The Torah reminds us that family takes priority over all else, regardless of how important a parent’s work may seem.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Yitro” and boy is it action packed. (I hope I’m not using those words too often in this column…but it’s true again!)
In addition to reading the Ten Commandments–yes, they’re “Ten Commandments” not “Ten Suggestions”–we are introduced to the namesake of the Torah portion: Yitro, or Jethro in English.
Yitro, the priest of Midian, was Moses’ father-in-law. In addition, he is revered as the spiritual founder, ancestor, and chief prophet of the Druze. The Druze in Israel are an Arab non-Muslim minority who have remained very loyal to the State of Israel since its founding.
Moses married Jethro’s daughter, Tzippora and then worked as a shepherd for Jethro for 40 years before returning to Egypt to lead the Jews out of slavery and on to Israel. Jethro is buried in Hittin, Israel, in the Lower Galilee, and his tomb is a place where the Jews and the Druze mingle freely.
The Torah portion opens by telling us that Yitro took Tzippora and her two sons to be reunited with Moses. The Torah then repeats the names of their two sons (Gershom and Eliezer) and even repeats the reason why they were given those respective names.
Moses named his children after his life experiences. He named his firstborn son Gershom, which means “stranger,” thereby reminding Moses that he “was a stranger in a foreign land.” The second son’s name is Eliezer, which means “God is my help.” Moses wanted to always be reminded that “the God of my fathers helped me and saved me from Pharaoh’s sword.”
The question is asked: why does the Torah list the names of Moses’ sons at this time? We know this already from earlier Torah portions! Why are they repeated here? It would have been enough just to tell us that Yitro was taking everyone to be reunited with Moses.
It is explained that Yitro knew that Moses was about to become the leader of the Jewish people. As one can imagine, being the leader of the Jewish people was a very demanding job. It was not merely a 9-5 position; it was a 24/7 position.
It seems that Yitro wanted Moses to be reminded that even though he is the highest ranking person in the nation, and even though he will be extremely busy for the next 40 years, he is still a father and a husband. Yitro, by personally bringing Tzippora, Gershom, and Eliezer, to Moses was essentially telling Moses that he cannot forget to look out for his own children.
Very often leaders are so worried about their flock, they forget about those closest to them, their family. Although Moses must work hard to influence and impact on the nation, he also needs to influence and impact his children. As they say, charity, begins at home.
When a person has internal problems in his own family, he cannot begin the task of straightening out the world. Helping others is great. It is important. It is vital. But before you fix the needs of the community, make sure to take care of your own.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below.
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