OU Torah Insights
February 6, 1999
Rabbi Mordechai Green
An entire parshah in
the Torah is named in honor of Yisro, Moshes father-in-law, for his major
contribution to the Jewish people in suggesting that a judicial system be organized and
adopted for the nacsent nation.
One wonders why
Moshe, the Master Prophet, seemingly did not possess the foresight to do this on his own.
Why did Yisro have to come along with this suggestion?
Yisro, who held a
high position in Pharaohs inner court, possessed the administrative skills of
achieving judicial expediency. In order to be objective, balanced, and efficient, justice,
he believed, needed to be systematic.
Moshe however, had
his concerns with such a system. He did not want any systemized justice system interfering
with individuality. After all, Moshe had just led the Jewish people out of an all
embracing System in Egypt which demonized and dehumanized them. Instituting a system, he
feared, would sacrifice the tzelem Elokim of each person on the altar of
Yisros suggestion had merit. "Moshe listened to the voice of his
father-in-law"he understood Yisros intention and wrestled with the idea
of how to establish a Divinely inspired judicial process without compromising the value of
the individual. Moshe struggled to incorporate individualism into a system.
If one carefully
studies the dialogue between Yisro and Moshe, it becomes evident that Yisro is sensitive
to Moshes concerns. A depersonalized system would not be appropriate. "And you
shall make known to them the path that on which they should walk and the actions that they
should do," Yisro tells his son-in-law.
hadin, the "sweetness of judgement," needed to be incorporated into the
judicial process. Only then would the nation "come in peace."
What do we learn
from Parshas Yisro?
essential to expedite certain matters and resolve certain conflicts. And Jews must
certainly learn to adapt to the social systems in which they find themselves.
must maintain their Divinely inspired individual spirit, the spirit that bids them to
hearken to G-ds commands, to the sweetness of His judgement.
We must develop our
spirituality and loyalty to mitzvos, maintain compassion for others, meet our
responsibilities to our communities and to the nation of Israel.
Though the mind-set
of rugged capitalism and aggressive competition, which defines our time, leads to
self-centeredness and even outright selfishness, the Jew must circumvent this social
system and be free of it by entering the spiritual oasis of Torah life.
The challenge we
face in our open society is spiritually similar to that our forebears faced in the
wilderness. Though our physical situation has radically changed, many of us remain
chained, enslaved to the mind-set and culture of our times.
At the same time, an
ever growing number of our people are developing a free spirit, hearkening to the call of
"Shema Yisrael" and willingly and enthusiastically abiding by His
Rabbi Mordechai Green
Rabbi Green is rabbi of Adas Israel
Congregation, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.