Parshat Yitro: Exodus 18:1-20:23; Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6.

I recently heard of a man who called his friend and asked: “Hey, do you want to go hunting tomorrow? I have the most amazing thing to show you!” “Sure,” said Tom. And the two men made plans to go hunting. After some time together in the marshland, the man shot a duck and sent his new hunting dog to fetch the bird. Instead of swimming, the dog ran across the top of the water to retrieve the bird. There was absolutely no reaction at all from Tom.

Surprised, the man shot another duck and again sent the dog. A second time, the dog walked across the water and brought back the bird. Still, there was no reaction from Tom. This continued for more than an hour until finally the man said: “Don’t you see anything unusual about my new dog?” “Yes, I do,” said Tom. “It seems that your dog can’t swim!”

Perspective — it’s all about how we see things. Sometimes the reality of a situation doesn’t matter at all because the bottom line is how we perceive what is going on and how we see the world around us.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses perceives himself as a strong and inspiring leader. But his father-in-law sees that Moses is struggling desperately. As Yitro comes out to join the Israelite camp in the wilderness, he sees a long, endless line of people waiting to speak to Moses. They are bringing him their problems, concerns and disputes all day and all night.

Watching Moses overworked, overwhelmed and running the entire nation by himself, Yitro questions the stressed-out Moses: “Why do you act alone as the entire nation stands before you from morning until evening? What you are doing is not good. These people who come to you will only wear you out. The work is too heavy, and you cannot handle it alone.” (Exodus 18:17-18)

Thankfully, Yitro steps forward just in time to teach Moses a lesson that probably saved his life. This is the very same lesson that all of us need to learn and internalize: namely, allowing our egos to ask others for help in situations when we are exhausted, lost or in trouble, be it a crisis, a sickness or a loss.

Perhaps the most compelling argument that Yitro makes to Moses is that he is not serving the people well. He is actually hurting them while wearing himself down in the process. It is a hard and life-affirming lesson we too must learn.

For when we refuse to allow others to help us when we are in need of assistance, we damage ourselves and we alienate our loved ones. May this message penetrate our souls the way it did for Moses!

Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff is the chief executive officer of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.

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