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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Yisro (73)

This week we'll look at a difficulty in the Torah text and how Rashi & other Rishonim deal with it.

Exoidus 18:2

And Yisro, Moses' father-in-law, took Tzipora, Moses' wife, after she had been sent away.


after she had been sent away: Rashi: When G-d told him (Moses) in Midyan "Go back, return to Egypt; and Moses took his wife and sons andů he returned to Egypt" (Exodus 4:19) "And Aaron went out to meet him at the mountain of G-d." (Exodus 4:27) [the following is Midrash] Then Aaron said to him, "who are these (people)? He (Moses) said this is my wife whom I married in Midyan and my sons. He (Aaron) said to him "Where are you going?" He answered: "To Egypt." He said: "On the first ones ( the Jewish slaves already in Egypt) we are worried about and you bring us more!" So he said: "Go back to your father's house." So she took her sons and left.


A Question: Why has Rashi brought this Midrash? What purpose does it serve?

What's bothering Rashi?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The Torah (in our verse) says "after she was sent back" but where in the Torah does it say Tzipora was sent back to Midyan? All we see written is that Moses brought them with him on his way to Egypt and he then met his brother Aaron. This is what is bothering Rashi.


Rashi cites the Midrash to fill in information not recorded in the Torah. By listening to Aaron's advice Moses sent her and his sons back. Now our verse says that Yisro brought them "after she had been sent away."


But not all commentators accept this interpretation. The Rashbam and Bechor Shor offer a different interpretation of the Hebrew word "shilucheha" ("her being sent away"). They say it means "dowry" (what a bride brings to the marriage.) They cite a verse in Kings I (9:16) where it says: " He gave it as a wedding present (Hebrew: "shiluchim") to his daughter, Sholomo's wife." So the word 'shiluchim" may mean a dowry and not being sent away.

So the Rashbam is implying that our verse never said Tzippora was sent back to Midyan.


But then the Rashbam has not explained how Tzipora did get to Midyan. Since Yisro is now bringing her to Moses in Egypt - it is clear that she was in Midyan!


The Rashbam often argues with his grandfather, Rashi. Rashbam pushes p'shat where Rashi uses Midrash. In this case Rashi used a Midrash to answer a problem. The Rashbam rejects the Midrshic interpretation - but does not really offer us another understanding!

So we best stay with Rashi's understanding even though it relies on a Midrash - in this case the Midrash may be closest to p'shat. It interesting to note that after the incident with Tzipora circumcising their son, (Exodus 4:26) she is never again mentioned in the Torah until our verse. So this supports the Midrash and Rashi that it was at that point that Tzipora returned to Midyan.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek "What's Bothering Rashi?" is a product of the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. A Hebrew translation of the Bereishis "What's Bothering Rashi?" is published. It is greatly expanded and is call "L'omko shel Rashi" look for it in bookstores.

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