Monday, February 13, 2006

Taking Advice

Hello everyone, as I said on my other blog, I am in the middle of a Blog Hiatus. I plan on returning the first week in March. But that doesnt mean I can't blog on TJC. So here it goes.

Today I was reading through the Parsha and I had these thoughts.

This weeks Torah portion is a big one. The big event that sticks out of course is the giving of the Ten Commandments. Every year this is the main topic of discussion for this weeks Torah portion. Parshas Yisro.

One of the things I like about this parsha is the concept of being able to take advice. The whole getting the Ten Commandments is a very important event, no doubt, and there are many lessons and great things to be learned from that. But for me, what more than anything else sticks out, is the concept of taking advice.

Yisro see's that Moshe is having a hard time judging all the cases that are coming before him. Yisro suggests to Moshe to set up a court of judges, and that they should assist Moshe in governing the nation and deciding cases.

This wasn't just an instance of one person taking advice from another person. This was a case of someone who was the leader of an entire nation, who had gone through so much. After everything that happened in Egypt, after growing up in the royal palace, after freeing an entire nation, the splitting of the red sea, after wandering the dessert, after everything that transpired, he was being given advice. Someone who could have just as easily said. "You're giving me advice? Who are you? do you know what I've accomplished so far? Thanks anyway, I'll be fine." He didnt, obviously, and of course this speak volumes about the type of hero and leader Moshe was.

Still, the way I see it this goes deeper. He was being given advice from a 'parental' figure, and not an actual parent, but an in-law. The very people we always want to look good in front of. Most people don't want to take advice from an in-law. It makes them feel like they aren't able to fend for themselves. Many son in-laws want to impress their father in-laws, showing them that their daughter made the right choice.

In some ways its better if the advice would have come from an actual parent, but from a father in law? He still took the advice. It can go even deeper. Yisro was not just his father in law, but he was an outsider. As much of an outsider as it was possible. This wasn't some relative of Yosef Hatzadik or Avraham, Yitzchok or Yaakov Avinu, but some guy who used to be a priest. He was a convert, and more than that, he didn't even leave with them from Egypt or go through the red sea, or live through the plagues.

He met them while they were already in the dessert. I don't think advice could have come from a more unlikely place. Yet he took it. This to me is a great lesson. Taking advice is sometimes the hardest thing to do for anyone. We all want to think we can handle things on our own. We all want to try to do things without seeking help. No one WANTS to ask for help. Moshe was trying to do the best he could, and things were getting hectic. Yisro saw this and had a good idea. He came to Moshe and Moshe took his advice.

This ties into probably one of the most popular questions people ask stemming from this weeks Parsha. In a Torah portion where we have the Ten Commandments. One of the biggest events in all of Jewish history, the Parsha is named after an outsider, highlighting a story about a convert who had some good ideas. Yisro was chosen as the name over all the names that would have pointed to us receiving the Aseras Hadibros.

This shows you the lengths that we have to go to respect people. Taking advice in a way is a lesson in respect. You have to be able to respect people to take their advice. Or more so, respect that you are not perfect. Everyone can take advice. Even from someone who you think would have nothing to offer. Someone like Yisro, who came from such a distant place to end up giving the leader of the Jewish people advice.

We learn from this, that even greater than the Ten
Commandments is the concept of respect. At least that's what I take from this. I'm not a Rabbi of course, just some guy with a blog.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and it wasnt too serious or preachy.


Anonymous said...

For me, the most striking thing about Yitro's advice is that it's proof that the "outside world" can have a positive influence on Judaism. Here's a man described by the Written Torah as a priest of a pagan religion who, according to midrash (rabbinic interpretative story, for lack of a better translation), was a Jew by Choice, and as such, influenced by the culture from which he came, yet his suggestion to Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) resulted in the organization of the first Jewish judicial system. This parsha stands as a reminder to those farthest to the right on the Jewish observance spectrum that not every aspect of non-Jewish culture is depraved and to be avoided at all costs.

Anonymous said...

Very true, good point.