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וַיֹּאמֶר חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֵלָיו לֹא־טוֹב הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹשֶׂה׃
But Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing you are doing is not right"; (Shmot 18)

The Halachah says (Rambam T"T 5,9):

רָאָה רַבּוֹ עוֹבֵר עַל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה אוֹמֵר לוֹ לִמַּדְתָּנוּ רַבֵּנוּ כָּךְ וְכָךְ. וְכָל זְמַן שֶׁמַּזְכִּיר שְׁמוּעָה בְּפָנָיו אוֹמֵר לוֹ כָּךְ לִמַּדְתָּנוּ רַבֵּנוּ.

If one beholds his master transgressing the words of the Torah, he should say to him: "Our master, you have instructed us such and thus." Whenever he quotes a lecture in the presence of his master, he should say: "So have you, our master, instructed us."

  1. Moses just descended from 80 days of continuous learning Torah from G-d Himself, presumably knowing the whole Torah.

  2. Moses didn't teach the Torah yet to the masses.

  3. A yesterday idolatry pries that worshipped all the idols available and a freshly converted old man judges Moses' behavior publicly.

  4. The [quality of the] advice by itself is not a problem but its phrasing seems bad. He should have said, "Moses, please reveal the laws of the Jewish Judicial system that G-d commanded upon you. Is this how G-d commanded you?" But he was sure Moses is wrong, but how dared he?

As the Gemmorah in Kiddushin 30 explains that respecting Talmidei Chachamim equals (and stems from) respecting G-d and His Torah, it is clear to me that Yitro comes not against Moses as a person but against the whole Torah and its scholars.

How Halachic is it, and if not, who criticizes Yitro for this conduct?

Please note, I don't discuss the advice itself here, only the way of referring to Moses.

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    “It is clear that Yitro comes not against Moses as a person but against the whole Torah and its scholars.” Is it? I don’t see anything where Yisro is being antagonistic at all; he’s offering helpful advice. – DonielF May 5 at 2:10
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    @DonielF What would you do? Would you dare to question Moses, that just spent 80 days with G-d by saying "not good"? I wouldn't. Many people fall into the trap of knowing the right answer aposteriori. But G-d could just kill Yisro in a second for מורד במלכות. And you would also agree that that's pretty reasonable. – Al Berko May 5 at 11:50
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    I’m not debating whether he was correct or not; I’m debating his intentions. – DonielF May 5 at 13:38
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    @DonielF is onto something here- his intention was correct, it was a critique rather than criticisim. Paroh, Korach and Miriam criticized Moshe and the results of that criticism are evident – Josh K May 5 at 13:53
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    The pshat doesn't seem to indicate it was done publicly, @Al – Josh K May 5 at 15:21
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Yisro is not coming against the torah, but speaking of the practical method of governing the people. Moshe did not judge the people in that way on the instructions of Hashem, but based on his own understanding. Indeed. Yisro told Moshe to consult with Hashem and he would see that this practical advice is correct.

Rashi explains Yisro 18:19

Now listen to me. I will advise you, and may the Lord be with you. [You] represent the people before God, and you shall bring the matters to God.

Rashi

I will advise you, and may the Lord be with you: in [this] counsel. He [Jethro] said to him [Moses], “Go, consult the Lord [as to whether my advice is sound].” -[from Mechilta]

[You] represent the people before God: [as a] messenger and an intermediary between them and the Omnipresent, and one who inquires of Him concerning the ordinances. — [from Onkelos]

Rav Hirsch says:

there is nothing in my advice which Hashem would disapprove of, nothing on which you could not reckon on Hashem's help. - היה וגו literally "Be thou, for the People opposit Hashem" i.e., be the representative of the People to Hashem, and when they seek instruction and help from Hashem through you, you bring their difficulties to Hashem. This is a function which nobody else can do for you.

In Yisro 18:21-22

But you shall choose out of the entire nation men of substance, God fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain, and you shall appoint over them [Israel] leaders over thousands, leaders over hundreds, leaders over fifties, and leaders over tens.

And they shall judge the people at all times, and it shall be that any major matter they shall bring to you, and they themselves shall judge every minor matter, thereby making it easier for you, and they shall bear [the burden] with you.

Rashi points out

thereby making it easier for you: Heb. וְהָקֵל. This thing [i.e., this arrangement will serve] to make it easier for you. וְהָקֵל is like הַכְבֵָּד in “he hardened (וְהַכְבֵָּד) his heart” (Exod. 8: 11) [lit., making heavy his heart]; “and slew (וְהַכּוֹת) the Moabites” (II Kings 3:24) [lit., and slaying the Moabites], a present tense.

That this is the way of setting up the organization to carry out Hashem's will. Indeed, since Moshe is mortal, this will also allow the Bnai Yisrael to continue being judged by the torah and by Hashem in all future generations.

  • Thank you, while I +1ed your answer for your effort and the quality, I think you fail to address the Halachic problem, that I presented. The advice by itself is not a problem but its phrasing. He should say "Moses, please reveal the laws of the Jewish Judicial system - is that how G-d commanded you?" But he was sure Moses is wrong, but how dare he? All the interpreters know that Moses accepted the advice, therefore they prise how good it was. – Al Berko May 5 at 14:21

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