Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” — Exodus 18:17–18
The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 6:1–13.
The Bible isn’t a self-help book; God’s Word is far more than that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get some great advice from Scripture! The conversation between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro in this week’s Torah reading is exactly that: good, practical advice for living.
When Jethro joined Moses and the children of Israel in the desert, he noticed that there was a very, very long line of people waiting to speak to Moses. Jethro took in the scene and said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” Jethro realized that there was only so long that people can wait to get pressing questions answered, and there was only so long that Moses could serve the people before he suffered from burnout himself. The status quo could not sustain itself, and it was “not good” at all.
So Jethro offered some good advice to his son-in-law. He advised Moses to train people who will then train others who will train others until there was an entire hierarchy of judges who could serve the people and answer their questions. As Jethro said, “You cannot handle it alone” and you don’t have to. In a word: delegate! And Moses followed this wise advice.
Delegation is a readily accepted mode of operation in the working world for large corporations as well as small businesses. But sometimes, we still resist delegation in our personal lives.
There are two main reasons why people hesitate to delegate. The first is the need for control. When we give a task over to someone else, we hand over our ability to control how it is done, when it is done, and the final outcome. That is difficult for many people. The other reason why people fail to delegate is lack of time. It takes time to train someone to do a new job. Often, we’d rather just do it ourselves.
But the Scripture teaches us that delegating tasks beats holding onto them. While we may lose some control and time in the short run, we gain power and time in the long run. As Jethro says, when we try to do too much we wear ourselves out. And that’s not good for us or the people we serve, including our families. It’s also not what God wants from us. When we hand off tasks to others, we free ourselves up to become better at doing what we do best and what we should be doing.
Remember, even Moses was human and needed to delegate. Surely our needs are no less. We need to be humble like Moses and ask others for help. Only then are we free to be our very best.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President