Shemos 5778

The most fitting match[1]

ויואל משה לשבת את האיש ויתן את צפורה בתו למשה
Moshe decided to dwell with [Yisro]. [Yisro then] gave his daughter Tsiporra to Moshe [as a wife][2]

After Moshe saved a Jew’s life by killing an Egyptian taskmaster, he became a wanted man. He had no choice but to flee. He escaped to the land of Midian. There, he found Yisro and his family. Once Moshe impressed this prominent figure[3], Yisro had no reservations to suggest he marry into the family. Moshe agreed to marry Yisro’s daughter Tsiporra, and with that they were wed. If we look closely, we’ll be surprised to see how fitting this match was.

The Torah doesn’t tell us much about Moshe’s childhood in the palace of Pharaoh. However, Chazal teach us[4] about a specific episode which could have had dire consequences for the Jewish people. As a young infant, Moshe was sitting in Pharaoh’s lap[5]. Suddenly, he took Pharaoh’s crown off the latter’s head, and put it on his own. While this may have looked cute, Pharaoh’s advisors[6] were mortified. They insisted this was a sign of things to come. It must be that Moshe will eventually challenge Pharaoh’s leadership. They suggested Moshe be executed to prevent any future rebellion. However, Yisro was also one of Pharaoh’s advisors[7]. He alone tried to prevent this injustice, and suggested that Moshe was too young to have any real intelligence. His taking the crown wasn’t a sign of things to come, just the foolish playtime of a child.

Yisro proposed a test be performed. The test was to place before Moshe two plates. One would contain golden jewels, whereas the other would contain red-hot coals. If he has intelligence, he will take the jewels. However, if he takes the coals, that will be proof he doesn’t have any intelligence. He therefore would be acquitted. In truth, Moshe wanted to take the jewels. They looked too enticing for a toddler to resist. As he reached forth to grab them, the Angel Gavriel pushed his arm aside to grab the burning hot coals[8]. As a result, Moshe was spared from the death penalty.

What comes out from this is Yisro in fact saved Moshe’s life. In the end, Moshe paid Yisro back in kind. When Yisro’s daughters went to the wellspring to get water, the local shepherds attempted to drown them in it[9]. Moshe came and scared them away. This was Moshe’s first encounter with Yisro’s family. It turns out then that just like Yisro saved Moshe’s life, Moshe saved Yisro’s daughter’s life. Yisro’s counsel to Pharaoh to save Moshe from death ended up providing a future husband for his daughter. So too Moshe saving Yisro’s daughters caused him to have a wife. Without one, the other would have ceased to exist. It’s only fitting then that they should marry.

The appropriateness of the marriage between Moshe and Tsiporra should inspire us to search for something similar in all couples. Sometimes the reason why a couple is fitting is obvious. However, sometimes it is beneath the surface. We sometimes don’t have the capabilities to put together the different life circumstances which would prove their suitability. However, with enough thought, sometimes it can become clear.

Another couple that Chazal teach us[10] was appropriately suited for each other is Kalev (Caleb) and Bisya[11], the daughter of Pharaoh[12]. There’s a verse[13] that calls Kalev “Mered”, which means rebelling. Why did the verse call him Mered? Hashem said that Kalev, who rebelled against the evil plot of the spies[14], should marry Bisya, who rebelled against her father[15]. Another opinion[16] gives a different reason why they were appropriate for each other. Just like Kalev saved[17] the Jewish people from annihilation[18], so too Bisya saved Moshe from a sure death. It turns out that this is very similar to the connection Moshe and Tsiporra share.

Perhaps this is what Chazal were intending when they wanted[19] to bring various sources that show that Hashem is the cause of a man and woman marrying. The obvious question is that Hashem is the cause of everything; why were they specifically concerned about marriage? The reason is even though Hashem is behind the scenes for everything that happens, most of the time it isn’t so noticeable. A person can go through their entire life and not even realize it. However, if a person thinks a little regarding how a specific couple met, and how they’re so appropriate for each other, Hashem’s intervention is unmistakable[20]. It’s so discernable not so we’ll think that Hashem is only behind marriages. Rather it’s so we realize He’s behind everything else too.

Good Shabbos

[1] Based on Be’er Yosef to Exodus 2:21

[2] Exodus loc. cit.

[3] As will be explained below

[4] Shemos Rabbah 1:26

[5] Ibid and Midrash Tanchuma Shemos § 8 say that Pharaoh was hugging him when this happened. I’m not sure which Midrash the Be’er Yosef was using which mentions sitting in his lap

[6] The Be’er Yosef points out, primarily Bil’am (who first appears in the Torah in parshas Balak). See the next note

[7] Shemos Rabbah loc. cit.; Sotah 11a says Bil’am, Iyov (Job), and Yisro were members of Pharaoh’s counsel

[8] The Midrash concludes that Moshe subsequently put the coals in his mouth. This explains his future speech impediment, as mentioned in Exodus 4:10

[9] Shemos Rabbah 1:32; Tanchuma Yashan Shemos § 12. This is hinted to in Exodus 2:19 which says גם דלה דלה לנו, which could mean he drew the daughters themselves out of the water

[10] Megillah 13a and Vayikra Rabbah 1:3, both based on I Chronicles 4:18

[11] For some reason popularly known as Basya, but the verse in I Chronicles loc. cit. is vowelized Bisya

[12] It should be noted that Sotah 12a (brought by Rashi to Exodus 17:10 and 24:14), based on I Chronicles 2:18 says that Kalev was married to Moshe’s sister Miriam. It would appear then that he was married to them both. It’s interesting that he married both the woman who raised Moshe as well as Moshe’s sister

[13] I Chronicles 4:18

[14] See Numbers Chapter 13

[15] Megillah loc. cit. says she rebelled against the idols of her father, as she became monotheistic. Vayikra Rabbah loc. cit. says she rebelled against the plot of her father. I assumed this refers to the gemarra in Sotah 12b which describes how her handmaidens told her not to save Moshe from the river, as it was against her father’s decree that all Jewish baby boys should be killed. She ignored their warning, and took Moshe as a son. I later saw the Eitz Yosef and Yedei Moshe to Vayikra Rabbah loc. cit. say this

[16] Vayikra Rabbah loc. cit.

[17] מרד can also mean saving / separating, as we see in Shabbos 117b: רדיית הפת, which is to lower and separate the bread from the oven walls (Matanas Kehunah ad. loc.). Although, I’m not sure how saving and separating are related words. I suppose it would be because you are separating someone from whatever danger they are in

[18] Eitz Yosef and Matanas Kehunah ad. loc. explain because he silenced the complaints of the crowd (Numbers 13:30). Had he not done so, the Jewish people surely would have been annihilated

[19] Moed Katan 18b

[20] See similarly in Sichos Mussar § 35