perry shakGuest Blogger:
Perry Shak
Akiva parent and board member

What is the most valuable commodity in the world? It is Time. As we will see, this is one of the many lessons that can be learned from this weeks Parasha.

Yitro priest of Midian, and Moshes’ father in law, came to meet Israel in the dessert after all the miracles ( the ten plagues, splitting sea, Yetziat Mitrayim). Yitro heard all that G-d had done for Moshe and for Israel (his people), and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Yitro said “Blessed be the LORD”, who delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, yes, by the result of their very schemes against (the people)”. Yitro follows these proclamations with a Sacrifice.

Yitro observed how Moshe sat as magistrate among the people, while the people stood around Moses from morning until evening to hear his judgements on different disputes.  Yitro knew that Moshe would eventually crumble if he kept going like. Finally Yitro said to Moses, “Now listen to me, I will give you counsel and G-d be with you!  You shall seek out from among all the people capable men who are G-d Fearing, Trustworthy and Despise Money that has been I’ll gotten gain (bribery, theft)

Let them Judge the people at all times. Have them bring every major dispute to you, but let them decide every minor dispute themselves. Allow them to share the burden with you.”

This parasha ends with the receiving of the Ten Commandments. Some of the lessons that can be learned from this week’s parasha:

Lessons on the Value of Time

G-d put us on earth for a reason, and one important takeaway from this Torah portion is to value our time and the time of others. Yitro places an extremely high value on Moshe’s time and this becomes the impetus to come up with an “out of the box” solution. Delegation.

Valuing time also means that we use it wisely, and meaningfully.  It is sometimes a struggle to remember that while we are with our kids or spouses and there are other competing demands. In order to do so we need to be able to step back and reflect and some people do Yoga, others use daily meditation, many Jews observe the Shabbat, and the list goes on. Even by preparing a Dvar Torah for my fellow members of the Board of Directors, necessitated my taking a pause from the hectic daily pace of life in order to read, marinate on new ideas and reflect on different perspectives.

Lessons in Transformation

Everything has the potential to be transformed, makes sense in light of the original Jethro/Yitro’s identity. He was Moses’ father-in-law, a Midianite priest who enjoyed tremendous status and high regard in the world, largely for his unparalleled expertise in the field of idol worship. When a maven like Yitro recognized that this G‑d was the One and Only, and then chose to convert to follow Him, a powerful spiritual message was sent out to the world for all time: A lesson here is that everything about a person, including their past, has the potential to be transformed into holiness.  That is why this magnificent Parshah is named after a convert who once served as an idolatrous priest.

Lessons in Leadership & Humility

Moshe’s humility is higlighted when he accepts Yitro’s advice. Even though Moshe speaks to G-d and has been directed all this way , Moshe is open to advice and direction even from this ” under him” , and this is a good lesson for any organization. If Moshe could accept advice from Yitro, then we certainly should be prepared to hear and accept the advice of our colleagues and peers.

Lesson in Humanity: Do unto others

There are many laws, positive Commandments to keep and prohibitions , but it’s important to remember derech eretz kadma letorah, common decency, doing onto others as you would want for yourself. All this comes before all the laws.

It amazes me that while so much has changed over thousands of years, so much information in the Torah is just as relevant today.  It is undeniable that the packaging and tools we use today to transmit, receive, and interpret information have dramatically changed in their efficacy and complexity. However, this Parasha is a reminder that just as with Moshe, even the greatest leaders today are still only human.  We are taught the importance of acting towards our fellow human being like Moshe or Yitro by giving of our time, energy, leadership and charity. This is extremely important, but this parasha reminds us that we are only human. As such, we need to be courageous enough to regularly take a step back (and like Moshe sometimes accept help that comes from unexpected places), so we can keep doing our best for Tikun Olam and for our loved ones now, and also over the long-run.