This Shabbat in synagogues around the world, Jewish congregations will read the 10 Commandments. It is a very public event during which the entire congregation stands, just as the entire people of Israel did at the foot of Mount Sinai as Moses presented the tablets bearing God’s commandments.
But something meaningful happens just before the revelation. The Torah invites us to eavesdrop on an intimate moment between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro (Yitro in Hebrew). The two men sit together. They pray and praise God.
They share their stories with each other, and Jethro gives some sage advice that would benefit the people but which would diminish Moses’ control over them. And Moses graciously accepts his advice.
I find it deeply moving that this Torah portion includes both the grand public pronouncement and the intimate, yet extremely important, exchange between two people. There are very few of those grand moments in life, but if we are willing to listen wholeheartedly to each other, we can have many small, meaningful, moments like theirs.
And it is a lesson that our country’s leaders should heed. Because Moses and Jethro weren’t just anybody. Moses had just stood up to the Egyptian Pharaoh and won decisively. Jethro was a Midianite priest and leader of his country.
Each could have brought his ego to the meeting. They could have created a stand-off, not unlike the one that Congress and the President are currently engaged in. But instead they put ego aside, greeted each other warmly and respectfully, and sat down to a meal.
Across our great nation, people are suffering needlessly. It is time for our leaders to set aside their egos and petty differences and address the dire situation that they have created for their constituents.