A Taste of Torah – Parshas Yisro

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

When the Torah relates Yisro’s visit with Moshe Rabeinu and the Jewish people, the passuk reintroduces us to Moshe’s two sons and repeats the reasons that Gershom and Eliezer were so named. Gershom’s name reflects Moshe’s feeling of loneliness, “I was a stranger in a strange land.” Eliezer’s name commemorates Moshe’s escape from the executioner’s sword in Egypt after he killed the Egyptian beating a Jew.

There are two points to consider about these pesukim. Why is this information repeated here if the narrative is about Yisro’s visit? The Torah already explained this in Parshas Shmos when Gershom and Eliezer were born. Secondly, if Egypt was a hostile place for Moshe and he was a wanted man there, why did he consider Midyon, a far more hospitable place, to be a foreign land?

The Meshech Chochma (R. Meir Simcha HaCohen of Dvinsk 1843-1926) explains that Moshe Rabeinu wasn’t pining for Egypt as his birthplace but missing being amongst his brothers. In fact, when he returned to Egypt as Hashem’s emissary to Pharaoh, he told his father-in-law, “…must return to my brothers in Egypt and see if they are still alive” (Shmos 4:18). This is in spite of the fact that he was raised away from his people in Pharoh’s palace. This enormous feeling of kinship and concern for his Jewish brethren overshadowed his concern for his own life and safety. It explains why he named his first son to reflect his longing to be with his people and only his second son to commemorate his new lease on life.

The way Moshe conducted himself with his family is the insight the Torah gives us into his personality and his qualification as a leader. The man who would be the intermediary during Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, needed to have a tremendous love for his people that overshadowed any feeling of self.  This is why the Torah reiterates this information here as the Jewish people were getting ready to receive the Torah.