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Steven Zvi Gleiberman

How to win Moshe and influence people

My proof that fathers-in-law have disagreed with sons-in-law goes back thousands of years. Yitro sees that Moshe is spending his entire day acting as the de facto single judge for disputes in the entire Jewish nation, and Yitro says, “The thing you are doing is not good,” and “You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people who are with you, for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Shemot 18:18) . My question is, why specifically was Yitro the one that confronted Moshe? I’m sure others have seen the (lack of) system that Moshe was running. Why specifically was Yitro’s complaint mentioned, and why specifically was Yitro’s suggestion addressed and answered?

It may be that the way Yitro communicated to Moshe was a factor: first by showing the damage that Moshe’s actions were causing others, before focusing on damage Moshe was causing himself. Second, by not only pointing out the problem, but offering a solution with details as well. Thirdly, by involving God in the idea.

So first, Yitro points out the damage that Moshe’s actions were causing others before focusing on damage Moshe was causing himself, as when Yitro sees scores of people waiting to be judged by Moshe, he confronts Moshe by saying, “What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you sit by yourself, while all the people stand before you from morning till evening?” (Shemot 18:14). There seems to be a double issue, first, the damage that it was causing the people, and second, the damage it was causing Moshe himself. As the first thing one says is usually the more important, Yitro focused first on the people, as by human nature, it’s more difficult to see the damage it causes others than the damage that is caused by oneself. However, once the problem is revealed, Yitro can now focus on the structural issues of the current system, as Yitro continues: “You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people who are with you, for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” (Shemot 18:18), as now there is no need to show the damage it is causing others and now it is time to focus on the structural issues, mainly being that if Moshe is worn out, he will not be able to effectively judge the people. The fact that others will be waiting for hours to see Moshe is less of a factor now because while an inconvenience, it doesn’t affect the efficiency of the actual judgment.

The Pesukim continues that Yitro offers a detail-oriented solution of making a judicial system with tiers. So not only does Yitro point out the problem, but he offers a direct solution with all the details. Too often, one gets or gives criticism and is surprised that the criticism is not used as an avenue to change, even when the problem is clearly pointed out and very evident. A contributing factor may be that even though one is aware of the pointed-out problem, the barrier for change is too large, so it’s easier to stick with the current, even though it may be inefficient because the unknown is scarier. I see this in businesses, relationships, and life, that people stick with the inefficient known, rather than attempting the unknown, irrelevant to the fact that the new system may be more efficient. I personally am guilty of pointing out inefficiencies at my workplace, but almost all the time, nothing would change unless I offered a viable alternative. I have found a huge difference in change when the roadmap is given, as this lowers the barrier of entry by making the unknown into a known. This is exactly what Yitro did; not only did he effectively point out the wrong, but he gave a roadmap for a better system. And not just the roadmap, but he gave the entire solution, down to the minute detail (as seen in Shemot 18:19 – 18:23). Giving the solution with minute detail allowed an easy switch for Moshe.

Lastly, when Yitro first pointed out the inefficient system of the nation being judged only by himself, Moshe responds with “For the people come to me to seek God” (Shemot 18:15). This is essentially saying, “This is what my boss wants, so this is what I’ll do.” So when Yitro offers a solution, he is sure to mention that; “If you do this thing, and God commands you, you will be able to survive, and also, all these people will come upon their place in peace” (Shemot 18:23), to which Rashi comments, “Consult God; if He commands you to do this, you will be able to endure, but if He prevents you [from doing it], you will be unable to endure”. We have to understand that often, a single person is part of a network of people, and he is simply a cog in the wheel. This means that to switch something, you have to get to the root of the decision making of the person. This is why when Yitro told Moshe of his system, he was sure to mention that this shall only be done if God is with him (Shemot 18:19).

In life, we can be the best critics and offer the best solutions, but if both are not done in the correct way, they won’t work.”

Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
StevenZvi grew up in Brooklyn and in his professional life worked in the healthcare industry in New York City. Wishing to create additional meaning and purpose in his life, he moved to Jerusalem in November 2020, where he lives with his wife, works in the Medical Technology space and volunteers for Hatzalah. He uses his writing capabilities as a healthy outlet not to receive money, recognition or fame. It’s his hope that his articles will have some positive impact on the Jewish nation and humanity worldwide. He may not live forever, but his contributions to society might.
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