The Israelites have crossed the Sea of Reeds and begun their trek through the wilderness towards Mount Sinai. This Torah portion, Yitro (Ex. 18:1 – 20:23) is named for Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. At the outset of the portion, Jethro catches up with the Israelites, bringing with him Moses’ wife Tzipporah and two sons Gershom and Eliezer. We had not previously known that Moses had sent his family away, but the Torah does not reveal what the family reunion was like. Moses goes about his business of dispensing justice for the people from early morning till late at night. When Jethro saw how much he had to do, he objected. He pointed out that Moses was spending all his time, wearing himself out, and accomplishing very little. Jethro directs Moses to delegate chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, and give them the responsibility of judging the people. Moses does as his father-in-law tells him, and Jethro goes back to his home. And only then can Moses go about the task of preparing the people to receive the Torah from the hand of God at Mount Sinai.
All of us, even leaders, and perhaps especially leaders, need help and advice from others. The way Jethro got Moses organized not only freed up Moses’ time, it gave other leaders a stake in the welfare of the people Israel. It is also significant that this help came, not from within Israel, but from a priest of another nation, and allowed the Israelites to receive the Torah. Sometimes, we get what we need when we open up our world and look outside ourselves.