Greatly Difficult by Ilan Griboff


In the beginning of this week’s Parasha, when Yitro describes his plan regarding the national judicial system to Moshe, he tells him, “Kol HaDavar HaGadol Yaviu Eilecha,” “Any great matter should be brought to Moshe” (Shemot 18:22). However, when the plan is put into action, the Torah says, “Et HaDavar HaKasheh Yeviun El Moshe,” “Any difficult matter was brought to Moshe” (18:26). The Brisker Rav asks a seemingly apparent question: What is the difference between something “great” and something “difficult” that the Torah switches the word?

He answers by quoting Sanhedrin 2a which relates that the Beit Din HaGadol served two functions. The Beit Din would deal with matters which were too important for the lower courts, including cases regarding the Kohein Gadol, cases about false prophets, and war-time decisions. Such things are examples of what Yitro referred to as “great.” However, Beit Din HaGadol also served another purpose, that of serving as the final authority when a regular case was too difficult for the lower courts to handle. Therefore, although these cases may not have been that important, they were still brought before Beit Din HaGadol, and are illustrations of “difficult” matters. 

The Torah Temimah offers an alternative explanation. In the secular court system, items dealing with lesser amounts of money were brought before the lower courts and the matters dealing with larger amounts of money were brought before the higher courts.  In the Jewish court system, however, the amount of money in question does not matter. The procedures for cases involving different amounts of money are the same; the cases brought to the higher courts were only those dealing with complicated and serious issues. When Yitro told Moshe to handle only the “great” cases, he was speaking from personal experience within his non-Jewish society where the larger and greater monetary cases were brought before the higher courts. However, while Moshe did in fact take Yitro’s advice to heart, he implemented it using Jewish standards, choosing to take on all of the difficult and serious issues, regardless of the value of the claim.

Throughout life, pressing issues arise that deal with every aspect of one’s daily functioning. Such issues must be taken care of expeditiously no matter what type of quandary it is. By tackling all problems head-on and not shirking our duties, perhaps such difficulties will not recur in the future.

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