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Yitro: What is the antidote to jealousy?

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The Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Parshat Yitro


What is the antidote to jealousy?

In Parshat Yitro the Torah tells us how Moshe’s father in law Yitro arrived at the Israelite camp in the wilderness. He immediately noticed how exhausted Moshe was. This was because the nation’s great leader had taken all authority into his own hands.

So Yitro gave Moshe some advice. He told him to establish a system of legislature through which he would share the governance of the nation with appointed judges. They would be officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and of course the most serious and difficult cases would come before Moshe himself. Moshe heeded this advice and the new system was commenced.

The Kotzker Rebbe asks a great question: surely this system was a recipe for intense jealousy? After all, there were so many judges of the more minor courts dealing with petty issues, with small numbers of people – surely they would become jealous of those who had been chosen to more senior positions?

Yet according to the Kotsker Rebbe, that wasn’t the case. He explained that when Yitro gave his advice to Moshe, he suggested that Moshe should look for four qualities in each  appointed judge:

  1. Anshei chayil – Men of valour,
  2. Yirei Elokim – Believers in Hashem,
  3. Anshei emet – People of truth, and
  4. Sonei vatza – People who hate unjust gain.

The Kotsker Rebbe highlights the quality of ‘anshei emet’ – ‘people of truth’.

When it comes to dispensing honour, if we look around us, who are those who are given honour? Is it a just system? Is it a true system? Is it always fair? Not at all. Because it is not a system which comes from Hashem.

But the person of truth knows that honour is not important in this world. People of truth know that what is important in this world is your values, your attributes, what kind of person you are, how you deal with others, how truthful you are in this world and not how much honour you get from others.

So indeed the antidote to jealousy is truth. And from Parshat Yitro we learn that when it comes to honour, what counts is not how much honour I have but rather, as the Ethics of the Fathers teaches,

“Eizehu mechubad?” – “Who is truly honourable?”

“Hemechabed et habriot.” – “It’s the person who gives honour to others.”

Shabbat shalom.



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