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Anna Castle - Dvar Torah

The Torah portion for this week, Yitro (or Jethro), teaches us to look beyond superficial qualities when it comes to choosing a good leader.

It helps us understand that there are certain criteria for leadership that transcend political, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries.

It also enables us to make a distinction between the characteristics that make a good leader and those that make a great leader.

For my Dvar Torah, I would like to explore the important qualities that Jethro had, making him a great leader and teacher, influencing not only Moses and the Jewish people, but future generations.

Jethro was the Midian priest who gave Moses refuge after his escape from Egypt. He welcomed him warmly and unconditionally into his family, in spite of their being from different backgrounds, cultures and religions. Moses later married his daughter, Tziporrah.

Jethro had incredible insight as to the importance of good leadership and the major role that each person in a community played.

He was a leader that people listened to, connected with and respected; not just for leadership, but for good advice, support, understanding and being non- judgemental.

It is so important for a leader to respect the people they lead and to be mindful of the fact that every individual is important, creating meaningful relationships with those around them so that together they can work for the betterment of everyone.

Jethro's behaviour and actions show us that care and concern for the wellbeing of others is crucial.

Not one person is less valuable or more important than another.

We can also learn a lot from the warm, comfortable relationship that Moses and Jethro had with one another.

They were always involved and connected because they understood the responsibility that they both had within their communities and valued what they were able to learn from each other and their experiences.

Both were leaders in their own right, however, neither of them behaved more important than the other. They were happy to share their knowledge, wisdom and life experiences, understanding the value of listening to suggestions and advice and not being offended by it.

Jethro offered constructive criticism and relayed it in a non-judgemental way that could be understood.

He advised Moses to delegate tasks to people that were capable, trustworthy, ethical and representative of the whole population.

He taught him to not hesitate to change things when change was necessary and the quality of being humble.

The qualities I believe every leader should have are; to respect and value people, to recognize the importance of each person, to listen to and to give constructive criticism, to share ideas for the benefit and upliftment of everyone, to be ethical, humble and kind.

Parashat Yitro reminds us that when we choose leaders, we must question more than their stances on political issues. We must ask, do they have the necessary qualities to work with others to make this world a better place?


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