Though the marquee event of this week's portion surrounds the epic event of
Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, there are still many
lessons to be learned from every pasuk of the parsha, even the seemingly
innocuous ones. Rabbi Mordechai Rogov , of blessed memory, points out a
fascinating insight from the following verses that discuss the naming of
"Yisro, the father-in-law of Moses, took Zipporah, the wife of Moses, after
she had been sent away, and her two sons - of whom the name of one was
Gershom, for he had said, 'I was a sojourner in a strange land.' And the
name of the other was Eliezer, for 'the God of my father came to my aid, and
He saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.'" (Exodus 18:2-4).
After Moshe killed the Egyptian taskmaster who had hit the Hebrew slave,
Pharaoh put a price on Moshe's head. The Medrash tells us that Moshe's head
was actually on the chopping block but he was miraculously saved. He
immediately fled from Egypt to Midian. In Midian, he met his wife Zipporah
and there had two sons.
The question posed is simple and straightforward: Moshe was first saved from
Pharaoh and only then did he flee to Midian and become a "sojourner in a
strange land." Why did he name his first child after the events in exile his
second son in honor of the miraculous salvation from Pharaoh's sword?
Rav Rogov points out a certain human nature about how events, even the most
notable ones, are viewed and appreciated through the prospect of time.
Chris Matthews in his classic book Hardball, An Inside Look at How Politics
is Played by one who knows the Game, tells how Senator Alben W. Barkley of
Kentucky, who would later serve as Harry Truman's vice president, related a
story that is reflective of human nature and memory. In 1938, Barkley had
been challenged for reelection to the Senate by Governor A. B. 'Happy"
Chandler, who later made his name as Commissioner of Baseball.
During that campaign, Barkley liked to tell the story of a certain rural
constituent on whom he had called in the weeks before the election, only to
discover that he was thinking of voting for Governor Chandler. Barkley
reminded the man of the many things he had done for him as a prosecuting
attorney, as a county judge, and as a congressman and as a senator.
"I recalled how I had helped get an access road built to his farm, how I had
visited him in a military hospital in France when he was wounded in World War
I, how I had assisted him in securing his veteran's benefits, how I had
arranged his loan from the Farm Credit Administration, and how l had got him
a disaster loan when the flood destroyed his home."
"How can you think of voting for Happy?" Barkley cried. "Surely you remember
all these things I have done for you!"
"Sure," the fellow said, "I remember. But what in the world have you done for
Though this story in no way reflects upon the great personage of Moshe, the
lessons we can garner from it as well as they apply to all of us.
Rabbi Rogov explains that though the Moshe's fleeing Pharaoh was notably
miraculous it was still an event of the past. Now he was in Midian. The
pressure of exile from his parents, his immediate family, his brother Ahron
and sister Miriam, and his people, was a constant test of faith. Therefore,
the name of Moshe's first son commemorated his current crisis as opposed to
his prior, albeit more miraculous and traumatic one.
Sometimes appreciating the minor issues of life take precedence over even the
most eventful - if that is what is currently sitting on the table.
Dedicated in memory of Rose Horn (Rachel bas Shraga Faivel) Felig by Dr. &
Mrs. Philip Felig - 17 Shevat
Dedicated by Michael & Rikki Charnowitz in memory of Ephraim (Epraim Yitzchak
ben R'Avraham) Spinner --17 Shevat