Thursday, February 08, 2007

parshat Yisro: How Is Yisro Related To Moshe?

I've covered this issue on parshablog in the past. Yisro is Choten Moshe. Yet Re'uel is given as the father of Tzipporah? (Also, who is Chovav who is also Choten Moshe?) And there are various answers possible. Yisro = Re'uel; Re'uel is the grandfather; Yisro is the brother-in-law, and that is also called choten.

I had a somewhat strange thought, but wanted to preserve it for posterity. Assume that choten means male relative related by marriage -- thus, male in-law. We need to say something akin to this for choten to mean brother-in-law.

If so, how is Moshe related to Yisro? Simple. Yisro married Moshe's ex-wife and adopted his two children. This is a possible straightforward reading of a pasuk that sets out to tell us their relationship. From the beginning of parshat Yitro:

א וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן, חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה, וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ: כִּי-הוֹצִיא יְהוָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִמִּצְרָיִם. 1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
ב וַיִּקַּח, יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-צִפֹּרָה, אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה--אַחַר, שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ. 2 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her away,
ג וְאֵת, שְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ: אֲשֶׁר שֵׁם הָאֶחָד, גֵּרְשֹׁם--כִּי אָמַר, גֵּר הָיִיתִי בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה. 3 and her two sons; of whom the name of the one was Gershom; for he said: 'I have been a stranger in a strange land';
ד וְשֵׁם הָאֶחָד, אֱלִיעֶזֶר--כִּי-אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי בְּעֶזְרִי, וַיַּצִּלֵנִי מֵחֶרֶב פַּרְעֹה. 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer: 'for the God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.'
ה וַיָּבֹא יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ--אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא חֹנֶה שָׁם--הַר הָאֱלֹהִים. 5 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God;
ו וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֲנִי חֹתֶנְךָ יִתְרוֹ, בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וְאִשְׁתְּךָ--וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ, עִמָּהּ. 6 and he said unto Moses: 'I thy father-in-law Jethro am coming unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.'
That is, after saying that Yitro was choten Moshe, the next pasuk defines this relationship and declares:
וַיִּקַּח, יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-צִפֹּרָה, אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה--אַחַר, שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ

What is meant by שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ and what is meant by וַיִּקַּח? We find both terms used, to define marriage and divorce, in parshat Ki Teitzei, Devarim 24:1:
א כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה, וּבְעָלָהּ; וְהָיָה אִם-לֹא תִמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינָיו, כִּי-מָצָא בָהּ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר--וְכָתַב לָהּ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת וְנָתַן בְּיָדָהּ, וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ. 1 When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it cometh to pass, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he writeth her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house,
ב וְיָצְאָה, מִבֵּיתוֹ; וְהָלְכָה, וְהָיְתָה לְאִישׁ-אַחֵר. 2 and she departeth out of his house, and goeth and becometh another man's wife,
There, כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה means that a man takes a wife, meaning that he marries her. In the end, he sends her away, וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ, divorcing her. In such a case, someone else can take her.

Perhaps, then, this pasuk in Yisro is stating that after Moshe divorced Tzipporah, Yisro took her as a wife.

This would also clarify a co-indexation issue, in which the pasuk appears ambiguous and, I've always though, multivalent.

ה וַיָּבֹא יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ--אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא חֹנֶה שָׁם--הַר הָאֱלֹהִים. 5 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God;
To whom does the pronoun refer in וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ. "his sons and his wife." One straightforwarding reading would be Yitro's sons and Yitro's wife, meaning that he went there to stay. An only-slightly less straightforward reading, which makes a lot more sense in context, is that it refers to Moshe's sons and Moshe's wife. After all, in the next pasuk , Yitro announces them:

ו וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֲנִי חֹתֶנְךָ יִתְרוֹ, בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וְאִשְׁתְּךָ--וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ, עִמָּהּ. 6 and he said unto Moses: 'I thy father-in-law Jethro am coming unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.'
such that the wife is Moshe's and the sons are hers (and thus also Moshe's). The sudden shift in pronoun makes it all clear.

However, now we can claim that this was multivalent, and it implies both Yitro's wife and sons and Moshe's wife and sons, who are the same people. The sons would be adopted sons. And Yitro is perhaps renouncing claim to them all, saying that Moshe can take them back if he wishes. Or perhaps he is just stressing their historical connection to Moshe.

We do not know that Tzipporah stayed when Yitro left. Perhaps she went with Yitro. But if Moshe took her back, then it would be a violation of the laws in Devarim just cited:

ד לֹא-יוּכַל בַּעְלָהּ הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר-שִׁלְּחָהּ לָשׁוּב לְקַחְתָּהּ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר הֻטַּמָּאָה--כִּי-תוֹעֵבָה הִוא, לִפְנֵי ה; וְלֹא תַחֲטִיא, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה. {ס} 4 her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD; and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
One might posit that this was just before Matan Torah, and so this Torah law did not yet apply. Or else this could be the cause of Miriam and Aaron's complaint about Moshe, as understood midrashically.

Another major problem - well before this, Yitro (and Yeter) is referred to as choten Moshe! We might be able to answer that this is a retrojection. Since he would eventually be choten Moshe, it mentions it even earlier, in anticipation.

8 comments:

Steg said...

really interesting!

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

oops, i mean really interesting!

Anonymous said...

Basyah and Tzipporah Where sisters.Para got one his Advisor Yisro took the other I forget it is a Medrash somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Adopted of course found them in the street (not the exact Medrash Something along theses lines.)Hence Moshe can Marry Tzipporah If not she is a Mitzri Sheni.

Anonymous said...

I THINK i HAVE BEEN A little TO Talmudical OF LATE BUT I AM SURE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE IT MORE READILY DIGESTIABLE WITHOUT MY YESHIVISHISM'S

joshwaxman said...

it is a zohar cited by midrash talpiyot. see here for a reference.

http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/37986

very interesting. I can think of some deeper meanings, excluding the kabbalistic, which might have been the intent.

KT,
Josh

Anonymous said...

If so then you have the Mitzri Sheni problem and the question why we learn respect of father in law from here instead of from Shaul in Navi?(meaning there are Halachic implications)

Anonymous said...

The second part is The Torah Temimah question.

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