro's introduction was uncalled for. Moses certainly knew that he had to bring the new litigious issues that confronted the Jewish people to G‑d if he hadn't already received directives from G‑d about them. Why then did Jethro have to tell Moses to approach G‑d with these matters?


Furthermore, why did Jethro have to tell Moses to caution them about the statutes and the teachings, and show them the path to follow and the things they must do?   Would Moses have thought that once he delegated some judicial responsibility to others that he could retire from his role as the leader, teacher and mentor of the Jewish people?


The answer to these questions can be found in the Rebbe's analysis of Moses' approach to justice. It is based firstly on understanding a more fundamental question which many commentators pose with regard to this story: why did Moses himself not think of the elementary idea of appointing other judges to complement his role as chief judge?


The Rebbe explains that Moses realized that he enjoyed a unique relationship with G‑d as the one with whom the A-mighty communicated directly. Moses felt that by being personally involved in the teaching and judging of the people he would be able to impart some of that G‑dly dynamism and holiness to the people that he himself experienced.


Jethro, on the other hand, understood that it was crucial that the people be able to absorb the teachings of the Torah even when they would be engaged in their most mundane business matters. When the litigants were in the thick of the entanglements that precipitated their quarrel, and for which reason they came to be judged, Jethro felt they had to be open to the Torah’s directives. In order to receive the Torah’s teachings on that more human level, Jethro thought the people should receive their directives and guidelines not through Moses, but through other judges, other teachers who were more “down to earth.” In that mode, Jethro thought, it was impossible for them to ultimately be uplifted to the level of Moses. This would be particularly true in the future when the people would enter the Promised Land and would not be in the presence of Moses. Therefore, it was crucial that Moses impart some of his authority to lower level judges.


However, it is to be assumed that when Moses acceded to Jethro's proposal it would not be at the expense of the people. It would not be fair for Moses to deprive his people of the benefit of having a face to face involvement with him. Because this multi-tiered system was sanctioned by G‑d it meant that through Moses' appointing other judges, he was actually imbuing those judges with his spirit.


With this abridged version of the Rebbe's analysis, we can shed some light on Jethro's introduction. Knowing quite well Moses' rationale for wanting to personally be involved in the judgment of the Jewish people, Jethro had to convince Moses that the people would not fundamentally lose by Moses handing over his position as judge to others.


Jethro therefore told Moses that by "representing the people before G‑d, bringing their disputes to Him, cautioning them about the statutes and the teachings, and by showing them the path to follow and the things they must do," he will connect the people to G‑d.


Moreover, the Hebrew words for "You will caution them" "v'hizharta et'hem" can also be translated as: "You will illuminate them." In other words, Jethro was advising Moses to not just teach the people and admonish them, but he must also impart some of the light and G‑dly radiance to them when he teaches them. In effect, when the lower level judges will judge the people they will enable the litigants to feel the G‑dly light.


We know that the wish of a righteous person will always be granted by G‑d at some point. Moses' wish to teach and judge all of the Jewish people directly so that they do not lose any of the qualities that he possessed, will finally come true in the Messianic Age. Moshiach, who will be endowed with the soul of Moses, will personally teach each and every Jew.


But how can one person have the time to personally instruct every individual?


The answer is that Moshiach will employ a totally different approach to teaching. The conventional method of teaching is through sound. The teacher teaches one word, sentence, paragraph, chapter at a time. One cannot hear and absorb more than one sound at a time. Moshiach, however, will employ the method of visual teaching, where we will see the entire picture with one sweeping glance. In this format, everybody will learn simultaneously. Indeed, this "panoramic" view of Torah knowledge provides the student with a much broader and deeper understanding of the subject.  


Moshiach Matters


What kind of changes will occur when Moshiach comes? Since Moshiach encapsulates only good, joy and Simcah, it is clear that any change that will brought about my Moshiach in the world will only be positive and good. Whoever is suffering, will see and end to that suffering; whoever is successful will see an even greater increase in that success.
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

© 2001- 2008 Chabad of the West Side