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Adding Some Jewish Into Your Week: Learning from the Other

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By: Daniel Warshawsky

Looking for some new thoughts on this week’s Torah reading? In this series, Daniel unpacks some of the questions that we can ask about the stories in the Torah. Below are his reflections on Parshat Yitro:

Who do we learn our greatest lessons from? What do we do when something becomes too big a burden to bear alone? These are the two big questions that came to mind as I read through Parshat Yitro. Now, you're probably asking yourself what these two questions and answers have to do with each other, if anything at all. In this week's Torah reading we learn some our most important lessons from people who are different from us, and when something becomes too difficult for us to bear alone, we should rely on those around us. It happens that, in this parsha, Moses learn this important lesson from Yitro, a man who comes from outside the Israelite camp.

Yitro is a Midianite, and father of Moses' wife, Tzipporah. After hearing about God's great miracles, Yitro leaves Midian and comes to the Israelite camp, and brings with him Moses' wife and two sons. After arriving at the camp, he sees how Moses has attempted to lead the people completely alone, and advises him to create a group of judges to help him govern and administrate the people.

From this short excerpt from our story, we learn the two important ideas of asking for help and accepting insight from people who are outside our situation. Yitro is not an Israelite. He has no prior relationship with the Israelites as a people, yet he gives Moses advice that completely changes the makeup of this new nation of people. From this we are taught that we have so much to learn from people who are different than us, and that it often takes an outsider to point us in the right direction.

Equally as important as who taught Moses the lesson, is the lesson itself, that we cannot do everything alone. Up until Yitro's entrance to the Israelite camp, Moses had been leading the people completely by himself. Sure, his brother Aaron helped him a bit, but he was making all of the major decisions on his own. Yitro could see the toll this was taking on Moses and taught him an incredibly important lesson – that he needed to learn to rely on the people around him.

These are two lessons that we should take to heart. No burden should be carried alone, and people who are the most different from us can teach us the most important lessons. We have the benefit of living in a diverse country where we can be surrounded by people who are different from us. Let's make sure to heed the lessons from Parshat Yitro, and find ways to share our burdens and benefit from the wisdom of others.