web analytics
November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Yisro: Of Magistrates And Kings


Miller-Rabbi-Avigdor

The greatness of our Torah leaders is often vivid but occasionally requires illumination. Consider the exchange between Yisro and Moshe. At first glance we might mistake this episode for a simple conversation or advice from a helpful father-in-law. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, cautions not to diminish the depth of this dialogue. When understood properly, it is, in fact, revealing of the wisdom of both of these great patriarchs.

“And now hearken to my voice, I shall counsel you” (18:19).

We should not be so naive to think Moshe himself could not have thought of the plan of appointing officers. The Elders of the sons of Israel in Egypt were an official and recognized body, not mere old men as are found today in homes for the aged. It is certain that Joseph, in whose time the people had already increased, in his great practical wisdom ordained magistrates for his people. But Yisro’s counsel was given now for two purposes.

1. Moshe’s plan had been to elevate the people by temporarily superseding the system of magistrates, so that all the people should come to him personally. This was now especially necessary because the old order had been based on human logic, but now it had become imperative to yield the human logic to the divine dictates of the Torah. This necessitated a fundamental change in all procedures in every aspect of one’s daily life, and Moshe foresaw that difficulties were sure to arise.

The former judges had now been deprived of all competence. New judges would need to be trained, but even they might continue to apply the new Torah laws with the old logical system. The urgency of understanding that everything from now on depended solely on Torah moved Moshe to take the extreme step of being the sole judge and interpreter of Torah. Any other course could lead to disaster. Even Aharon, when Moshe was away on Sinai, decided to compromise for the sake of the people’s welfare. (Although logic is a part of Torah, it must be applied with strict Torah procedures.)

We do not know for how long Moshe intended to be the sole judge, but he certainly planned eventually to institute a system of general judges and local magistrates, as Hashem indeed commanded, but only after he himself had personally initiated them into the Torah way of thinking.

To this Yisro countered: Very true. But can you rely on a miracle (one not explicitly promised by Hashem) that you and the people could persevere in such an uncomfortable and tedious procedure, standing in line for days in order to gain an audience with you? You will surely wear away, but even if you do not tire physically, your authority will be worn away by personal contact with everyone; and the people will lose favor in your eyes when you deal with their individual idiosyncrasies and obstinacy and foolishness. Familiarity breeds contempt, and therefore not every individual should have access to you and take up your time with petty questions and problems.

2) Moshe aimed to create a noble nation (“a kingdom of priests” – 19:6) that would govern itself without much coercion by the authorities. Thus: “These were the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned in Israel” (Bereishis 36:31), because Israel did not need a king. “In those days there was no king in Israel, [because] each man did as was right in his eyes” (Shoftim 17:6).

The mitzvah of making a king was conditional: “If you say, Let me put over me a king” (Devarim 17:14) – from which it is clear this mitzvah depended on the time when you choose. “If you say…” is exceptional among all the mitzvos because to govern themselves by their own conscience (“Each man as is right in his eyes”) was preferable. Moshe therefore did not plan to subject the people to the scrutiny of a multitude of magistrates until some time had elapsed.

But Yisro countered: Are the people great enough to be so independent? Now especially, when beginning the new mode of Torah life, they require special surveillance: officers of tens, of fifties, of hundreds and of thousands. Until now they had been permitted to eat everything, they were not obligated by Shabbat or Yom Tov or by the numerous other laws of the Torah. Therefore the people must have tens of thousands of magistrates that supervise all the behavior of each person, in order to train them to become accustomed to the new existence as a Torah nation.

Moshe did not need Yisro to instruct him. Yisro was given the honor of voicing that which Moshe himself understood even better, and which Hashem also eventually commanded (Sifri, Devarim 1:9).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.  For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

About the Author: The Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, was founded and authorized by Rabbi Miller to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com. For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Yisro: Of Magistrates And Kings”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Colleagues of the hanged Arab bus driver whose death continues to be referred to as murder despite autopsy finding of suicide. These are Arab drivers of Egged buses, claiming they suffer discrimination by Israelis.
Arab Pathologist Singing New Tune: Murder (By Jews) Not Suicide
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Yitzchak thought the Jewish people needed dual leadership: Eisav the physical; Yaakov the spiritual

Weiss-112114-Sufganiot

According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the nature of the month of Kislev is sleep.

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

Though braggarts come across as conceited, their boasting often reflects a low sense of self-regard

Nimchinsky-112114-Learning

Not every child can live up to our hopes or expectations, but every child is loved by Hashem.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

While our leaders have been shepherds, the vast majority of the Children of Israel were farmers.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.

Dovid turned to the other people sitting at his table. “I’m revoking my hefker of the Chumash,” he announced. “I want to keep it.”

Ever Vigilant
‘When Unworthy, One’s Number Of Years Is Reduced’
(Yevamos 50a)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(Via E-Mail)

Ramban interprets Korban as self-sacrifice, each Jew should attempt to recreate Akeidas Yitzchak.

Dr. Schwartz had no other alternatives up his sleeve. He suggested my mother go home and think about what she wanted to do.

Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

We find that in certain circumstances before the Torah was actually given, people were permitted to make calculations as to what would better serve Hashem, even if it were against a mitzvah or aveirah.

More Articles from Rabbi Avigdor Miller
Miller-Rabbi-Avigdor

“When I proclaim the name of Hashem, give greatness to our G-d (32:3). When we hear a berachah, it is proper to exclaim “Baruch Hu u’Baruch Shemo” (“He is blessed and His name is blessed”) when Hashem’s name is pronounced. But much more is intended. The mention of that most important word (in any language) should evoke the greatest reverence and love and devotion. How much should we exert ourselves in this function?

Miller-Rabbi-Avigdor

We live in an age of conveniences – and dangers. Our affluence presents dangers to our quest for spiritual perfection, which the Torah cautions against and which Rabbi Avigdor Miller elaborates on in Parshas Vayelech.

“The life and the death I have given before you…in order that you should live, you and your seed.… And you shall choose life” (30:19). “Choosing life” is one of the highest accomplishments (Shaare Teshuvah III:17). This means that not only does Hashem allow us the free will to choose (a principle that materialist psychologists deny), He also gives us the information that we possess free will.

Many passages in the Torah appear at first glance to be repetitious. Often, each iteration has a unique and deep message. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, finds such a case (in the passage of the Blessings and Curses) in the Torah’s instruction to keep Hashem’s commandments and walk in His ways.
Also in the passage of the Blessings and Curses, Rabbi Miller highlights the great blessing of a long life.

The Talmud asserts that the rebellious son of the verse below never existed and never will. Nonetheless, the Torah relates this law to advise parents in the most difficult of issues – raising children. To Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, the law and its lessons help reveal Israel’s greatness.

Moshe’s blessing to the nation of Israel is interesting in that a similar blessing, which Hashem had given Avraham and Yizchak, had already been fulfilled. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, observes that among the greastest blessings is abundant offspring, and therefore this blessing was particularly auspicious – even the third time around.

In the confrontation between Israel and Midian, the Torah reveals the great void of virtue that separated the two nations. While Israel had fallen to great depths in the challenge of the Peor, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, points out that it had risen again to great heights in the ensuing battle against a nation steeped in immorality.

“Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aharon the kohen turned away my wrath from upon the sons of Israel by his zeal for my sake in their midst; and I did not bring destruction upon the sons of Israel because of my jealousy. Therefore, say, behold, I give to him my covenant of peace” (25:11-2). This is a special proclamation of acclaim. Though Moshe certainly approved of Pinchas, Hashem here teaches the necessity to render public recognition to the righteous.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/yisro-of-magistrates-and-kings/2012/02/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: