Stressed Out: Yitro 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you know when your energy has reached its limits? What happens when you go beyond those limits?

When Jethro sees Moses leading the Israelites in the wilderness, he fears that his son-in-law will become overwhelmed:

The Pitch: “But when Moses’ father-in-law saw how much he had to do for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening? Moses replied to his father-in-law, ‘It is because the people come to me to inquire of God.’” – Exodus 18:14-15

Swing #1: “God is the origin of the requirements and instructions, so God must give the explanatory application of them, and Moses is the medium of access by whom the people may approach God with problems of this kind. …[N]o one but Moses has had the privilege of such consultation.” – John Durham, Exodus

Swing #2: “It is not surprising that Moses felt compelled to manage Israelite affairs in person. We should also note that much of Moses’s prior ‘leadership’ experience consisted of overseeing sheep. While he no doubt learned many important lessons doing this, one cannot delegate to sheep!” – Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus

Swing #3: “What did [Jethro] see? He saw him sitting like a king sitting on his throne and all paying attendance upon him, whereupon he said to him: ‘What is this that you are doing to the people? Why are you sitting alone?’” – Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael

Late-Inning Questions: Jethro insists that Moses delegate his responsibilities more to prominent Israelites. Based on our commentators’ understanding, is this a worthy solution, or a naive recommendation given Moses’s place in the community? Is Jethro thinking more out of concern for Moses’s well-being or the Israelites’ well-being? How is self-preservation and communal concern the same?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I know the Emanu-El rabbinic search committee appreciated the excellent turnout for the first of its candidates. I hope that congregants continue to stay engaged as the process continues.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of becoming overwhelmed, the time between the end of the World Series and the start of Spring Training is always overwhelming for fans. Thank goodness that’s over!

Shabbat Shalom!