Yitro’s Advice Only Goes So Far

Yitro makes three appearances in the Torah and each time we see Moshe’s deep affection for him. There was something very special about Yitro that Moshe immediately sensed. The first time Moshe meets Yitro we are told: “He desired to dwell with him,” and so Yitro gave him his daughter Tzipporah. Moshe lived happily with Yitro for many years shepherding his flock until G-d appeared to him at the burning bush and informed him of his mission. He was then forced to leave Yitro and return to Egypt to fulfill his calling.

It is only after ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, and the grueling battle with Amelek that Yitro returns to the scene. Yitro heard of the wonders that G-d had done for Moshe and Israel. Awe inspired, he went to meet them in the desert.

Moshe goes out to greet him, he bows down, kisses him and they have a long heart to heart, wherein Moshe tells Yitro of all the additional good that Hashem did for them.

The next day Yitro saw that Moshe spent the entire day sitting amidst the people to serve as a judge for them. Yitro admonished him and advised him to set up a hierarchal court system. Only after this was instituted did Yitro return to his land.

Before the people were supposed to enter the land of Israel, Yitro is mentioned one last time. Moshe beseeches Yitro to stay saying, “please, do not forsake us, inasmuch as you know our encampments in the wilderness, and you have been as eyes for us”,  but it does not say whether Yitro acquiesced or not. Instead, it does say the nation is accompanied by the cloud of Hashem and the Aron HaKodesh. G-d faithfully was there to lead the way. This did not stop the people from whining about the manna and the lack of meat which caused Moshe to despair. He cries bitterly to G-d, telling Him that he can not carry this nation alone. This incident tragically demonstrates the outcome Yitro predicted.

Moshe was given counsel from Yitro and he instituted a system for judgment but we never see Moshe discuss it with Hashem and ask for help implementing it. It seems as though G-d was waiting for Moshe to do so because after the people complained about the food and Moshe cries out to G-d, Hashem tells Moshe to take seventy elders and He will disperse His spirit among them so that Moshe does not have to bear the burden alone.

This seems redundant for Yitro had already advised Moshe to appoint a hierarchal system to alleviate the burden. However, Moshe did not inquire from G-d about how to implement it nor ask for His blessing. He simply followed Yitro’s advice. Whereas, here not only did the charge come from G-d but it was infused with the spirit of prophecy.

G-d sends people our way to learn from but there comes a time when we might have to part with them. We must pick up the pieces and use them as building blocks. Although people come and go, such is not the case with G-d. Hashem is always around for us, waiting to help us but he requires one thing – that we ask. It is up to turn to G-d and ask him to fill the void. When Moshe begged Yitro to stay he told him not to forsake the people, that they needed him to survive in the wilderness. While Yitro was a tremendous asset, their success did not lie in Yitro’s hands. Hashem wanted Moshe not only understand that but to act accordingly. Moshe only came to G-d once the people had gotten out of hand. Perhaps if Moshe would have approached G-d before implementing Yitro’s plan, the elders would have been endowed with the spirit of G-d at that time. If so, it might have been helpful in keeping the nation uplifted, which could have thwarted the chain of events that kept them in the desert for 40 extra years.

In our lifetime we will encounter those who we feel tightly bound to, who we trust and depend on. Sometimes we are forced to separate from them. The trick to survival is to know that there is only One who can ultimately be in control of our failure or success and if we turn to Him and rely on Him we will never feel abandoned for He is always here for us.

About the Author
Aliza Lipkin is a firm lover and believer in her country, her people and her G-d. She moved from the land of the free (America) to the home of the brave (Israel) 10 years ago and now resides with her family in Maaleh Adumim.
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