This week, our Parshat HaShevua — Parshat Sh’mot is being sponsored by Dr. Pinchas and P’nina Klahr of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of the upcoming marriage of their son Yaakov Shalom to Miriam Trevor. To Mishpochat Klahr, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
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Last year, this author’s Parshat HaShavua for Parshat Shemos discussed Sorting out Moshe’s priorities and Hashem’s response.
This Parshat HaShavua will deal with the question: Who performed Bris Milah on Moshe’s son?
We again look back on excerpts from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parshat Sh’mos Summary in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” (Sefer Sh’mos, page 1):
Moshe remains in Midian with Yithro, serving as a shepherd for his father-in-law’s flocks. One day, as he is performing his duties, Moshe is drawn to the sight of a bush which burns, but is not consumed by the fire. When he turns aside to examine this strange apparition, Hashem addresses him from the burning bush. Hashem charges Moshe with the task of returning to Egypt and leading the B’nei Yisrael to freedom….
Moshe begins the return journey to Egypt, accompanied by his wife and two sons, Gershon and Eliezer. Along the way, Hashem suddenly threatens Moshe with death. Tzippora circumcises [performs Bris Milah on] their younger son, Eliezer, and the danger passes. (Rabbi Goldin’s summarization of Sefer Shemos, Perek 3,posuk 1 through Perek 4, posuk 26)
Rabbi Goldin now provides a context regarding the Parshat Summary (ibid, page 31):
Moshe, together with his family, departs… Midian for Egypt as he prepares to assume his leadership role and initiate the events that will lead to the Yetziyot Mitzrayim, Along the way, he stops at an inn where Hashem suddenly threatens to kill him. Recognizing the immediate danger, …Tzippora takes a stone and circumcises their newborn son, Eliezer. As a result of Tippora’s actions, the danger passes and the journey to Egypt resumes. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 4, posukim 20-26)
“Hashem said to Moshe in Midian, ‘Go, return to Egypt, for all the people who seek your life have died.’ So Moshe took his wife and sons, mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt…. It was on the way, in the lodging that Hashem encountered him and sought to kill him. So Tzipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son….” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 4, posukim 19-20, 24-25 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, pages, 311 and 313)
As an aside, Rashi writes on posuk 19:
“For all the people who seek your life have died.” Who are they? Dasan and Aviram. They are alive, but they had lost their possessions, and one who is poverty stricken is considered as if he is dead. (Rashi on on posuk 19 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition: Torah with Rashi Commentary, Sefer Shemos, page 17)
A note on the above Rashi cites Shemos Rabbah 5:4, Nedarim 64b:
If the men had died, the correct way to refer to them would be “the men who sought to have you killed.” The use of the word “seek,” in the present tense, indicates that the men did not die in the literal sense and that they are still seeking to harm Moshe in the present. (ibid, attributed to Divrei David)
Getting back to the issue at hand: Tzipporah and the performance of Bris Milah on their son Eliezer. we return to a point made in Parshat Vayechi: Rabbi Pinchas Yehoshua Kaganoff (presumably attributed to Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch) illustrating how the words of the written Torah (Torah Sh’bektzav) are equated like the shorthand notes a student takes in a class or a lecture, whereas the Oral Torah (Torah bal Peh) provides the details, the full picture.
This author is learning in the Daf HaShavua shiur which is currently learning Gemara Tractate Avodah Zorah. To this author, Daf 27a in Chapter 2 of Tractate Avodah Zorah seems an appropriate example of Rav Kaganoff’s illustration.
In the midst of discussion relating to who is and who isn’t permitted to derive benefit from circumcision by uncircumcised Jews or from idol worshipers (Ovdei Avodah Zorah), the Daf discusses the difference in the rulings of Rav and R’ Yochanan with respect to the fitness of a woman to perform a circumcision:
According to the one (Rav) who says that the criterion for fitness is derived from the verse “And you, My Covenant shall you keep etc. [Quoted from Sefer Breish’t, Perek 17, posuk 9], there is not a fulfillment of the criterion in this case, since a woman is not subject to circumcision herself and thus does not actively “keep the covenant.” But according to the one (R’ Yochanan) who says it is derived from the verse “Circumcised, he shall be circumcised” [Quoted from Sefer Breish’t, Perek 17, posuk 13] — there is a fulfillment of the criteria in this case, since a woman is considered as though she is circumcised.
Note 29 [Re: R’ Yochanan in Daf 27a]: This… teaches that all “Israelites” (all members of Hashem’s people) are considered to be “circumcised.” (The daf cites Kehillos Yaakov)
The Gemara objects:
Can there possibly be anyone who says that a woman is not fit to perform circumcision? Why, it is written: So Tzipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son….” (The daf citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 4, posuk 25)
The Gemara responds on behalf of Rav:
Read [the verse] as if it were written, “Tzipporah caused to take a sharp stone,” meaning that she appointed a man to take it, not that she took it herself.
Note 32 [Re: Rav in Daf 27a] …She took, is that she “took” the sharp stone through an emissary, she caused to take (the note cites Ritva; see Rashi) According to this explanation of the verse, there must have been an adult “Israelite” accompanying them on the journey, since an idolator would be unfit to perform the milah. (Note citing Shaagas Aryeh, end of 49)
The Gemara asks further:
But it is written in that selfsame verse: “And she cut off the foreskin of her son.” -?-
The Gemara again responds on behalf of Rav:
Read [the verse] as if it were written, “Tzipporah caused to cut the foreskin of her son,” meaning that she told another person (a man) and he did it. [Note 33 attributes this to Ritva]
An alternative answer…:
Or, if you prefer, say, She (Tzipporah) came and began her son’s circumcision, and then Moshe came and completed it.
Note 34 [Re: Rav in Daf 27a] Moshe was unable to begin his son’s milah because he was being attacked by the angel. Once Tzipporah began the milah, however, the angel desisted and Moshe was able to finish it. This sufficed to make the milah valid. [The note continues] Rif (citing Shabbos, end of Chapter 19) rules that when no man is available a woman is fit to perform mila, in accordance with R’ Yochanan. See also Rambam, Hilchos Mila 2:1, and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 264:1. Thus, the verses need not be interpreted as meaning that Tzipporah performed her son’s milah through an emissary.
Thus, we can see that there is much to be learned and understood beneath and inside upon in-depth analysis of the written Torah (Torah Sh’bektzav).
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.