Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yitro running commentary, pass 1, pt ii (18:2)

ב וַיִּקַּח, יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-צִפֹּרָה, אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה--אַחַר, שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ

וַיִּקַּח -- is this verb stand alone or part of a more complex construction? Is it vayikach, that he took her in? Achar shilucheha, within the same pasuk, suggests it is. The alternative is that וַיִּקַּח is in preparation of וַיָּבֹא in pasuk 5, such that here he is taking them in order to transport them, and he would need to do so because of being sent away. (Compare Shemot 4:20,וַיִּקַּח... וַיַּרְכִּבֵם.) I believe the former possibility is most likely. The Torah here is giving us background information so that the present narrative makes sense. The same with the naming of Moshe's sons, which is drawn from elsewhere in sefer Shemos.

צִפֹּרָה -- σεπφωραν in Septuagint. Dr. Steiner used this as an example once, as a demonstration of how they pronounced, and thus understood, the dagesh chazak in the peh, which geminates. 

אַחַר שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ -- I do not understand Ibn Ezra's citation of others (not as his first peshat), that this refers to Tzipporah's sending gifts to him. This does not feel like peshat to me.

The assumption of the author of the Biblical text is that the reader knows about Moshe sending away of Tzipporah, so all that is needed is an explanation that she went at that point to Yisro her (father/brother) to live, and that now Yisro is bringing her back. If the reader did not know about this already, then we would expect the text to explain, as a separate statement, that Moshe sent her away, and when exactly he did it. It does not.

Rashi cites a midrash which addresses this issue, and which is attuned to Moshe seeming to be alone from the time he meets up with Aharon and onwards. Aharon thus told Moshe that it was a bad idea bringing more people to be enslaved in Egypt.

Indeed, from a practical perspective, it does not make sense to have the redeemer weighted down by family. He would need to see to their welfare, their food, and their lodging. They could be captured and used to threaten Moshe not to press Pharaoh. And indeed, we do not see them throughout the exodus.

Shadal deals with this issue by having them slip off quietly after the incident at the inn, as they are still fairly close to Midian.

ולהיות כי עדיין קרובים היו למדין, חזרה צפורה עם בניה לבית אביה, ומשה הלך לבדו, וזה היה רצון האל, כדי שלא יהיה למשה מעכב לעשות שליחותו. וזה טעם אחר שלוחיה ( למטה י"ח ב' ), כי כאן שילח אותה והלכה אל בית אביה

This is effectively the same as the midrash, and it solves the problem silently. But as above, it should not be solved silently. It should be overt in the Biblical text, as above. 

I believe the answer is that it is overt in the Biblical text. In Shemot 4:20, it states וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-בָּנָיו, וַיַּרְכִּבֵם עַל-הַחֲמֹר, וַיָּשָׁב, אַרְצָה מִצְרָיִם; וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּיָדוֹ. Examining the context, we should understand it as sending off his wife and children to live with Yitro. Two pesukim earlier he takes his leave of Yitro and receives permission to return to Egypt. The intent is that he return alone, while Yitro watches over the family. Yitro is authorizing him to take care of his affairs in Egypt. There is some element of ain mukdam umeuachar baTorah which is apparent even without this, as different threads mix there. And so וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת-בָּנָיו, וַיַּרְכִּבֵם עַל-הַחֲמֹר is putting his wife and children on a donkey to travel away from him. And וַיָּשָׁב אַרְצָה מִצְרָיִם in the masculine singular refers only to Moshe.

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