The Yisro Way

Yisro was the ultimate outsider. A former Master Idolater — turned into father-in-law of Moshe Rabbeinu — his improbable journey took him from Pagan Professional to Mr. Nachas as he watched his children lead the Jewish people from Egypt to Sinai.

Yisro is the name of our Parsha and the name of a unique character whose choices are worth exploring in depth. Let us explore just one tale:

There he found himself, in the desert with his new family — the Jewish people. Although he didn’t partake in the Exodus nor witness the Splitting of the Sea, he nevertheless felt the itch to join the Jewish people, and he converted to the new religion just recently taught at Sinai.

While in the desert he had some free time. He spent his time wisely by studying and understanding his illustrious son in law. He must’ve been impressed by the saintliness and altruism of his daughter’s husband. He must’ve kvelled when he saw how the people listened and followed their leader.

He did see one thing that didn’t sit right. He noticed that Moshe was the single judge and advisor of the entire nation; an impossible task. A nation of millions with their personal, professional, familial issues and questions cannot be addressed by one individual, regardless of his/her saintliness.

He had an idea how to solve the issue: Moshe should appoint “leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties and leaders of tens” who should judge and advise the people on their needs. The really tough unsolvable questions that the lower leaders would struggle with would be brought to Moshe. Moshe would be a one man Supreme Court, with many levels of courts beneath him.

Good idea, ay? So what do you do when you have a good idea for the benefit of others and community?

Here are the options that Yisro had in how to address this issue:

A. Passive: “None of my business!”

B. Fear: “I’m just a newcomer to the team, I obviously don’t understand the issue. Who am I to have an opinion?”

C. Aggression: “I’ll give this guy a piece of my mind. I’ll tell him exactly what I think of him! How dare he be so reckless?”

D. Coward: “I will chat about the recklessness of the leader and the genius of my idea with every Tom, Dick and Harry. The one person I won’t discuss it with is the person who deserves to hear it (and deserves that no one else shall) — Moshe.”

He chose none of the above weak options. With dignity and respect for himself and for the person he was addressing he approached Moshe and offered his insight. No judgement. No entitlement. No cowardice.

What happened? Moshe listened. He then approached G-d Himself to hear His thoughts on the matter. Hashem agreed With Yisro’s idea.

And so it was.

Yisro literally changed the entire judicial and executive systems of Jewish leadership for all time. This guy from nowhere, earned eternity just from having the courage to think, the courage to share his thoughts, and the courage to do it with dignity.

In fact, the Parsha which tells the story of the greatest event in all of history — the Giving of the Torah on Sinai — is named after him: Parshat Yisro.

Do you have an insight that might benefit a fellow Jew? Can you think of ideas that will better the methods of how Judaism is taught? Do you have ideas of how to combat assimilation? Do you see weakness in your leaders?

Then kindly do the ‘Yisro thing’. Be a Mentch.