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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Yitro

Strangers No More

116
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"Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, took Zipora, Moshe’s wife, & her 2 sons, one named ‘Gershom,’ for he said, "I was a stranger in a strange land;’ & the other named ‘Eliezer;’ for the G-d of my father came to my aid & saved me from Paro’s sword. " (18:2-4).

Several questions jump out of this pasuk. First, why are Moshe’s two sons identified as "Zipora's sons" rather than the children of BOTH parents? Second, Gershom was born, & his name identified, way back in parshat Shmot (2:22). Why was it necessary once again, here in this sedra, to repeat it? Finally, although Moshe’s second son, Eliezer, was born a long time ago, this is the first time he is ever mentioned! Why only now do we learn about him?

I suggest the following: The boys are referred to as "Zipora’s sons" because she was left alone to raise them while Moshe, at Hashem’s bidding, pursued the formidable task of extricating Bnei Yisrael from Egypt. For the best of reasons, he was the epitome of the "absentee
Abba," & so Zipora is given credit for being, in effect, "both" parents.

And while Eliezer’s name expresses Moshe’s thanks for having been saved "from Paro’s sword" – way back 61 years ago when he killed the Egyptian – Moshe has been saved numerous other times since then (such as when he went back & forth to Paro’s palace); & so it seems fitting to mention Eliezer’s name here at this juncture, now that Paro has been vanquished once and for all & Moshe is truly safe.

But what about the repetition of Gershom & his name? Why the seemingly superfluous repetition here, in our sedra? What message is the Torah trying to impart to us?

So I offer: Moshe was raised in the palace, surrounded by all the luxury that royalty receives. He left the palace & went to Midian for 6 decades, enjoying a tranquil, calm & pastoral existence. Imagine how hard it must have been to leave those two comfortable places & head into the harsh desert, an uncharted territory fraught with danger, to head to Israel.

And so, as Moshe leaves Palace Paro & Midian far behind, he strengthens himself by repeating – over & over again, like a mantra – "I was a stranger in a strange land. I was a stranger in a strange land. For all of Egypt’s & Midian’s perks & pampering, "I was a stranger there! That was not my land!"

Moshe’s mantra must be ours, too. We must constantly remind ourselves that other venues, no matter how attractive they may seem, are "strange lands," & we are - & forever will be – strangers within them. G-d has given us one, true home, & that must always be our rightful destination.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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