Thursday, February 09, 2012

Difficulties due to Tzipporah's being sent away

Summary: What suffering did the tribe of Levi suffer? And how could Moshe, as a Kohen, remarry Tzippora? Rav Chaim Kanievsky asks, and answers. I also try my hand at it.

Post:

Towards the start of parashas Yisro, we read the following pasuk and Rashi:
2. So Moses' father in law, Jethro, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after she had been sent away,ב. וַיִּקַּח יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה אֶת צִפֹּרָה אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה אַחַר שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ:
after she had been sent away: When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt” (Exod. 4: 19), “and Moses took his wife and his sons, etc.” (Exod. 4:20), and Aaron went forth “and met him on the mount of God” (Exod. 4:27), he [Aaron] said to him [Moses], “Who are these?” He [Moses] replied, “This is my wife, whom I married in Midian, and these are my sons.” "And where are you taking them?" he [Aaron] asked. “To Egypt,” he replied. He [Aaron] retorted, “We are suffering with the first ones, and you come to add to them?” He [Moses] said to her [Zipporah], “Go home to your father.” She took her two sons and went away. — [from Mechilta]אחר שלוחיה: כשאמר לו הקב"ה במדין (שמות ד יט) לך שוב מצרימה, (שם כ) ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו גו' ויצא אהרן לקראתו, (שם כז) ויפגשהו בהר הא-להים. אמר לו מי הם הללו. אמר לו זו היא אשתי שנשאתי במדין ואלו בני. אמר לו והיכן אתה מוליכן. אמר לו למצרים. אמר לו על הראשונים אנו מצטערים ואתה בא להוסיף עליהם. אמר לה לכי אל בית אביך, נטלה שני בניה והלכה לה:

Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in Taama deKra, after citing this Rashi, writes:
אחר שילוחיה. פירש״י שא״ל אהרון  מה אתה מוליכן למצרים על הראשונים אנו  מצטערים ואתה בא להוסיף עליהן, וקשה הרי שבט לוי לא הי׳ בשעבוד כדאי׳ בדעת זקנים פ׳ שמות ובספר הישר ומסתמא גם נשותיהן לא עבדו ומה נתיירא

 וי״ל שא״ל על הראשונים אנו מצטערים היינו שהלוים נצטערו בצער אחיהן בנ״י ואתה בא להוסיף עליהן שיצטערו בצער אחיהן,

ובמכילתא אחר שילוחי׳ בגט וצ״ע איך החזירה והרי משה כהן הי׳ כמ״ש בזבחים ק״א ב ואיך החזיר גרושתו ואין לומר שלא החזירה דא"כ מה רצו אהרון ומרים ממנו 

וי״ל שעדיין לא נתכהן עד ז׳ ימי המילואים והחזירה בהיתר ושוב לא הי׳ צריך לגרשה כדתנן ביבמות ס״א א׳.
"And it is difficult, for behold the tribe of Levi was not within the shibud, as is stated in Daas Zekeinim parashas Shemos as well as in Sefer Hayashar. And presumably the women as well did not serve, so why should he fear?


And one can say that by “We are suffering with the first ones", this is that the Leviim were pained by the pain of their brethren, the children of Israel. And by "And you come to add to them", that they {as well} will be pained by the pain of their brethren.


And in the Mechilta, 'after she had been sent away' -- with a get. And this requires consideration, for behold, Moshe was a Kohen, as is written in Zevachim daf 101, so how could he take back his divorcee? And you cannot say that he did not remarry her, what did Aharon and Miriam want of him?


And there is to say that he had not yet become a Kohen before the seven days of miluim, and so he remarried her permissibly. And afterwards, he was not required to divorce her, as we learn in the Mishna in Yevamos 61a."

In terms of the first portion of this dvar Torah, namely the resolution that the suffering is one of empathy, it is a beautiful message that shevet Levi was empathizing with their fellow Israelites. Even so, to resolution seems a bit farfetched. And would a family really split up so that the wife and children would not be in close enough proximity to feel empathy for the suffering of others? That part does not work out with such a beautiful message?

There is surely an easier and more flowing resolution out there. I would propose the following two possibilities.

(a) This midrashic explanation, about Aharon and bringing more people to Egypt to suffer, is drawn from the Mechilta and is cited by Rashi. It does not work out consistently with Sefer HaYashar, which might be an extremely late midrash, and with the Daas Zekeinim miBaalei HaTosafot, which is post-Rashi. So? Sometimes midrashim conflict with each other, because they interpret pesukim in different ways. Rather than reinterpreting the Mechilta or Rashi in a forced manner, I would just leave these later sources as contradicting the earlier ones.

Sometimes a midrashic conclusion or interpretation is more "obvious", and sometimes it is less obvious. The idea that Shevet Levi was not subjugated strikes me as non-obvious, and so I would be reluctant to assume that the Mechilta maintained this idea, absent any explicit evidence that it did. And so the question never arises.

(b) Even if they did not have to physically labor, the tribe of Levi was still subject to Pharaoh's cruel decrees. Consider that Moshe, who was of Shevet Levi, had to be hidden, because of the decree of casting male babies into the Nile. Or the midrash about babies being placed in the wall, or about Pharaoh bathing in the blood of Israelite babies because of his ailment. Even if Shevet Levi were not compelled to work, they presumably were not allowed to leave Egypt, and were not in an elevated position in Egyptian society. So there was plenty of other "suffering" to go around, other than empathic suffering.

In terms of the explanation that he had sent her out with a get, it is indeed found in the Mechilta, immediately following the explanation cited by Rashi:
[יח, ב] ויקח יתרו חותן משה את צפורה אשת משה אחר שלוחיה - ר' יהושע אומר: 
אחר שנפטרה הימנו בגט. 
נאמר כאן שלוח 
ונאמר להלן: שילוח. 

מה שלוח האמור להלן גט, 
אף כאן גט. 

ר' אלעזר המודעי אומר: 
מאחר שנפטרה ממנו במאמר, שבשעה שאמר הקב"ה למשה: לך הוצא את עמי בני ישראל ממצרים, שנאמר:לכה נא ואשלחך אל פרעה, באותה שעה נטל אשתו ושני בניו והיה מוליכם למצרים, שנאמר: ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכיבם על החמור וישב ארצה מצרים. באותה שעה אמר לאהרן: לך לקראת משה, יצא לקראת משה וחבקו ונשקו. 
א"ל: משה, היכן היית כל השנים הללו? 
אמר לו: במדין. 
א"ל: מה טף ונשים אלו עמך? 
א"ל: אשתי ובני. 
ולאן אתה מוליכם? למצרים. 
א"ל: על הראשונים אנו מצטערים ועכשיו נצטער גם באלו?! 
באותה שעה אמר לצפורה: לכי לבית אביך. 
באותה שעה הלכה לבית אביה ונטלה שני בניה, לכך נאמר: אחר שלוחיה. 
There is a contrast being made here, in the dispute between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eleazar Hamoda'i, as to the nature of Tzippora's being sent away. Was it a mere sending away to some location, or was it divorce.

But though the Mechilta uses the term "with a get", that does not necessarily mean that we are dealing with halacha and halachic repercussions. It does not mean that the midrashist was assuming that Moshe kept the entirety of Torah, outside of Eretz Yisrael, and that this was a valid get. Yes, it was a divorce.

If it was a divorce, how could he remarry her if he was a kohen? Well, there are a number of possibilities:

  1. The one I like best is the one suggested by Rav Kanievsky, above. He was not yet a kohen.
  2. Perhaps the status of kohen did not extend to this level of prohibition for Moshe.
  3. The divorce was prior to Mattan Torah. And so Moshe and Tzippora had newly minted status, as geirim. (But how could a kohen marry a giyores?)
  4. Yisro's arrival, and thus the remarriage, was prior to Mattan Torah.
  5. Perhaps according to R' Eleazar Hamoda'i, Aharon and Miryam were not upset about remarrying of Tzippora, but about his initial divorce, something which was now undoable. Or they were complaining about the Kushite queen, Moshe married, mentioned in a late midrash.

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