This week’s Parshah [Torah Portion] starts with:
[Shemot Perek 18’ Pesukim 1’-5’]
Jethro priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, God’s people, how י-ה-וה had brought Israel out from Egypt.
So Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after she had been sent home,
and her two sons—of whom one was named Gershom, that is to say, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”;
and the other was named Eliezer, meaning, “The God of my father’s [house] was my help, delivering me from the sword of Pharaoh.”
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought Moses’ sons and wife to him in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.
The above Pesukim contain an apparent difficulty, as Moshe was saved from Pharaoh’s sword before he was a stranger in the foreign land of Midyan; as such, it would apparently have been more appropriate for Moshe’s eldest son to have been named after the incident with Pharoah’s sword [Eliezer], while Moshe’s second son should have received the name commemorating Moshe’s being a stranger in a foreign land [Gershom]. Hence, we are forced to grapple with why Moshe decided not to name his children after the chronological sequence of events of his lifetime.
This query is raised by the great leader of Jewry from yesteryear, as well as my grandfather’s Rabbi, R’ Moshe Feinstein [may his memory may be a blessing]. R’ Moshe’s answer is an essential reminder of the importance of maintaining Jewish identity even in the diaspora–he offers, that Moshe understood that there would have been no significance to his being saved from the sword of Pharaoh if he would land up assimilating and losing his connection to the burgeoning religion of his ancestors. Unfortunately, one of the common eventualities of the Jewish people becoming too comfortable in the diaspora is rampant assimilation [current research estimates the intermarriage rate in America to be around 70%]. In order to preserve a link to his heritage, while alone in a foreign country, Moshe Rabbeinu sought a name for his eldest child that would constantly jostle and remind him of his status as a foreigner; ergo, he would not get too comfortable and disavow [even unintentionally] his Religion.
Once Moshe felt secure that his commitment to Judaism was solid, he then felt that it was appropriate to thank G-d for the miracle of having been saved from the sword of Pharaoh–as only now that his legacy was secure did the miracle of his being saved from Pharaoh have true spiritual meaning! This should serve as an open illustration to our current communities in the diaspora what could happen if we are not vigilant in maintaining our Jewish identities.
Unfortunately, since October 7th, we have been witness to the flagrant Anti-Semitism that has pervaded all areas of current culture, and have been reminded willingly or unwillingly, that only the Land of Israel is our true home. May we continue to see the Nation of Israel come together and remain united, until the coming of the Messiah, speedily in our days.
Have a Great Shabbas.