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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  ( has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


On Yitro’s first day on the job as a Jewish father in-law, he sees his son in-law with long lines of people as Moshe alone judges them all day long. Yitro says to Moshe “Lo Tov Hadavar Asher Ata Oseh” - this thing you are doing is not good, (Shemot 18:17). You’re exhausted, the people are exhausted, your family misses you, the situation stinks. 

But he doesn’t just give criticism. He keeps on going and suggests a solution to Moshe of how to fix the problem (hire other judges and create hierarchy of the court system).

Yitro isn’t the only individual in this conversation we can learn from. Moshe played a very significant role as well. Moshe was the receiver of the criticism and actually listened to Yitro (without interruption), thought about his idea, asked G-d for permission to implement it and ultimately did it. Nobody likes to be criticized, especially by one’s in-laws. Yet Moshe listened the entire time. He could have diplomatically responded that this is what G-d told him to do, but Moshe didn’t respond this way.

What we learn from this episode is - don’t criticize if you have nothing constructive to say. It’s easy to complain, finding faults and flaws in all situations, but it’s important to offer suggestions of how to correct the problem. 

Yitro teaches us that if we want to find fault, we should do it constructively. Many criticize the President, the government, the health care system, the economy, Israeli politics and just about every other facet in life that isn’t exactly the way we would like it to be. But how do we want to make the situation better? Do we have any real implementable advice? 

Moshe teaches us the art of listening. The moment we see criticism coming, our defenses usually go up, and we stop listening and begin preparing our rebuttals. We often then interrupt and try to appear intelligent by saying what our criticizer was going to say and give twenty-four reasons why it wouldn’t work.

Even when we’re not receiving criticism, instead of listening when others talk, we often try to catch the gist of what they are saying, but then we prepare our response instead of listening, perhaps because we feel that any silence is awkward. It would do us well to actually listen, and even if it takes us two to five seconds to respond, our response will be more fitting, more thoughtful and probably more appreciated by our fellow conversationalist. Moshe was able to do this at the most difficult time - while taking criticism from someone whom it was probably hard for him to accept it from.