Jethro comes to visit his son-in-law, Moses. He has heard of the wondrous miracles that took place. Moses, Aaron and the elders show him much respect. Moses also shares with Jethro more details of the incredible miracles that G-d performed.
Upon his visit, Jethro witnesses the system currently used to ask Moses questions. People are standing in lines for hours. Jethro shares his concerns with Moses. He asks Moses, “Why do the people stand all day long and only you can address their issues?” Moses explains he is bridging the gap between them and G-d.
Jethro suggests a more logical approach, engaging the G-d fearing and learned men. Each should be in charge of a segment of the people. Depending on the level of expertise, each judge should be in charge of larger or smaller groupings. Only the major questions and issues should come before Moses. Moses agrees, thereby incorporating a much more efficient system.
The Ten Commandments are also given in this portion.
While traveling I saw a sign that read, “Ten Commandments, not Suggestions.” The commandments are violated so routinely that people discard them. The Ten Commandments can also be divided into two groupings. The first five are between us and G-d. The second five are between man and man. Why does honoring our mother and father belong in the first grouping? Our sages teach there are three partners in creation, the biological parents and G-d. By honoring one’s parents, one also honors G-d.
It is also interesting to note in this particular commandment of honoring ones parents, length of days is the reward. More than 30 years ago, I heard Rabbi Bookspan in Miami explain this reward. A child/adult can bring much joy and nachas to their parents. I have witnessed firsthand when a parent or grandparent were considered terminal. Their doctors forecast them to die before a bar mitzvah or wedding. In both cases, they lived long enough to participate and attend the simcha. Clearly having something to live for propelled them. Conversely, children and adults can cause their parents so much grief that they prematurely age and G-d forbid, die early.
It bothers me when some people find the Torah not applicable or relevant to their lives. In every portion, we find lessons to be applied and learned. Time management is a major issue that plagues everyone. How do we make use of our time in the most productive manner? At what expense is the usage of time verses other priorities? How do G-d, our families, friends and quality of life ebb and flow in our daily consumption of time?
Our sages ask “Who is a wise man?" They answer one who can see the outcome of their actions prior to them occurring. May we all be blessed to maximize our time in the most beneficial way.
Cantor Aaron Shifman is cantor at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.