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Yitro 5782 - Patience, Compassion, and Long Lines 

January 21, 2022 - 20 Sh'vat, 5782

Lines at the store and wait times at the doctor’s office are much longer than usual right now. A whole lot of people are doing five other people’s jobs, on account of so many co-workers who are out sick or quarantined.

Usually, when I read Parshat Yitro, I am reminded of the merits of delegation. Last year, I gave the d’var Torah on Parshat Yitro on that very topic, and I’d like to share a little of that with you again today:

As our Torah portion begins, I explained last year, Moshe’s father-in-law comes to visit and sees Moshe’s frustration at work. Yitro asks, “Why are you sitting by yourself, with all of these people lining up in front of you from morning until evening?” When Moshe explains that it’s his job to answer the people Israel’s questions of judgment in the name of God, Yitro demands delegation:

This thing that you’re doing is not good. You will surely languish - you and this people with you - this thing is too much for you. You cannot do it alone! (Exodus 18:17). Yitro proceeds to advise Moshe on a proper division of judges and appointment processes, leaving Moshe only the most important cases on which to focus. Yitro knows that his son-in-law cannot do everything himself, even if he is God’s chosen prophet. Moshe needs sleep, time with his family, and time to focus on the integrity of each and every decision he makes. Otherwise, his motivation and energy may fade away, directly affecting the motivation and energy of that community who relies upon him…

If Moshe cannot do everything himself, surely, we cannot do everything ourselves either. Today, our problem is that there is often no one to whom we can delegate. There is often no one to staff that extra cash register or take on walk-in appointments. Right now, we have to reorient ourselves to the reality that we and those who work with and for us may not be able to get everything done.

Now, more than ever, is the time to practice respect for and patience with our teachers, medical professionals, and anyone who serves us in any occupation. Now is the time to say an extra thank you and to give ourselves an extra hour for every place we may have to wait. Who knows how many of the receptionist’s family members are ill and what confusion the nurse’s children are having to experience at school. It is time to shift our expectations, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those who are as overburdened or even more overburdened than we are. 

For ourselves, now is the time to accept that we may not be able to accomplish everything, especially when we or co-workers have been exposed to COVID and need to stay at home. We must constantly ask that question of how much is vital for us to accomplish for ourselves, our families, and our work, and how much can reasonably and safely be left until later or completed imperfectly. We must constantly be prepared for not being prepared, knowing that so much has been changing and may continue to change so quickly. Even today, when we don’t have the elders and judges to whom Moshe was able to delegate, we can still follow Yitro’s principle of accepting that we and many of those around us may not be able to finish everything to the best of our abilities right now. 

For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to complete our tasks, we can even take the time to look for where we can step in and take a load off of family and friends, preparing food for someone stuck at home or watching the children of someone who has to work an extra shift. For our synagogue specifically, thank you to those who have stayed with us through the changes, even through some frustration. Especially today, thank you to Bob and Deena and Bob and Karen for stepping in with food preparation when Carnell was unable to be here because of his brother’s health. Thank you to all for treating each other and yourselves with compassion and patience. Shabbat Shalom.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782