Towards the beginning of Parashat Devarim, Moshe recalls the time when he recognized the need to appoint judges to help him settle all the nation’s disputes. He exclaimed, “How can I bear alone all your troubles, burdens and disputes!” (1:12). Rashi, based on the Sifrei, explains this cry as lamenting not just the sheer number of cases that required legal resolution, but also the gall shown by the people. Specifically, litigants would prolong trials by constantly adding more evidence and witnesses, and wild rumors and suspicions would often circulate about Moshe’s personal life or of nefarious schemes that he was devising against the people.
Rashi’s comments become remarkable in light his comments several verses later, in reference to Moshe’s appointment of judges. Moshe tells the people, “I took the leaders of your tribes” (1:15), and Rashi explains this to mean that Moshe persuaded the eligible candidates for the role of judge to accept the appointment. Again citing from the Sifrei, Rashi writes, “I drew them with words: ‘Fortunate are you! Over whom have you come to be appointed – over the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, on people who are called ‘brothers’ and ‘friends’…and all expressions of love!’” Moshe emphasized to the judges the great privilege they were given to serve the great Nation of Israel. Even at the time when Moshe found himself buckling under the pressure and angst of the people’s “troubles, burdens and disputes,” he never lost sight of the people’s special stature of greatness. The people made life very difficult and unpleasant for him at times, but he still managed to perceive them as God’s treasured nation, and to respect them, despite their many faults and shortcomings. Rashi’s comments teach us to try to recognize and appreciate the fine qualities of each and every one of our fellow Jews, including those against whom we have valid grievances. Even when we endure “troubles and burdens” imposed by others, we are still capable of identifying and appreciating their admirable qualities and respecting them as children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and as members of God’s treasured nation.