One comes across a very interesting concept at the beginning of this week's Parsha. Yisro (Moshe's father-in-law) comes to the Jews and notices that Moshe is judging the nation alone. The Torah tells us that from morning until night Moshe sat unaided, judging and mediating between plaintiff and defendant. Seeing this obvious problem, Yisro offered an ingenious idea. Appoint judges under Moshe's tutelage - men who will uphold the law under his guidance, thereby easing Moshe's burden. As an added benefit, the nation would no longer need to wait in-line for direction. To quote, "You shall choose men of accomplishment, G-d fearing, who despise money (bribes), and you shall appoint them leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens". What was so innovative about this advice? It seems like basic effective management - divide the burden so everything is more efficient.
There is a very important lesson here. Of course, Moshe understood that this system was not perfect, and at the least, overwhelming. However, Moshe understood his greatness and put value in the fact that the entire public wanted to gain a connection with him, their leader. Due to Moshe's divine inspiration, he was able to effectively handle the volume of disagreements and guidance seekers himself. He had thought the matter through and concluded that it would better to let the people wait through the day so that they would have a relationship with him.
Yisro also appreciated this. However, he disagreed with Moshe on a different point. Obviously, there was no one as great as Moshe, but one can grow to reach levels beyond one's reach. The current system may not have encouraged people to strive to reach greater heights, and become leaders themselves. The thought might occur that since one cannot reach Moshe's level of purity and piety, he should maintain his present spiritual level and remain just a student of Moshe. By appointing students that would determine the law and teach, it necessitated them having to grow to reach the level of a judge and teacher. Let Moshe create leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, etc. so that these leaders will learn, and grow into their roles and then be able to lead and teach and influence the common man.
There is an additional reason why it was necessary to follow Yisro's idea. By creating more leaders, it helped other Jews connect with the leader of their choice. People have unique ways to serve Hashem. By following Yisro's advice, Moshe gave many Jews the ability to grow in his own unique fashion, thereby elevating the whole nation in a beautiful way.
Moshe took Yisro's instruction even further. When he carried out this plan, the Torah says, "He chose men of accomplishment from among Israel etc." Moshe did not appoint men who Yisro originally suggested, "men of accomplishment, G-d fearing, who despise money (bribes)" - just men of accomplishment. This means that Moshe took people who were not so elevated yet. He assumed they would grow into their role. This teaches us an important point. People on all levels can grow and become great. Moshe understood their potential. Sometimes by placing one in a role with greater responsibility, that will push that person to do more than what he thought he was capable of.
Why does the Torah mention this seemingly trivial episode? It debunks the negative thought that we cannot become as great as the leaders of the previous generation. One might despair that our generation is not near the spiritual level of our grandparents who grew up in a better environment for religious growth. Why should I even try? The Torah wants to teach us to never underestimate the growth we can attain. We also learn that there are many paths to serve Hashem. Make the effort to find a teacher/leader who can best guide you and teach you, how to serve Hashem. Like the Mishna in Avos says, "Make for yourself a teacher."