In addition to fundraising for mezuzahs and OTC medications for my upcoming mission to El Salvador, I just finished teaching a series on Jewish history. Far and away the best lectures I’ve heard on this topic are from David Solomon and these helped me as I prepared my course, as did reading Sand and Stars by Yaffa Ganz in collaboration with Rabbi Berel Wein, chronicling the post 2nd Temple period through the 16th Century. Rabbi Wein is an American-born Rabbi and historian that made aliyah to Israel. During a talk I heard him give some years ago, he relayed an encounter with someone in front of him in line at the post office who was frustrated about the protracted wait. Rabbi Wein said to the person: We waited 2000 years for a Jewish post office, what’s another half hour?
Jewish history is full of waiting and the hope that the waiting would be over soon.
Yitro, the protagonist of this week’s parsha, is instrumental in shortening the Jewish people’s wait time. He may be history’s first management consultant. As a “company” outsider, he observes an ineffective process, helps his client (and son-in-law) Moshe identify the considerable lack of efficiency, and proposes a solution that will benefit all the stakeholders. Reading the episode closely, it’s fascinating to see how Yitro makes his case. He starts by innocuously expressing curiosity around why the Jewish people are left waiting from morning to evening for a meeting with their leader. Moshe articulates why this is happening and presumably as Moshe listens to himself respond, he realizes that his answer is a wholly insufficient justification for the problem at hand i.e. masses of Jews waiting for him in the desert extremes. Yitro then highlights for Moshe the fact that the problem runs even deeper than it first appears and makes a stark projection: It’s not just about the customer experience, it’s about the health and survival of the organization itself i.e. Moshe’s diminishing ability to sustain the process over time.
Yitro knows that his client will ultimately be convinced by an argument that demonstrates this is what Gd would want and proceeds to mention Gd several times. This also serves to remind his client that Gd alone is singular and – as much as he may want to emulate Gd who rules alone – Moshe shouldn’t feel defeated if he can’t do everything alone. He’s mortal after all.
Yitro then recommends a mass hiring initiative, detailing the core character traits of the new hires, and Moshe adopts the plan in its entirety. The words used to describe Moshe doing “everything he (Yitro) had said” is remarkably similar to the words used to describe Moshe and other Biblical characters following Gd’s words.
Next time you find yourself burdened by the weight of a task, know that you aren’t Gd, and that it’s OK to ask for some assistance (even from your in-laws!). Maybe it’s time to delegate or let go of something. It’s very possible that others will be only too happy to serve as a sounding board and will appreciate the opportunity to lend a hand, advice, or mentorship. An outside perspective from a mentor, coach, or consultant, can be transformative. And since the whole system stands to benefit when there’s less stress on the constituent parts, it’s likely that the end users of your product or service will benefit too.
What did Moshe do with all the extra time on his hands? Hopefully he had more time to sleep and relax. Maybe he took up a hobby. What do you think?