Shabbat Yitro 5772


Whether it is in our search for a mate, an employee, a job, or an elected official, we begin with an ideal set of criteria. Usually, that list is wholly unreasonable. Even in the lab it would be difficult to create such a perfect match. That leaves us in the position of prioritizing our criteria. Which traits are indispensable, and which can we live without? 

When Yitro sees that his son-in-law, Moshe, is on the verge of burnout, he advises him to appoint lower-court judges to handle the Israelite judicial case load. He gives Moshe four qualities to look for in making his selections:


“Anshei-hayil–capable men;


Yir-ei Elohim–who fear God;


Anshei emet–trustworthy men;


Son-ei vatza–who spurn ill-gotten gain.” (Exodus 18:21) 


The Torah tells us just a few verses later that “Moses heeded his father-in-law and did just as he had said. Moses chose capable men out of all of Israel…” (18:24-25). But you’ll note that Moshe didn’t do exactly as Yitro said; we learn only that he found men who met the first criterion on the list–anshei hayil, capable men. What happened?  


This raises the question of triage. When our search for perfection inevitably fails, what qualifications become most important?And do those priorities reflect a desire to make the safe choice, or a bold one? On Shabbat morning, we’ll see sources that address this very question. See you then!  


Shabbat Shalom,




Rabbi David Wise