I am trying to reconcile the events leading up to Moshe's decision to appoint leaders for the people (heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.) It seems that we get two different stories.

In Shemot 18:13 - 17, Yitro sees that the people are standing waiting for Moshe to resolve cases for them. He says to Moshe, this is a huge task for you and a burden to the people, you can't do this alone. Then, in verses 19-23, he advises Moshe to appoint heads of different divisions. Moshe listens to Yitro's advise (verse 24), and does this.

In Devarim 1:12, Moshe complains that the people's burdens are too large for him, and he advises the people to find smart and renown people. This seems different from Shemot, where it seems that Moshe found these people.

Next, in Devarim 1:14, the people tell Moshe, "This is a good idea". In Shemot, it doesn't seem that Moshe asked for the people's approval of the idea. It seems that he realized on his own that Yitro offered the right advice.

Lastly, Rash"i's comment on Devarim 1:14 seems negative. He says that the people should have said, "No, we'd rather learn directly from you." It seems that this was the people's fault that they agreed to having separate heads. I don't see how Rash"i arrives at faulting the people. In Devarim, it seems clear that Moshe himself decided that he needed help. In Shemot, he was listening to Yitro's advice.

How do we reconcile these seemingly conflicting stories?

  • 1
    alhatorah.org/Chronology_–_Shemot_18 -- this may help
    – Menachem
    Jan 30, 2018 at 22:00
  • @menachem cannot get to the link. Jan 30, 2018 at 23:58
  • 1
    Copy and paste the complete link. I'm not she why it got cut off at the hyphen.
    – Menachem
    Jan 31, 2018 at 1:25

1 Answer 1


Mefarshim here as usual:

Ibn Caspi to Devarim 1:9 says that the story in Devarim story took place after Yisro had suggested this idea to Moshe. This seems to also be the understanding of R"i Bechor Shor there, and perhaps other Mefarshim as well. Hoil Moshe there explains this clearly and in depth. See also Netziv 1:10, and Devarim Rabbah 1:10)

Rabbeinu Bachya/Bechaye suggests that Moshe told the nation this "through Yisro", but I don't understand how the details of the story fit according to his retelling.

RDZ Hoffman suggests that Moshe told this to the nation without mentioning who had given him the suggestion.

See Or Hachaim to 1:13, who says that Moshe had a role in appointing the judges even here, based on the words "Vaasimeim Berasheichem". See Keli Yakar there, who says that the choosing of the people is about the Nesiim, not judges.

In regards to Rashi, Baruch Shekivanti to Netziv there who says that the Midrash is picking up on the words there "Vataanu Osi) which seem to be saying that they pained Moshe, and that was the reason for this Derasha, not that it was intended as a context based Peshat:

There is much more on this, but I hope I have provided some ways to look at the two stories hand-in-hand.

  • @DanF that website could answer 95 percent of the Prshanut questions on here... Jan 31, 2018 at 3:55
  • I guess. But letting the secret out won't get you as many points ;-)
    – DanF
    Jan 31, 2018 at 14:39
  • @DanF I'm happy for people to learn on their own! Halevai that I should have no points (although I am happy that I got my bronze parshanut tag badge yesterday). Jan 31, 2018 at 15:00
  • I'm returning to this a year later, B"H. Follow up - ""Vataanu Osi) which seem to be saying that they pained Moshe" - My! Netziv is using a different shoresh that's not the one in the pasuk. If it were "pain" / affiliction, the pasuk should have said Vat'anu. So, how does he arrive at his explanation?
    – DanF
    Jul 16, 2018 at 16:38
  • @danf that is the difference between drash and pshat Jul 16, 2018 at 16:42

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