Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Yitro

Don’t just complain!

Don’t just complain about everything that’s wrong.

We learn this in Parshat Yitro. Rashi tells us that one of Yitro’s seven names was ‘Yeter’, which means additional. That is because Yitro provided an additional passage in the Torah with key lessons for us. Rashi says that this passage begins with the words ‘V’ata techazeh’ – and you shall seek out, from the midst of the people, suitable leaders who will guide the people with you. It’s a great lesson, but the Likutei Yehoshua points out that actually, the section starts four verses earlier when Yitro says to Moshe, “lo tov hadavar asher ata oseh” – “the matter that you are doing is not good”. Not good for you, and not good for the nation. Why didn’t Rashi refer to the passage starting then?

The likutei Yehoshua explains it beautifully. He said when Yitro said to Moshe that the matter was ‘not good’, he was doing what many people do: Complaining. Highlighting the negative. However, Yitro went on to say “V’ata techezeh.” Moshe, I have a solution for you! This is the way forward.

A great person is somebody who is not only able to tell you what’s wrong but who can provide a constructive solution for you.

Now, there is a hint about Yitro’s great ability as an advisor right at the beginning of our Parsha within the very first word. So many passages start with ‘Vayedaber’ – ‘and he spoke’ or ‘Vayomer’ – ‘and he said’. The Parsha of Yitro says ‘Vayishma’ – Yitro listened. If you’re going to be well placed to assist other people you need to listen. You need to understand the context. You need to have a deep appreciation of what is really taking place. Only then will you be in a position to help and to advise objectively. This was Yitro’s greatness. He listened. He understood. He highlighted what was negative and he gave the way forward. Yitro serves as a role model to this day.

Just like him, let us not only talk and speak. Let us also listen. And just like him, let us not highlight what is wrong let us try our best to provide the way forward for those around us.

Shabbat Shalom