this week’s portion, Moshe is reunited with his father in law, Yisro.
Yisro is there, he observes Moshe as he carries out his role as judge of the
Jewish Nation. While observing he notices that the people are standing all day
and waiting their turn for Moshe to judge them. Yisro asks Moshe: “What is
this thing you do to the people? Why do you sit alone with all the people
standing by you from morning to evening?” (Exodus 18:14).
was concerned both about Moshe and the people. He worried that Moshe would soon
be worn out, and that the people were waiting too long to receive justice. Yisro
proposed that they establish a court system with lower courts and higher courts,
thus easing the burden on Moshe and the people.
does it mean “from the morning to the evening”? The Talmud in Tractate
Shabbos (10a) asks, “did Moshe literally sit and judge the entire day? When
did he have time to study Torah?” The answer given is that whoever involves
himself in proper judgment for even one hour, it's as if he is a partner with
G-d in the act of creation.
learn two fundamental concepts from this Gemara (Talmud).
is the importance of Torah study. Despite the importance of judging other Jews
(important enough to be considered a partner with G-d) and despite the kindness
he was doing for the community, it is nonetheless inconceivable that Moshe would
go the whole day without Torah study.
second thing we learn is that it is possible for a person to perform an act
which will place him on the level of being a partner with G-d.
does this mean?
level of judgment is an extremely high level. Without justice the world is not
able to exist, as we see from the story of Noach (in the time of Noach thievery
was normative, which bespoke the terrible lack of justice, thus necessitating
the destruction of the world). Rashi explains that, in the first portion of the
Torah, G-d first “thought” to create the world in judgment, and then added
does not mean G-d thought, the way a human being has a thought process, and then
changed His mind and added mercy. Rather, it means that for the world to exist
solely by virtue of judgment is ideal. This is a level to which, for the most
part, man is unable to realistically aspire; thus the need for mercy. However,
judgment is such an important virtue that for G-d to will the world through
judgment (the world only exists by virtue of G-d’s will) even if it never came
to fruition (for man would be unable to survive), nonetheless shows the
importance of judgment.
a person who is involved in judgment is attaching himself to the ideal level of
the creation of the world.
What is one to do who is not a judge? How does such a person become a partner with G-d? There is one other action a person can do that makes him a partner with G-d in the creation of the world. That is the recital of the “Vayichulu” prayer (Gen. 2:1-3) on Friday night. These are the verses which speak of the first Shabbos after the six days of creation. The reason is that a person who says this believes G-d created the world. And when we put this belief into action, we have begun to fulfill our mission on this earth.
Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.