As he admonishes him concerning the training that those put in charge of the flock of God should receive, Jethro tells Moses:
והזהרתה אתהם את־החקים ואת־התורת והודעת להם
את־הדרך ילכו בה ואת־המעשׂה אשׁר יעשׂון
You should also teach them the laws and the teachings, and show them how to live their lives and what work they should do. (Exo 18:20)
In Bava Metzia 30b, the Talmud teaches that this verse refers to bestowing chesed, visiting the sick, burying the dead, keeping the commandments, and even going beyond the minimum requirements of the commandments.
The Chofetz Chayim says that the reason why judges must be taught these obligations, even though they are obligations which everyone must fulfill, is in order that their exemplary behavior serve as a means to sanctify the Name of Heaven. When people witness the benevolence and integrity of their judges, they will readily submit themselves to their authority and heed their teachings. Furthermore the Sages have always stressed the responsibility of someone who studies Torah to behave in a manner that will generate in others the desire to have their children also study Torah (See Yoma 86b).
James, the brother of the Master echoes these words in the following statement:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, since you know that we will be judged more severely. (Jas 3:1)
Paul the Master's apostle gives a more specific admonition about these things in,
But if you call yourself a Jew and rest on Torah and boast about God and know his will and give your approval to what is right, because you have been instructed from the Torah; and if you have persuaded yourself that you are a guide to the blind, a light in the darkness, an instructor for the spiritually unaware and a teacher of children, since in the Torah you have the embodiment of knowledge and truth; then, you who teach others, don't you teach yourself? Preaching, "Thou shalt not steal," do you steal? Saying, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," do you commit adultery? Detesting idols, do you commit idolatrous acts? You who take such pride in Torah, do you, by disobeying the Torah, dishonor God? --as it says in the Tanakh, "For it is because of you that God's name is blasphemed by the Goyim." (Rom 2:17-24)
To be responsible leaders, these elders were to be taught the ways of the Torah. The first virtues that they therefore will need to be endowed with is respect of position and authority, as well as humility.
MOSHE'S ATTITUDE TOWARD YITRO, HIS FATHER-IN LAW.
One of the ethical values we see in Par'shat Yitro is in the respect that Moshe bears for Yitro, his father-in-law. 'In-laws' are the butt of jokes nowadays. If someone says, 'Oh, my in-laws are coming to spend a few days at my house next month!', we imagine that the person will be going through a stressful time at home. Not so with Moshe.
Moshe's father-in-law, likely a descendant of one of Abraham's other children through Keturah named Midian (Genesis 25:1-2) is a mysterious figure. Some contend that he was a pagan priest, while others see him continuing in the faith of Abraham his fore-father. I do not know and in ignorance, not wanting to inadvertently speak evil or wrongly about someone who is not present to make their own case, I will not draw judgement. In any case, my point here is not about Jethro, also called Reu'el (friend of God), but about Moshe.
The text of Torah tells us that, Moshe went out to meet his father-in-law, prostrated himself and kissed him. Then, after inquiring of each other's welfare, they entered the tent. (Exo 18:7 CJB)
Moshe had not seen his wife or children for a long time, but who did he go honor first? Jethro. How did he honor him? By prostrating himself and kissing him.
Whatever kind of life Jethro led is even irrelevant when it comes to Moshe. HaShem had honored Moshe with mighty miracles, talked to him directly, and used him in mighty ways. Moshe could have looked upon Jethro with condescension, but he did not. He went to honor and greet him even before he went to his wife and children.
Not only was Moshe mightily used by HaShem, but before that, he was an officer in Pharaoh's army. Having been raised in Pharaoh's household, he was used to a position of leadership. But in spite of that background, we read that Jethro felt comfortable to give Moshe, the great prophet of God, some needed advice. This tells a lot about Moshe whom HaShem said was the meekest of all men (Num 12:3).
THE PROUDER WE ARE THE HARDER IT IS FOR US TO RECEIVE COUNSEL.
We usually chaff at it by 'killing the messenger', finding fault with its deliverer. Pulling rank is also a common way of one insecure in his position to chaff against counsel. When we indulge in these sorts of behavior, it is difficult and uneasy for us to benefit from the wise counsel of others, as people don't usually want to bother giving it to us. It is even more lethal when we act that way while in a position of leadership. It was not so with Moshe, who's father-in-law felt he could tell Moshe,
"What you are doing isn't good.
You will certainly wear yourself out --
and not only yourself, but these people here with you as well.
It's too much for you -- you can't do it alone, by yourself.
So listen now to what I have to say.
I will give you some advice, and God will be with you. ...
... If you do this -- and God is directing you to do it -- you will be able to endure; and all these people too will arrive at their destination peacefully."
And we see that,
Moshe paid attention to his father-in-law's counsel and did everything he said. (Exo 18:17-24 CJB)
Later, these 70 elders would be honored by joining Moshe, Aaron, Eliab, and Abihu to the banquet of all banquets,
Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and seventy of the leaders went up; and they saw the God of Isra'el. Under his feet was something like a sapphire stone pavement as clear as the sky itself. (Exo 24:9-10 CJB)
There is a time in Israel when a King, who unlike Moshe, was opposed to receiving sound advice. We usually blame King Solomon's idolatry for the break of Israel into two kingdoms, but really, HaShem had given a chance for it to not happen. After Solomon died, his son,
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon [Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephrayim and was Solomon's right-hand man]), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and
Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, "Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you." He said to them, "Go away for three days, then come again to me." So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, "How do you advise me to answer this people?" And they said to him, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever." But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, "What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, 'Lighten the yoke that your father put on us'?" And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, "Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,' thus shall you say to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'"
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, "Come to me again the third day." And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, "What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David." So Israel went to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only. (1Ki 12:1-20 ESV)
HaShem used Pharaoh's already hardened pride to accomplish His will (Ex 14:4). Throughout history, He used Israel's enemies to reveal Himself to the world. Pharaoh, the Assyrian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, the Amalekites, the Philistines, Antiochus Epiphanes, Tiberius Caesar, the Catholic Inquisition, the Third Reich, alongside with Balaam, the Edomites, the Moabites, and all the other villains of History were but instruments in His hands to accomplish His will.
Just like them, and Rehoboam, through our pride and our rebellion against His will, we have the potential to also set ourselves as instruments of destruction in His hands to accomplish His will.
A conclusion can be drawn that,
- We decide for what purpose we come to be used by HaShem.
- Our pride will be used towards destruction;
- Our humility will be used towards edification.
- But whether through our pride or our humility, we remain instruments in HaShem's hands.
The apostle challenges us ...
To be zealous is good, provided always that the cause is good. (Gal 4:18 CJB)
R' Gavriel Lumbroso