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    Civil servants – Mikketz

    Joseph, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1874

    Joseph, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1874

    Appearing before Pharaoh, Joseph urges the appointment of officials – p’kidim – to take charge of food supplies in time of famine (Gen. 41:34).

    Nachmanides explains that Joseph believes in delegating administrative tasks and not letting any individual handle every task on his own.

    Those who enjoy discovering Biblical origins for everything will claim that this is the beginning of the science of public administration, and they may be right.

    However, more important than the technical origins of the civil service is the concept itself, which is reinforced by Jethro telling Moses not to try to do everything himself because it will only wear him down (Ex. 18:17-18).

    Ibn Ezra comments that Jethro actually said more than the Torah records, and that he told Moses that unless he delegated some of his tasks he would collapse like a withered leaf which falls off the tree.

    I have a personal reason for feeling Jethro is really speaking to me, since it reminds me of something I heard when, as a schoolboy, I was about to become an army cadet officer, and a (real) army officer told me, “Never do a thing yourself if you can get someone else to do it for you”.

    That was a more cynical approach than Jethro’s, but the result is the same: if you are a leader, you should assemble a good team and allocate the jobs. It’s not good for you if you try to do it all yourself, but neither is it good for the cause.

    Let everyone feel a sense of involvement and participation. Let your contribution be to choose the team, to co-ordinate the effort, and to work with them.

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