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Parshas Yisro -the art of listening

On Yisro’s visit to Moshe, he saw the long queues of people as Moshe alone judged them all day long.

Yisro says (Shemos 18:17) – “Lo Tov Hadavar Asher Ata Oseh” -” This thing you are doing is not good”. You’re exhausted, the people are exhausted, your family misses you, the situation is wrong.

But Yisro doesn’t just criticize. He suggests a solution to fix the problem by creating a judicial hierarchy and court system.

Now Yisro is praised for his constructive criticism because he offered a solution to the problem. Indeed, the Parsha is named after Yisro because of his suggestions to correct the problem. Yisro isn’t the only individual in this conversation from whom we can learn. Moshe played a very significant role as well. Moshe was at the receiving end of the criticism, but nevertheless he actually was attentive and listened to Yisro, without interruption, thought about his idea, asked G-d for permission to implement it and ultimately did so.

Nobody likes to be criticized, especially by one’s in-laws. The moment we are criticized we set up our defenses and we stop listening and begin preparing our rebuttals. We often then interrupt and try to appear intelligent by saying what we anticipate our critic is going to say and give a host of reasons why his assumptions are incorrect. 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 that way.

Yisro’s behavior teaches us that if we want to find fault, we should do it constructively. It’s easy to complain, finding fault and flaws in all situations but it’s important when doing so to offer suggestions of how to rectify the situation.

Moshe teaches us the art of listening. Moshe was able to do this at the most difficult time, while receiving criticism from someone from whom it was probably hard to accept.

We all criticize and all hear criticism. The only way to succeed in either of these roles is by learning from Yisro and Moshe. We can try to teach, or correct mistakes, or improve situations, but criticism will only be accepted if it is accompanied by something constructive. Additionally, if we listen carefully to the critique of others instead of immediately being defensive, perhaps we will be able to learn something from them. Pharaoh only accepted Yosef’s interpretation of his dreams, because he offered a solution to the problem of the famine.

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