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“And he (Yisro) said (to Moshe), ‘What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you sit by yourself?'” (18:14)

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The simple interpretation of this dialogue between Yisro and Moshe is that Yisro was concerned that Moshe not overexert himself by attempting to be the sole adjudicator for the entire nation. After all, Moshe was still a human being, and he would not be able to maintain the physical stamina required to continue functioning in this capacity. Horav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, suggests that Yisro’s concern was not so much for Moshe’s physical well-being, as it was for Klal Yisrael’s educational development. When Yisro came to Moshe, he did not ask, “What are you doing to yourself ?” – but rather, “What are you doing to the people?” Yisro was concerned that by making himself the sole halachic authority to whom all Jews would present their halachic issues, Moshe was preventing other gifted Jews from developing halachic proficiency. He was thereby inadvertently precluding the spiritual development and achievement of others.

Yisro was implying to Moshe that he was not being fair to other aspiring leaders. Who would exert special effort to seek gadlus ba’Torah, greatness in Torah scholarship, if they knew that such an achievement was reserved for only one individual — Moshe, who had heard Torah directly from Hashem? True, no one could ever attain Moshe’s pre-eminence, but others should at least be given the opportunity to grow. Moshe was obligated to prepare qualified assistants who would carry on his mission of Torah transmission to future generations.

We derive a valuable lesson from here. It is incumbent upon us not to sit back and say it is unnecessary for us to toil in Torah. We must not depend solely on the great scholars to transmit Torah knowledge to others. Each Jew is implored not only to study for himself to the best of his abilities, but also to instruct others, as if the future of Torah depends upon it. Each individual has his own unique qualities which, consistent with his personality, might succeed in inspiring a single student who might not respond to the “established” teacher.  To learn Torah is to share in a heritage which must be disseminated to others.

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