The Elder Wand: Yitro 2023

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you have some unique strategies for keeping your days organized? Are you always searching for better ways to stay on top of your tasks and appointments?

Now that the Israelites have discovered freedom, Moses needs to administer to the peoples’ personal needs. Not that he has any idea how to do this:

The Pitch: “[Moses said,] ‘When they have a dispute, it comes before me, and I decide between one person and another, and I make known the laws and teachings of God.’ But Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing you are doing is not right …’” – Exodus 18:16-17

Swing #1: “Jethro, in short, designs the first judicial system, and it’s a superb one. It’s largely independent; it’s well-organized; it has clear lines of authority and even an appellate system. Is it any wonder that Jews are the world’s great lawyers?” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #2: “Jethro abandons all the honor of the world, the sense of a substantial identity, and now finds prestige in his relation to his son-in-law, Moses. In the next verse, indeed, he is described only as ‘father-in-law of Moses,’ his personal honorific, ‘priest of Midian,’ being dropped. … His identity is now totally absorbed into his relation with Moses.” – Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus

Swing #3: “Jethro had the personal stature with Moses to advise him directly. … The moral and spiritual qualifications Jethro proposes for the lower judges are reasonable and prudent.” – Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus

Late-Inning Questions: Is Jethro out of line to suggest that Moses change his administrative style, even though Jethro’s ideas for delegating their complaints are sensible? Would you have blamed Moses if he had told his father-in-law to butt out? Does respecting our elders necessarily mean that we must heed to their suggestions?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: This Saturday, we will highlight the needs of refugees around the globe as well as local efforts to help them. Sierra Johnston of Jewish Family Services of Western New York will be our guest speaker. Please join us for Shabbat services beginning at 9:30am.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of respecting our elders, it’s been heartwarming seeing older MLB managers achieve success. Even though I wasn’t rooting for him, it was enjoyable watching Dusty Baker, at the age of 73, celebrate his first World Series title last year.

Shabbat Shalom!