The most fascinating element of this week’s parsha is Jethro’s conversation with Moses. Remember Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, priest of Midian? After hearing of Moses’s relationship with God, Jethro visits him and notices how much Moses is taking on as leader of the Israelites, fielding both spiritual and organizational responsibilities. Jethro can sense his burn-out. “…You will surely wear yourself out… the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” He urges Moses to delegate the magisterial tasks to trusted and capable men and Moses heeds his suggestion.
This is noteworthy. Moses, who has access to God, takes guidance from Jethro, a man he reveres, but who is human, flawed and imperfect. It takes a certain level of faith to place trust in another human being, and Moses teaches us not only that it can be done but also the value of doing so. Moses’s relationship with Jethro is holy, just as Moses’s relationship with God is holy.
At Hillel, staff often take on the role of Jethro. We exist outside of the academic, social, and extra-curricular contracts of university life. We have the unique position to recognize when a student is reaching their capacity and on the verge of burnout. Perhaps it is our obligation to interject, as Jethro did for Moses, when we sense that a student has taken on too much to bear. Despite being imperfect, Hillel professionals have the power to enhance the lives of students, and we must recognize that their trust in return is holy.
Senior IACT Coordinator for Birthright Israel Engagement
Jewish Renaissance Project (JRP)
Hillel at The University of Pennsylvania