A Daas Torah Surprise
Who knows better?
Imagine (or maybe it’s not imaginary) that you’re having difficulties with the demands that your job is making on your life, with the responsibilities of getting everything done. Who (if anyone) would you consult about what to do? An organizational psychologist? A management consultant? A life coach? The Dalai Lama?
What if there was someone else you could ask? Imagine a Gadol HaDor greater than any you have ever met, someone who mastered every aspect of Torah, who was the ultimate rabbinic authority, a sage that every other rabbi would regard as their definitive superior. Someone who is the ultimate mouthpiece of Daas Torah, to the extent that when he tells you what God wants, it’s effectively straight from the mouth of God.
Would he be wiser than the psychologist/ consultant/ life coach/ lama?
Incredibly, in this week’s Torah reading, we told that this would not necessarily be the case. The greatest Gadol B’Torah of all time - Moshe Rabbeinu himself - gets his life coaching from his father-in-law Yisro, who tells him to arrange a system of judicial authority rather than wearing himself out. And which yeshivah did Yisro get his wisdom from? None at all - he was a pagan priest!
Abarbanel says that it must have been that Moshe also realized what adjustments he needed to make. But other commentaries do not divert from the straightforward reading of the Torah. Ohr HaChaim says the Torah is showing us that non-Jews can be wiser than the wisest Jews, which in turn means that God did not choose the Jewish People for their brains, but rather out of His kindness for them and His love for their forefathers.
Of course, this completely demolishes popular contemporary ideas about great rabbis being an authoritative source of wisdom about all kinds of life issues solely due to their knowledge of Torah. But it’s perfectly consistent with traditional views about rabbinic wisdom, which recognized life experience and knowledge of other sources of wisdom as increasing one’s overall wisdom.
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