The teaching of Jethro

We're familiar with the organizational content of the advice given to Moses by Jethro (Jithro, Yithro, Yisro(y), Yitro [is that why the rabbis say he has many names?]) - an management system, with leaders for various strata of the children of Israel. Something I was reminded of this year was the religious-educational content of Jethro's advice. This is Moses's explanation to his father-in-law of his approach:
14 And when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said: 'What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand about thee from morning unto even?' 15 And Moses said unto his ather-in-law: 'Because the people come unto me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a matter, it cometh unto me; and I judge between a man and his neighbour, and I make them know the statutes of God, and His laws.'

Jethro's preface to his words of advice bespeaks a different emphasis.
20 And thou shalt teach them the statutes and the laws, and shalt show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.

Unfortunately, the translation (JPS 1919) betrays us somewhat here, for in the original, the same word (וְהוֹדַעְתִּי, וְהוֹדַעְתִּי) is used in Moses's explanation ("make them know the statues of God, and His laws") and in Jethro's ("shalt show them the way wherein they must walk"). The root implies knowledge, understanding, and a host of other things. But what 's most important is what M. and J. choose to convey: the laws versus the way wherein they must walk, codification versus (presumably moral) instruction. The dispute is an old one. Jethro's argument for the usefulness of teaching in time management is no weaker for being implicit: if you show the pople where to go, they might be less likely to bother you in the future with picayune concerns about law and custom.

In medical terms: talk with the patient while she's in front of you rather than just telling her what to do. You might help her self-improvement and save yourself time in the long run.

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