Parshat Yithro 5775: Why Moshe Rabbeinu Can’t Adjudicate Am Yisrael Alone

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Yithro is being sponsored by R’ Moshe and Marla Braun (Moshe Braun – Fine Judaic Art) and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Marla’s birthday on 14th Sh’vat. To the Braun family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Yithro 5775: Why Moshe Rabbeinu Can’t Adjudicate Am Yisrael Alone

by Moshe Burt

We learn that when Yithro had heard all that Hashem had done for B’nai Yisrael, he left Midian with Tzippora and Moshe’s two sons and went to join with the Jews. Sefer Shemos, Perek 18, posuk 9 states “Vayichad Yithro” which Rashi renders as Yithro “rejoiced” at seeing B’nai Yisrael free of Mitzri bondage, at seeing K’riyat Yom Suf and at B’nai Yisrael’s victory over Amalek.

We note that Hashem named only four Parshiyot of Torah for biblical personalities: three of these personalities earned this merit either through their role at a crucial time in human or Jewish history — such as Noach before and during the Flood or Pinchas, whose action regarding Zimri and Kozbi ended a plague of Jewish death and brought Hashem’s conveyance upon him the Kehuna and eternal life. And we know that Balak had a Parshat named for him and that B’nai Yisrael would always recall the evil perpetrated against them by his biblical axis of evil with Bila’am and how the temptation and seduction of the yeitzer hora jeopardized the Jewish nation — a battle in which Am Yisrael has yet to decisively and finally prevail.

Yithro, Moshe’s father-in-law merited a Parshat titled in his name by virtue of his contributions toward forming and solidifying B’nai Yisrael and bringing them closer to HaKadosh Borchu. Yithro counseled Moshe regarding the formation of a Jewish legal and judicial system — a system which merited inclusion in Torah and which exists to this day and which would again serve as the legal, justice system in days of he Moshiach and the Ge’ula Shlaima.

Yithro counseled Moshe:

“‘The thing you do is not good.. You will surely weary — you as well as the people that is with you — because the matter is heavier than you, you will not be able to do it alone. Now heed my voice, I shall advise you, and may Hashem be with you…'” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 18, posukim 17-19.)

Rav Zelig Pliskin writes in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 183):

Yithro saw that Moshe took total responsibility for helping the Jewish people in spiritual matters. He foresaw that Moshe would eventually wear himself out. Therefore he advised Moshe to delegate authority and by this means share the burden with others. People who devote their time to helping others need to learn from this. It is very easy for an idealistic person to suffer from burnout by accepting too great a burden upon himself.

One must be aware of his limitations. If you are not careful and you overextend yourself, you are likely to wear yourself out. Not only will you suffer but all the people you could have helped if you had not burned yourself will suffer…

Torah relates (Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary, Sefer Shemot, Perek 18, posukim 21-22):

“And you shall see from among the entire people, men of means, G’d-fearing people, men of truth, men who despise money, and you shall appoint them leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens. They shall judge people at all times, and they shall bring every major matter to you, and every minor matter they shall judge, and will ease from upon you,and they shall bear with you.”

This concept of dividing responsibilities amongst qualified individuals seems applicable as a lesson in delegation for those who would aspire to form a faith-based governance in contemporary medinat Yisrael.

Rav Aba Wagensberg wrote in a recent vort on Parshat Shemot citing various commentators about the Godly vision that Moshe received at the Burning Bush (Parshat Shemot, 9 January, 2015):

In Hebrew, the Bush is referred to as a “Sneh”. The Sneh was actually on Mount Sinai. As a matter of fact, since the time of creation, that mountain was called “Chorev” (Ex. 3:1). However, from the moment that G’d appeared to Moshe in the Sneh, the name “Sinai” was added to that mountain. The linguistic similarity between Sinai and the Sneh will always remind us of the story with the Burning Bush (Rabbenu Bachya based on Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, ch. 40-41).

This etymological similarity seems to be contradicted by a huge differentiation that exists between the story of the Sneh and the story of receiving the Torah at Sinai. At the Sneh, G’d tells Moshe, “Do not come close” (Ex. 3:5), whereas at Mount Sinai it says, “And G’d summoned Moshe to the top of the mountain” (Ex. 19:20). Why was Moshe withheld from approaching in the story of the Sneh, yet encouraged to draw near regarding the Torah being given on Sinai?

The Ramban (Ex. 3:5) answers, that at the Sneh, Moshe was not yet on the highest level of prophecy. One proof of this was Moshe hiding his face when he was confronted with the Divine Presence on the Bush (Ex. 3:6). Moshe was not yet ready to handle the intense Presence of G’d.

That is why G’d told him not to draw near.

However, by the time Moshe stood on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he was on the highest level of prophecy expressed in the verse, “He gazes at the image of God” (Num. 12:8). That is why G’d summoned Moshe to the very top of the mountain.

The Shvilei Pinchas embellishes on this Ramban by suggesting that the event of the Sneh was actually meant to prepare Moshe for the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

The Shvilei Pinchas continues to teach that when it says that G’d saw that Moshe turned aside to see (Ex. 3:4), it means that G’d understood Moshe’s intention which was to climb to the very top of the mountain where the Burning Bush was. But, G’d told Moshe not to come close because he was not ready yet.

G’d instructed Moshe to “remove his shoes”, meaning, distance himself from excessive involvement in physicality, in order to prepare himself to receive the Torah at Sinai later on.

G’d told Moshe that He was able to rest His Divine Presence on the Patriarchs because they had reached this level (Ex. 3:6). When Moshe heard that he was not yet on the level of the Patriarchs, he was embarrassed and hid his face.

Receiving the Torah was imperative for a host of reasons, one of them being to create closeness to G’d. The Zohar (Acharei-Mos, pg. 73a) says that there are three that are connected, G’d, Torah, and the Jewish People.

The Sfas Emes (Parshas Kedoshim) adds that only through Torah can the Jewish People connect with G’d. The Torah is the glue that brings both sides together.

As long as the Jewish People were imprisoned in Egypt, they and God felt the pain due to the distance that existed between them.

By appearing to Moshe in a thorny bush, G’d communicated to Moshe that He felt this pain of being detached from the Jewish People (Rashi Ex. 3:2; Tanchumah 14).

…Since Torah was being hinted to in a bush of pain, G’d conveyed that the most painful thing of all is the absence of Torah which creates distance between the Parent and the children.

When Moshe saw all this pain, he wanted to put a stop to it immediately. Moshe began climbing to the top of the mountain in order to bring the Torah down right there and then. Moshe wondered, “Why won’t the Sneh be consumed” (Ex. 3:3), meaning, why can’t we just remove the bush of pain by bringing the Torah to the people now?

G’d said that He also wants to give the Torah and remove the pain of isolation, but it requires preparation. Moshe and the people were not ready yet. G’d instructed Moshe to first remove the shoes of excess materialism and then he and the People will be ready.

One lesson that we can draw from the story of the Sneh is that we need preparation in order to receive. We must first become proper vessels. Only then will we be able to contain the gift.

Based on the above citings, and their possible lessons for today, perhaps we can determine that, like Moshe’s meeting Hashem at the burning bush, and like Yithro’s counsel to Moshe, although a particular individual may himself possess the ideals and attributes suited toward faith-based leadership and governance, it is crucial that he have infrastructure beneath him, i.e. “men of means, G’d-fearing people, men of truth, men who despise money,” etc.

It would seem that an example of a governing leader lacking infrastructure could be the years of Menachem Begin’s prime ministership. When Likud was formed in the mid-1970s, it was comprised of the remnants of Begin’s Herut party in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. What emerged from the great expectations of Begin’s victorious election in 1977 was that important cabinet posts such as Foreign Minister: Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister: Ezer Weizman, as well as ministerial bureacracies were held by well-entrenched members of liberal parties, thus eventually rendering Begin ineffectual despite his best efforts and his being the closest in Israel’s modern history to being a Torah, faith-based prime minister.

And although a particular candidate may himself possess the above desirable attributes for faith-based national leadership and governance, a sign as to why he is continually stifled in campaigns for leadership could well be that the masses of the governed, of Am Yisrael, are as yet not prepared for such faith-based governance. In that case, it would seem that all sectors of observant Jewry in Eretz Yisrael MUST get on the same page in order not to continue the dominance of secular, equivocal, anti-Torah governance, intelligencia, academia, media.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.