Yitro was a very wise and discerning man. He was an adviser to Pharaoh and later a minister in Midian. He was the father in law of Moshe. He heard everything that G-d had done for Moshe and the people of Israel when He took them out of Egypt and went into the wilderness to meet them where they were encamped beside the mountain of G-d. He counseled Moshe to institute a hierarchal system of leaders and judges. Yitro then decided to return to Midian. Moshe implored Yitro to stay and travel onward with the Jews to Eretz Yisrael by saying “please don’t forsake us, inasmuch as you know our encampments in the wilderness, and you have been eyes for us….” What is the meaning behind Moshe’s request?
Yitro was an excellent source of checks and balances on the system. He was wise in several ways that Moshe acknowledged he himself was lacking and explains to Yitro that he had been invaluable to the Bnei Yisrael and they continue to need him “as eyes” for the journey; ie. wisdom and insight to help them along the way.
This always struck me as odd. Moshe, the greatest prophet that ever existed, needed advice from another person? and yet G-d sanctioned this activity. Moshe acknowledged Yitro’s contributions and greatly appreciated him. Yitro enriched and enhanced the existence of the Jews with his insightful contributions and Moshe was humble and caring enough to receive it wholeheartedly.
Yitro stated, “The thing that you do is not good. You will surely become worn out, you and all the people with you. The matter is too hard and you will not be able to do it alone.” He then suggests a remedy for Moshe in dealing with the people. Let’s “find men of accomplishment, G-d fearing, men of truth, people who despise money, leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They shall judge the people at all times…”
The Rabbinic leadership in Israel, led by the Rabbanut, is not operating effectively. The Rabbinical High Court in Jerusalem is in a state of crises where they are understaffed and unable to tend to a massive backlog of cases. There is long line of individuals with a myriad of issues in basic areas of Jewish life such as marriage, divorce and conversion who are being neglected and at times abused by a system that suffers from corruption and an egregious lack of sensitivity. Moshe, who was beyond repute as a leader, understood the potential hazards expressed by Yitro that could arise from extending himself into every small decision to be adjudicated on a daily basis.
It seems that the Rabbanut has fallen prey to the exact concerns that Yitro specified to Moshe in the Desert. As the great and humble leader that Moshe was, he recognized Yitro’s concerns immediately and acceded to his advice to delegate his authority for the betterment of the people. It is not too late for our leadership to follow the advice of Yitro in ceding their over controlling micromanagement of every aspect of Jewish life to the objective and qualified rabbis that exist all around the country. We can and should authorize, establish and run small Batei Din of our entrusted rabbis who are willing and able to take care of many of these issues. We should never be afraid to seek advice from a wise, objective party, a Yitro, to keep checks and balances on our system so that we do not continue to fall prey to a corrupt monopoly which has infected our daily lives.