Shabbat Yitro

Candles Friday 29th Jan 4:49pm
Havdalah 30th 5:45pm

Kiddush this week sponsored by Morad Khosh
in memory of Avraham ben Yehezkel ע״ה

Everyone knows this week’s Torah reading because of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Principles (erroneously translated as “commandments”). But I want to suggest a more topical lesson. Moshe’s father in law, Yitro, comes to visit and notices that Moshe is sitting throughout the day dealing with issues and problems that the people are bringing to him. And they in turn are having to stand and wait for hours. He tells Moshe that this is a disaster waiting to happen to him personally and to the people. Moshe needs to delegate and he needs to delegate to honest, trustworthy individuals who cannot be bribed. You might say this is the first example in the Bible of a business consultant.

Here we are thousands of years later and one of the most universally stressful features of our lives is bureaucracy. Very little attention is paid to the stress of people waiting in lines for hours, and bureaucrats grinding away in grim conditions, themselves under pressure and often reacting unfeelingly and impersonally. What is more, in most parts of the world bribery and corruption is endemic. The quality of the experience on both sides of the glass partition is rarely dealt with.

Yet Yitro revealed the dangers of not taking stress into consideration. Still, most governments do not seem able or willing to deal with the issue. I used to think Israeli bureaucracy was a depressing experience but in all honesty it is no better wherever I have travelled.

And whereas we rightly focus in the plight of refugees, we rarely consider the bureaucratic nightmares they and their children usually have to endure in the process of migration. And the same goes for the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of our populations. Little has changed in four thousand years.