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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 18, v. 2,3: "Va'yikach Yisro chosein Moshe es Tziporoh, V'es shnei vo'ne'hoh" - We find the Torah mentions Yisro, then Tziporoh, and lastly her two sons. Compare this with verse 5 which says, "Va'yovo Yisro chosein Moshe u'vonov v'ishto el Moshe," where the children are mentioned first. The Ibn Ezra says that in verse 5 which discusses their manner of travel, it is proper to have the men in the lead ahead of a woman. However, the Zohar says that "u'vonov," - and his sons, mentioned in verse 5 refers to the sons of Yisro, whom he was blessed to have after Moshe lived in his home. This is similar to the blessing Lovon received from Hashem when he had Yaakov in his household. Both of them only had daughters previously. He brought his sons along to have them converted to Judaism.

We now have to clarify the order in verse 6, which is listed as following: "Ani chosencho Yisro ...... v'ish't'cho u'shnei vo'nehoh." Rashi explains that Yisro pleaded with Moshe to travel to meet him. If this would not motivate Moshe, then at least in the interest of meeting his wife he should go to greet them. If this is not sufficient, he should do so for his two children. How is this derived from the words of this verse?

Rashi in Breishis 31:17 on the words "Va'yokom Yaakov va'yiso es bonov v'es noshov" comments that Yaakov first took his sons and then his wives. He contrasts this with 36:6, "Va'yikach Eisov es noshov v'es bonov," first his wives and then his children. Rashi says this shows that righteous people prioritize their children, who are the fruits of their life's labour, to bring them up as Torah observant, G-d fearing people. Eisov took his wives first, as the priority of people whose main concern is their physical pleasures give preference to their wives.

If so, why did Yisro mention Moshe's wife before his children? From this Rashi deduced that Yisro meant to say that hopefully Moshe would come out to meet Yisro, and if that is not sufficient, then his wife Tziporoh, and if that doesn't motivate Moshe, lastly, his children's presence would. (Rabbi Sho'ul of Amsterdam)

Ch. 18, v. 3: "V'es shnei VO'NEHOH" - Why are the children called HER children and not Moshe's? The Zohar answers that since she brought them up, the Torah relates them to her. In verse five where it says "u'VONOV," - and HIS children, according to the Zohar this refers to Yisro's sons, as mentioned above. Possibly according to the common explanation that it refers to Moshe's sons, they are now called HIS sons because they are now being brought to him, allowing him to put his input into their upbringing.

Ch. 18, v. 3,4: "Sheim ho'echod Geirshome ki omar geir hoyisi b'eterz nochrioh, V'sheim ho'echod Eliezer ki Elokei ovi b'ezri va'yatzi'leini meicherev Paroh" - Wasn't Moshe first saved from the sword of Paroh when being judged for killing the Egyptian (2:12,15) before being a sojourner in the foreign land of Midyon where Yisro resided?

1) At the time of the birth of his first son Moshe was still a fugitive and on Paroh's most wanted list. He was not yet free of the sword of Paroh. However he was already in a foreign land, not being among his brethren. (Chizkuni)

2) At the time of the birth of his first som, Moshe was still relatively new to the community in Midyon. Had he named his first son Eliezer as a praise to Hashem for saving him from the sword of Paroh, he feared that the Midyanites and even his father-in-law would banish him from the community, or even turned over to Paroh, since he had killed an Egyptian. His second son was born after he had lived there for a while and at that point he felt confident that he had built up a reputation as an upright person and they would not evict him. (Abarbanel)

3) If one has experienced a number of experiences which have made a profound impression upon him, he should not name his child after a more distant happening, but rather after the most recent. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh and Imrei Noam)

4) "Geir hoyisi b'eterz nochrioh" refers not to Moshe's feeling as a foreigner in the land of Midyon, but rather to his sojourning in this ephemeral world. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)

5) Moshe knew that a descendant of his firstborn son, Y'honoson ben Geirshome, would become a functionary for idol worship. He therefore did not want to give him a name that would incorporate the name of Hashem in it. (Meshech Chochmoh)

6) Along the lines of the previous answer, perhaps Moshe was reluctant to give a name to his first son which incorporated Hashem's name in it since he had agreed to Yisro's condition upon marrying Tziporoh, that he would allow his first son to be raised with the theological training of idol worship as per the Mechilta #67 and Yalkut Shimoni remez #268.

7) Although chronologically being a sojourner in the foreign land of Midyon was experienced after being saved from the sword of Paroh, being away from his brethren who suffered inhuman servitude under Paroh was foremost in his mind, this in spite of human nature to first care about saving one's own skin, which was Moshe's being saved from the sword of Paroh. His extreme concern for his brethren is accentuated even more by virtue of his not having been brought up among them, as he was raised in the palace of Paroh. As well, his first experience of involvement with them was very short-lived as after smiting the Egyptian he was to be executed and escaped, leaving Egypt. In spite of his limited involvement with his brethren, he took to heart first and foremost their suffering, thus naming his first son after his situation of being away from them. This is the quality of a true and caring leader. (Meshech Chochmoh)

8) "Geir hoyisi b'eterz nochrioh" refers not to Moshe's feeling as a foreigner in the land of Midyon, but rather to his feeling as a foreigner in the land of Egypt. He yearned to live in Eretz Yisroel, in spite of never having been there, being born and having only lived in Egypt, and having ALL the bnei Yisroel living in Egypt. (Rabbi Uri Meir Kahanov in Mishmeres haKohanim)

Ch. 18, v. 9: "VA'YICHAD Yisro" - The simple translation of VA'YICHAD is that he rejoiced. Perhaps in a manner of drush, homiletics, it can be said that since Yisro came to convert to Judaism and had previously pursued every other form of religion in the world, as per the words in verse 11, "mikol elohim," Yisro now came to accept the one true Hashem, Creator and Master of the world. "VA'YICHAD Yisro," - And Yisro accepted the ONE Hashem, from the source word ECHOD.

However, the gemara Sanhedrin 94a brings two opinions for the translation of VA'YICHAD. Rav says that it means he took a SHARP sword and passed it over his flesh. CHAD means SHARP. This means that he had himself circumcised in the process of conversion to Judaism. Shmuel says that when he heard of all the punishments which befell Paroh and the rest of the Egyptians his flesh raised goose pimples, SHARP points, or possibly wrinkles which had SHARP ridges, as per Rashi on Sanhedrin 94a. Rashi explains that this was the result of Yisro's suffering greatly from the report.

Rav goes on to say, "This illustrates the common parlance, 'When in the company of the offspring of a convert, even up to ten generations later, do not speak about an Arami in a disparaging manner in front of him.'" There is an obvious problem in understanding the words of the gemara. It seems that Rav's parting words are a proof for Shmuel, and contrary to his own words. This question is raised by the Maharsh"o on the gemara.

1) He answers that the proper text in the gemara is "Rav Poppo says, 'This illustrates the common etc.'", not Rav. He bolsters this text by saying that it is found in the Yalkut Shimoni remez #268. The GR"A also changes the text to Rav Poppo.

2) Rashi d.h. "giyuro" says that although this is a common folk expression, Yisro was actually not a tenth generation descendant of the person named Mitzrayim. Perhaps Rashi is forewarning the difficulty posed by the Maharsh"o and is answering that Rav is saying that the concept Shmuel brought out is correct for up to ten generations, but cannot be the explanation of our verse, as Yisro was beyond a tenth generation descendant from Mitzrayim.

3) Since it is common parlance there is no need for the Torah to teach us an already well known point. This therefore disproves Shmuel's position. (Likutei Shoshanim)

A difficulty with this answer is that possibly only AFTER the Torah tells us this has it become a popular folk expression.

4) Rav is saying that only until ten generations but not including the tenth does a descendant of a convert feel hurt. Although the word AD - up to, is inclusive of the matter mentioned when this word is used in the Torah, as is explained in the gemara Rosh Hashonoh 30b on the verse "AD etzem ha'yom ha'zeh" (Vayikroh 23:14), and also in the gemara Arochin 18a on the verse "AD yom hashvii" (Shmos 12:15), "bilshone Torah AD v'AD bichlal," but in common conversation, "bilshone bnei Odom AD v'LO AD bichlal," AD -up to, is NOT inclusive, as we see in Shulchan Oruch Ch.M. 43:27. So "Ad asoro dori" - up to ten generations, means up to ten, but not including the tenth.

Rabbeinu Bachyei and Chizkuni both say that Yisro was a tenth generation descendant of Mitzrayim, contrary to Rashi, and therefore he would not have felt pained upon hearing what had befallen Paroh and the rest of the Egyptians. (See Gilyone Hashas Sanhedrin 94a.) This disproves Shmuel. (Likutei Shoshanim)

5) Similar to #4 - Since it is well known, Moshe would never have done this to hurt Yisro, so again it disproves Shmuel. (Peninei Kedem) This answer seems contrary to the words of verse 8, "Va'y'sa'peir Moshe l'chosno eis kol asher ossoh Hashem l'Faroh u'l'Mitzrayim."

All Midyanites are descendants of Keturoh. The Rambam hilchos M'lochim 10:8 says that all descendants of Keturoh are required to have themselves circumcised. If so, asks the Maharsh"o, "Why wasn't Yisro the Midyanite already circumcised?" He answers that the descendants of Keturah were only obligated to perform the first stage of circumcision, called "miloh," but not the second stage called "prioh." Rav interprets our verse as saying that Yisro performed the second stage of "prioh."

Perhaps another answer could be offered based on the opinion that earlier in parshas Shmos Yisro had relinquished his theology of Midyanite idol worship only, and was still pursuing many other religions, and only now when he came to Moshe did he drop all other theologies and instead embraced Judaism. We may assume that he learned idol worship from his father. Therefore, although commanded to perform circumcision, neither his father nor he performed circumcision upon himself up to this point.

Ch. 18, v. 11: "Atoh yodati ...... ki vadovor asher zodu a'leihem" - Who more than Yisro knew the plans which were "cooked" up against the bnei Yisroel? After all, he was one of only three people who were called by Paroh to a special cabinet meeting to deal with the "Jewish problem" (gemara Sotoh 11a, Sanhedrin 93a, 106a, and M.R. Shmos 1:12).

Ch. 18, v. 11: "ASHER zodu a'leihem" - The gemara Sotoh 11a says that Yisro realized that Hashem is the Master of all by virtue of His meting out punishment "measure for measure." The Egyptians diabolically planned against the bnei Yisroel, "ASHER" they deliberately planned against them. In turn the Egyptians suffered the ten plagues, whose acronym is "D-TZa-Ch--A-DaSH--B-ACH-V, which is numerically the same as ASHER, 501.

Ch. 18, v. 12: "Va'yovo Aharon" - Rashi (Mechilta) asks, "Where did Moshe go during this meal at which Yisro, Aharon, and the elders of the bnei Yisroel were present?" He answers that Moshe was also present, but he was the waiter. Was there no one else available?

Moshe's eagerness to serve his father-in-law can be understood in the light of the words of the M.R. Shmos 4:2 and Medrash Tanchumoh parshas Shmos #16. They say that if one gives another an opening, an opportunity, the recipient owes his life to his benefactor and is required to bestow more honour upon him than he is responsible to his own father and mother. These medrashim go on to say that we find that Yisro gave Moshe the opportunity to marry and have children by giving him his daughter Tziporoh in marriage, and Moshe therefore did not leave Midyon without first asking Yisro permission, even though he had the all important assignment given by Hashem to bring the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. This could explain why he personally wanted to wait on Yisro at this meal.

Ch. 18, v. 17: "LO TOV hadovor asher atoh oseh" - The expression LO TOV appears in the Torah in only one other place, Breishis 2:18, where it says "LO TOV he'yose ho'odom l'vado," - It is not good for man to be alone. This indeed was the advice given by Yisro, that Moshe should not sit alone in judgement.

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