> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Seize the Moment

Let Me Hear What You Have To Say

Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Rabbi Jared Viders

Years ago, I had an idea how to benefit certain families in need of financial assistance. Curious as to whether or not this plan was (a) the greatest breakthrough for mankind since the wheel (b) totally ludicrous or (c) somewhere in-between, I called the CEO of a well-known, well-respected and effective chesed organization in Rockland County.

I sheepishly offered my "innovative" idea. The CEO heard me out and respectfully responded, "Yeah, we've thought of that once before and it wasn't a fit for various reasons." Fine. That's what I figured. Easy-come easy-go.

But then, a brief, seemingly innocuous follow-up encounter ensued that sticks with me to this day and speaks volumes about what it means to truly seek out the fulfillment of one's goals.

But then the CEO responded, "Wait, before you go… let me hear your idea one more time, just to make sure I fully understand it. Could be you thought of an angle that I hadn't considered."

Ultimately he arrived at the same conclusion that, although the idea had been successfully implemented by other organizations in other demographic regions, it was not feasible for several variables that I (understandably so) had not factored into the equation. He thanked me for my time, and I for his.

What struck me was the notion that this gentleman, several decades my senior, was so open to hearing about a possible means of enhancing his own "business model" so-to-speak. From a total novice who knew virtually nothing about the nuts and bolts of running such a program. About an idea they already considered and rejected. He's probably one of the busiest men in Rockland County. Still, notwithstanding all the reasons to say "thanks but no thanks," his willingness to drop any ego in the name of the greater vision rendered him open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I had "thought of an angle he hadn't considered."

* * *

"Moshe heeded the voice of his father-in-law, and did everything that he had said." (Ex. 18:24)

In this week's parsha, Moshe's father-in-law undertakes to join the Jewish nation notwithstanding the great self-sacrifice associated therewith. Yisro is not on the scene all that long and he's already offering advice to Moshe Rabbeinu - the undisputed leader of the Jewish People and God's "right-hand-man so-to-speak" - on how to "run the ship" more effectively.

Uh? Excuse me. Who are you again? A former Midyan priest that's been Jewish all of 10 minutes. Chill your jets. Have a bagel. An extra rugelach. Maybe figure out how to get your Tefillin on properly before offering your two shekels of constructive criticism.

hat's not Moshe's response at all. More than that, the Chumash drives home the fact that Moshe's willingness to entertain Yisro's recommendation was not merely a matter of good manners that one would (and should) accord their father-in-law. To the contrary, since Moshe's single-minded mission in life was to provide for his beloved flock, anything that could enhance that mission was worthy of serious investigation. There is no variable that is not negotiable. There is no genuine point of view that would not be considered.

Yes I'm the long-awaited redeemer of a nation three million strong and have a direct line to God on my speed-dial. Irrelevant. There isn't a caste system. There is no pecking order. Pure meritocracy. You have a sincere desire to help my beloved nation, "Let me hear what you have to say, maybe you thought of an angle I didn't consider."

To the extent we are serious about fulfilling our mission in life and our respective destinies on the planet, be mindful to leave your ears open and your antennae up for ideas, suggestions, constructive criticism and feedback that may propel you closer to that goal. For one who can check their ego at the door, who knows what wisdom awaits - from even the most unlikely sources.

Good Shabbos.

This week's Thought was inspired by my dear friend and colleague Chaim Garfinkel.

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