"What advice did Jethro give Moses?" Mr. Katz asked at the beginning of the Torah portion class.

Many of the sixth graders raised their hands. Mr. Katz pointed at Danny. "Jethro advised Moses to appoint judges who would help him judge the people," Danny answered.

"Mr. Katz," Barry asked,"Jethro's advice makes sense. Appointing judges seems like the logical thing for any leader to do, especially since there were over 600,000 people to lead. Why didn't Moses come up with the idea himself?"

"That's an excellent question, Barry," replied Mr. Katz. "If you think about it, the question becomes even greater. One of the reasons G‑d chose Moses as a leader was because He saw how Moses cared for each and every one of the sheep in his flock. But here, it seems that Moses was not aware of the people's needs. Instead, it appears to have been Jethro, an outsider, who understood and suggested a plan to make life easier for everyone.

"There is another incident later in this Torah portion that can help us answer this question," Mr. Katz continued. "What was the Jewish people's reaction when they heard the first two of the Ten Commandments from G‑d?"

"They were frightened," replied Sarah. "They asked Moses to speak to them instead of G‑d."

"Oh, I see," Dave called out. "Here we have exactly the same question. Since Moses was such a dedicated leader, shouldn't he have known that the people would not be able to listen to G‑d's voice directly?"

"Good thinking, Dave," Mr. Katz praised. "Now I'll explain. Moses was a dedicated leader and he knew his people very well. He was so devoted to his people that he wanted them to hear and understand G‑d in the same way that he himself did. He was able to lift them up to this level, and they could hear G‑d's voice directly.

"But the people wanted something different. 'Moses,' they told him, 'you are doing so much for us by raising us to your level. Still, we want to understand G‑d's words on our own level.' We see that G‑d agreed. 'They have spoken correctly,' G‑d said. So for the remaining eight commandments, it was Moses and not G‑d who spoke to the people.

"Now we can understand why Moses wanted to judge the people himself. He wanted to lift them up and give them the chance to understand G‑d's wisdom like he did. But Jethro saw that it wouldn't work; the people couldn't always be uplifted to Moses's level.

"He told Moses: 'You bring them the word of  G‑d. Teach them the Torah and tell them how to lead their lives. But appoint others to help you judge.

" 'When you are teaching people Torah,' Jethro told him, 'you can raise them to your level. But when they have an argument and need to be judged, they are not on your level. Then they cannot be uplifted to hear the word of G‑d the way you can. Appoint others to be the judges.'

"We see that G‑d agreed to Jethro's advice, and Moses appointed judges. Having a group of wise leaders like these judges to guide the people was important - and not only at the time Jethro gave his advice. It would become even more important in the future when the Jewish people would enter Israel and Moses would no longer be there to lead them."