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Listen to Good Advice, Regardless of the Source

Yisro comes to the Jewish people, sees that Moshe is spending all day adjudicating cases, and he gives some management advice to establish a court system. And Moshe takes the advice on board.

Some years ago, I heard at a post-wedding party that the lesson we learn from Moshe’s actions is that one should listen to one’s father-in-law. 

Upon consideration, it seems that the opposite is in fact true! The Torah is teaching us a pair of lessons. The first of these lessons is that when the Torah does not tell us how to accomplish an end, we are supposed to be receptive to good ideas. 

But the second lesson speaks specifically to a problem that is quite common in today’s Torah world: we listen to someone because of who they are, instead of because of the value of what they say!

In this case, Moshe is approached by a man who is not Jewish – and is in fact a high priest for a pagan religion. But he is bringing good advice. And that Moshe takes the advice, despite the fact that his father-in-law was the bearer, teaches us that what matters is the quality of the information, not the identity of the person who is offering it.

Comments are welcome!