Find Solutions Not Problems
In connection with helping me address an issue that arose with respect to my son's attendance (b"eh) at Rambam Mesivta high school next year, the principals of the school, Rabbi Zev Friedman and Rabbi Yotav Eliach, quoted to me a saying used in the Israeli army - "l'kol ba'ayah, yesh pitaron." For every problem there is a solution."
It reminded me of another nugget of advice once shared with me by a close friend: "There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who find problems. And those who find solutions. Avoid the former and seek the latter."
Given that all wisdom can be found in the Torah, it is not surprising to find the above idea expressed in Parshat Yitro. How so? Read on.
In parshat Yitro, 18:1, the Torah relates that "va'yishma Yitro - and Yitro heard. Rashi comments that Yitro actually had seven names - one of them being Yeter. Why was he called "Yeter?" Because, Rashi explains, Yitro had the merit of adding verses to the Torah (the letters of Yeter being - yud, tuf, resh - "addition"). What verses? Rashi identifies 18:21 - "v'ata techezeh" - where Yitro provides advice to Moshe concerning how to choose other outstanding individuals to assist him in dispensing justice for Bnei Yisroel.
Problem is, commentators ask, Yitro's advice to Moshe does not begin in 18:21, but in 18:17 where, after observing Moshe, Yitro states, "The thing that you do is not good." So why does Rashi identify the verses attributed to Yitro as only beginning in 18:21? Why not highlight 18:17 as the beginning of Yitro's verses?
The answer given is that 18:17 represents the "problem" identified by Yitro. He saw something he didn't like and criticized. But was that all? No, Yitro didn't just identify a problem, he offered a solution. And it is only when he specified the solution - in 18:21 - that he demonstrated the personal worth to have pesukim added to the Torah in his merit. In contrast, simply identifying a problem accrued no merit, and had Yitro left things at that - criticism and no solution - he would not have merited this additional special name.
In short, the true greatness of an individual is not in his or her ability to find problems and criticize, but in his or her ability to find solutions - that is, to extend a serious effort towards rectifying the problems identified.
May we be zocheh to find our lot among those who find solutions.