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    Men of valour – Yitro

    The famous words of Prov. 31:10 say, Eshet chayyil mi yimtza – “Who can find a woman of valour?”

    Men can also have chayyil, as in this week’s portion where “Moses chose men of valour – anshei chayyil – from amongst the people” (Ex. 18:28).

    Since chayyil denotes quantity or concentration, in this case virtues and abilities, it is clear that Moses selected the best endowed and most qualified men from amongst the people, in order to allot duties and responsibilities to them.

    If we ask what precise qualities he was looking for, there is a hint in the g’matria (numerical value) of the letters of chayyil chet = 8, yod = 10 and lamed = 30, making a total of 48, which is the traditional number of criteria that lead to the acquisition of Torah (Pirkei Avot ch. 6) – study, moderation, patience, faith, love of God, love of human beings, etc.

    A person with the chayyil represented by the 48 criteria is not necessarily big, strong and athletic, but has courage, vision and people skills.

    Does this then constitute valour? Rav Soloveitchik says there are two kinds of strength, physical and moral. The people that Moses chose had moral strength.

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