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Whose Children?

01/02/13 08:21:29


R Pesach Siegel

Parshas Yisro 5773

Whose Children? Her Children?

VaYishma Yisro – And Yisro heard. What did he hear? He heard about the splitting of the Yam Suf and the war waged against the Bnei Yisroel by the nation of Amalek. He heard and he came. He came with his daughter Tzippora, the wife of Moshe Rabeinu and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.[1]

Had Yisro not heard of these two events, it is clear that he would have remained in Midian. He would have stayed there with Tzippora and her two children.[2]

The Baal HaTurim provides us with an allusion. The numerical value of the words, “(VaYi)Shma Yisro kohen Midian chosain” equals 1663, which is the same gematria as, “ViHinay bikriyas hayam umilchemes Amalek”.[3]


The miracles Hashem performed for the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim were insufficient to bring Yisro to the desert, so too, the wonders in the desert. What was unique about kriyas Yam Suf and milchemes Amalek?

Why are Gershom and Eliezer referred to as the children of Tzippora? If they are being reunited with their father Moshe, wouldn’t they be referred to his children as well?

The fact that these two events are hinted to within Yisro’s name tells us that Yisro’s identity was bound to kriyas Yam Suf and milchemes Amalek. Why are these happenings a part of his essence?


Rabi Elazar HaModa’i says, “At the time the Torah was given, the sound of matan Torah filled the world from one end to another. The kings of the world were gripped with terror in their palaces. They gathered around the prophet Bila’am. They asked him perhaps it is the sound of an impending flood. Bila’am replied in the negative. Hashem took an oath that He will no longer flood the world. Perhaps it is a flood of fire? They queried. Hashem has sworn that he will not bring an end to all flesh. Hashem has held a precious treasure in his treasure house from 974 generations before creation. He seeks to give it to his children.”[4]

The kings thought that their end was near. It is clear that there is some aspect of the giving of the Torah that spells doom and destruction for the monarchy of the world. They, in their ignorance thought it was the sound of a flood or a fire, but they were not totally mistaken.[5]

Prior to the giving of the Torah there were two forms of existence. One could exist as a child of the Avos hakedoshim, who received a spiritual inheritance from Adam HaRishon, passed through by way of the tzadikim Noach and Shem. This is the heritage of being totally reliant on Hashem for one’s existence.

Or, one could exist as one who acknowledges G-d’s role in creation, yet, once created, has his own agenda.

This all changed with the giving of the Torah.

Mount Sinai is called Har Chorev – Mountain of Destruction. It was at Har Sinai that destruction rained down upon the nations of the world. Their self definition is proven to be without substance. Torah becomes the definition of existence in the world. To the extent that something or someone is connected to the Torah, it exists, and will last for all eternity. Anything apart from the Torah has at best a shallow temporal existence.[6]

The kings of the world heard their own impending doom in the sound of the giving of the Torah.


 The miracle of kriyas Yam Suf and the war with Amalek cannot be separated from matan Torah. They are very much a prelude to matan Torah.

The Egyptians suicidal drive into the waters of the Yam Suf is evidence of their belief that the survival of Klal Yisroel and the subsequent giving of the Torah is a threat to their very existence. If they fail to follow the Jews into the sea, they will emerge to accept the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Egyptians have nothing to lose. If they somehow manage to stop the Bnei Yisroel from emerging intact from the Yam Suf, they survive. If they give up the chase, the Egyptians are destroyed.

The same can be said about the war with Amalek. Our sages compare the attack of Amalek to one who jumps into a boiling cauldron, knowing he will be boiled alive. He does so in order to cool off the scalding water for those who follow him.[7] Klal Yisroel, upon emerging from the Yam Suf was untouchable. No one would dare oppose them after witnessing the miracles of the splitting of the sea. To allow Klal Yisroel to exist unopposed is equal to destruction in the eyes of Amalek. It is the actual destruction of the world.

Yisro thought that he could live out his life in an honorable fashion, paying token obeisance to the Creator. Yisro would serve the Creator in his own distinct manner. He would found a nation from his daughter Tzippora. It would be a nation made up of her children. 

Moshe Rabeinu would be the leader of his nation and would serve G-d as he saw fit, through the eyes of the Torah.

Yisro saw now that he was sorely mistaken.

He peered into his very essence and he saw that he had two paths before him, the path of clinging to the Torah, and alternatively, the road to non-existence.[8] He saw himself as one who emerged from the Yam Suf alongside those who would exist, rather than among the Egyptians who disappeared, as a victor over the Amalekites and not one who perished in a boiling cauldron.

And he brought Tzippora and her children and reunited them with Moshe Rabeinu, so that by being Moshe’s wife and Moshe’s children, they too would bond together with the Holy Torah.


[1] Rashi, Shmos, perek 18, posuk 1

[2] Shmos, perek 18, posuk 2

[3] The Baal HaTurim cites a slightly different version of the gematria. The one above is the version of the author, altered so that the numerical values will equal one another.

[4] Meseches Zevachim 116a

[5] Rav Yonason David, shlita

[6] Maharal, Gevuras Hashem, perek 23

[7] Medrash Rabi Tanchuma, perek 9

[8] Baal HaTurim – The gematria of Yisro is Komer hayah la’avoda zara – He was a priest to idolatry. It is also the same gematria as “HaTorah”.

Sun, September 20 2020 2 Tishrei 5781