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Decentralized Torah

Friday, 5 February, 2021 - 4:04 pm

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Tell me, if you had a monumental task that needed to get done - something that was virtually impossible to accomplish on your own - would you recognize the need to delegate? Do you think it somehow shows deep insight to acknowledge as much?

I didn’t think so - it’s a relatively basic concept. One doesn’t especially need profound and significant insight to realize one person’s limitation. Wouldn’t you agree?

If that’s the case, consider this: Our Torah portion is named Yitro in honor of Moshe’s father in law who advised Moshe regarding how to teach Torah and judge the masses. Initially Moshe was handling it on his own - an obviously unwieldy and unrealistic endeavor. 

So Yitro advised Moshe to set up an organized system; if one had a question it would initially be addressed to a lower level leader, making its way up the chain of command all the way to Moshe, only if the answer had not been obtained from the lower tier judge.

One second, is this what Yitro is credited for? Did Moshe really need his father in law to inform him about the novelty of delegating? Why couldn’t Moshe understand this as well?

Obviously Moshe was not ignorant to this idea but he initially rejected it nonetheless. When a Jew would hear the Torah from Moshe, when a dispute was addressed to Moshe, the individuals in question would be elevated by their interaction with such a Divinely inspired individual as Moshe. As a result of being spiritually raised by Moshe, their confusion or dispute would resolve itself.

Yitro, coming from a physically and spiritually distant place, understood that something even deeper and more profound was necessary. The Torah had to connect with the “real” world too - not just Moshe’s elevated reality.

This idea, among many others included in the narrative regarding the giving of the Torah and the revelation on Mount Sinai, underscore the message of the centrality of decentralized Torah study. While Torah is Divine wisdom and must remain faithful to G-d’s will in order to be authentic, it needs to be connected to our lives and the reality in which we live - not only in the elevated reality of Moshe’s world.

In short, we need to discover personal relevance in the Torah.

 

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