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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 2, v. 1: "Va'tei're oso ki tov hu" - And she saw him that he was good - Rashi explains (gemara Sotoh 12a) that when Moshe was born the house was filled with light. The gemara derives this from the common word "tov" found here and by the creation of light in parshas Breishis. The gemara goes on to explain that Moshe brought about this great illumination by virtue of his later communicating with Hashem "mouth to mouth." The Maharsh"o comments that this is an exceedingly novel concept, that Moshe brings great illumination upon his birth because in the future he would speak directly with Hashem. The gemara has another opinion, that he was "tov" means that he was born circumcised. The Chizkuni and Nachal K'dumim say that this is derived from the word "tov." "Tevel" means food that is not yet fit for consumption because a portion of it was not yet separated and sanctified. "Tevel" is actually "tov lo," not yet good. Similarly, one who is not yet circumcised is "tevel," and after circumcision is "tov." Alternatively, it is derived from the word "oso," which can also mean "his sign." The words of the Holy Zohar have been cited numerous times in Sedrah Selections, where he says that it is only where the word "oso" appears with the letter Vov after the Alef that it means his sign, and that this takes place only two times in the Torah, and this is not one of them. (We do not have the Holy Zohar's spelling in either case, and for that matter, no where does it appear in the Torah spelled with this extra Vov.) It would thus seem that the Holy Zohar does not agree with this explanation. Ch. 2, v. 1: "Ki tov hu" - That he is good - The Minchoh V'luloh simply explains this to mean that he was a good baby and did not cry. It was therefore safe to place him in a basket among the reeds, where the quiet baby would go unnoticed and later fetch him. Ch. 2, v. 21: "Va'yo'el Moshe losheves es ho'ish" - Moshe desired to dwell with the man" - The M.R. translates the word "va'yo'eil" differently from the common translation. According to the M.R. the word is sourced from "Oloh," an oath. Moshe took an oath that the first child that would be born from his marriage to Tziporoh would be dedicated to avodoh zoroh. How could Moshe make such an oath? R' Menachem M. Kasher in Torah Shleimoh lists most of the the following answers as redacted by Rabbi Sh. Katz in Hamaayan:

1) Moshe knew that Yisro himself would eventually convert to Judaism. Moshe therefore did not anticipate that his father-in-law would keep him to his oath, as he himself would change his mind later. Nevertheless, Moshe was punished for making this oath. His grandson, Yonoson ben Gershom, was a priest to idolatry, albeit he did not believe in the idols. (Ba'al Ha'Turim)

2) Along the same lines of thought, Moshe saw that Yisro worshipped different idols, changing from one to another faster than a politician changes his mind. He was therefore very confident, or possibly even received a prophecy, that Yisro would eventually reject them all, save Judaism (Sifsei Kohen)

3) The intention of the words "avodoh zoroh" is not idolatry. Rather, it should be taken literally to mean "work that is foreign." Thus, Moshe promised Yisro that his first son would work in the manner of the Midyonites, talk their language, wear their style of clothes, and follow their cultural behaviours. We find the term "avodoh zoroh" used in a similar manner in the gemara B.B. 110. "It is preferable for a person to work 'avodoh zoroh,' work that is foreign to him, as either he is not accustomed to it or it is below his dignity, rather than to take charity." This does not mean that a person may serve idols to earn a living. Rather, it means that it is preferable to take on a job or profession that is foreign to him than to take charity. (Rabbeinu Ephraim)

4) Along the same lines of translation, we see Yisro was a priest and also had sheep. We can assume that he was paid as a priest but also pursued a regular livelihood that involved daily down-to-earth work. This is "avodoh zoroh," work that is foreign to Yisro's stature. Possibly, all he asked of Moshe was that his first son pursue a livelihood even if it would be "avodoh hazoroh lo," rather than rely on handouts. (n.l. - This answer is not found in Torah Shleimoh)

5) Yisro assumed that just as the first sons of Avraham and Yitzchak, Yishmo'eil and Esov, had been wicked, similarly Moshe's first son would also be wicked. Yisro's intention in insisting that Moshe make the oath contained the following message. "You might be considering taking a concubine as your ancestor Avrohom did, so that your wicked son and your good son will not come from the same woman. Therefore, swear to me that you will not take a concubine besides being married to my daughter." This is the meaning of giving the first son to "avodoh zoroh," that the first son, who will likely serve "avodoh zoroh," will be your son as much as your other children. (Alshich)

I am a bit hard-pressed to understand how the Alshich includes Eisov in his explanation, as Yitzchok took no second wife for siring him.

6) Yisro thought Moshe was an Egyptian (see 2:20). Yisro's intention is requesting the oath was that he was compromising with Moshe, allowing him to influence and set the course for his oldest child only, but requesting that all further children would be taught to serve the true G-d. (Markeves Hamishneh)

7) Yisro converted to Judaism after testing out every idolatry that existed. Yisro believed that this was the proper path for every person to follow, to not accept Hashem by rote or limited exposure only. The belief in Hashem, he felt, would be truly deep-seated if one comes to this recognition after being exposed to, and ideologically negating other beliefs. He therefore stipulated with Moshe to allow his oldest son to expose himself to different faiths and discover Hashem on his own.

8) R' Shmuel Dvir explains Yisro's oath, which Moshe accepted, based on the gemara K'subos 110b, which says that a person who lives outside of Eretz Yisroel, even if he keeps all of the mitzvos, is equated with serving idols. Yisro asked Moshe to take an oath that when bnei Yisroel depart Egypt for Eretz Yisroel, Moshe's oldest son would remain in Midyon and live with Yisro. This is alluded to by the gematria of the words "va'yo'el Moshe" plus the "kollel" of 1 for each word, which total 400. This is the number of years that the Bnei Yisrael would be in Egypt. Thus Yisro's intention was: "When the 400 years are over, leave your oldest son with me."

Ch. 3, v. 22: "V'nitzaltem es Mitzroyim" - and you will deplete Egypt - Rashi explains that the letter Nun of "v'nitzaltem" is part of the word source. He equates this with (Pi'eil) "V'dibartem el ha'sela (Bmidbar 20:8), V'chipartem es habayis (Yechezkeil 45:20), V'limadtem osom es bneichem" (Dvorim 11:19).

There might be a hidden message in the examples Rashi cites. If you attempt to teach your children Torah and find that you are talking to a stone - "V'dibartem el ha'sela" - then a likely cause is the negative influence of the home, i.e. improper dress, literature, media, and stress on "gashmius" as expressed in house enhancements. Then cleanse the house - "V'chipartem es habayis." The result will be that you will then be successful in teaching Torah ideals to your children, "V'limadtem osom es bneichem." This would explain why Rashi seems to hop around, citing a verse from the Torah, then the Prophets, and then back to the Torah. (n.l.)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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