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Torah Commentary
Yitro (February 7, 2015)

Missy Bell,
Program Director
of Youth Learning and Engagement

THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION is named for Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who gives Moses advice on leadership. In addition to all of the other roles Moses takes on throughout Exodus, Moses currently is serving as judge to the people. If the Israelites have disputes, then they bring their disputes and questions to Moses, who answers them with God’s laws. Jethro says to Moses, “The thing you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out…you cannot do it alone…you shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance…and they shall judge the people at all times, thereby making it easier for you, and they shall bear the burden with you.” And, thus, Jethro reminds Moses, and all of us, of the importance of not doing everything by ourselves.

We will be studying this exact text in our High School Confirmation program this coming Sunday. Just as Jethro teaches Moses that the Israelites must assume some responsibilities for themselves instead of having Moses be responsible for everything, we talk about the importance of the teens taking responsibility for issues that are important to them. The class also discusses the timing of Jethro’s advice. Prior to this, the Israelites aren’t ready to have Moses delegate some of his leadership. Instead, they need the stronger, more parental figure that Moses provides for them in the immediate aftermath of their escape from Egypt. Similarly, the Confirmation students, as teens, are just getting to the point in their lives where they need less hands-on assistance from their parents and are able to take more responsibility for themselves. The entire Confirmation curriculum is built on this metaphor — the teens viewing their journey from childhood to adolescence alongside the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai, where they stand, ready to take on the responsibilities of the Torah that will be given to them.

All of us can learn from Jethro’s advice to Moses, whether we are the Israelite ready to take on more responsibility or whether we are Moses, needing to delegate some of the responsibility to others. Both of these can be challenging. As the Israelite, it can be nice to have someone else in charge, someone to take on the more demanding tasks. But it also can be rewarding to step up and do those things ourselves and have ownership and buy in for our responsibilities. As Moses, it feels good to be the one in control and to get all of the credit, but it also can be a huge relief to lessen your own responsibilities. Who would you be in this situation — Moses or the Israelite?

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