By Mrs. Zahava Deitsch
Last week’s portion of this article about Basya and Tzipporah, who the Midrash says were sisters by birth, ended with the account of Tzipporah, Moshe Rabbeinu’s wife, recognizing that Moshe’s life was in danger because he delayed giving their son a b’ris. She immediately performed the b’ris herself.
Part 2. Tzipporah’s courage gives us a glimpse into the avodah of every Jew, particularly women. Everyone is obligated to be proactive in mitzvah performance, yet private about their spiritual achievements. Beyond proactive! This is not your stereotypical nervous Jewish mother, passively hovering over her children.
Michah HaNavi stressed: “Have humility walking with Hashem.” The meforshim say: “Do not publicize your good deeds.” Private is not linked to passive; proactive is not necessarily public. Women were hardwired with greater sensitivity to stay out of the limelight. Reb Chaim Mintz teaches: “This is her greatness and her mission, to be humble so the world doesn’t know of her deeds . . . But in the world of truth it will be revealed; she will be elevated above many men considered great and famous in this world.”
Overcoming their emotions, Tzipporah and Avraham Avinu, who preceded her, performed their heroic acts privately, “sacrificing” their children to do Hashem’s will. Tzipporah really was a nervous Jewish mother—that was her greatness.
Basya’s name isn’t mentioned in the Chumash; she is called “Pharaoh’s daughter,” bringing her greatness into bas relief against the background of her environment. Hashem changed her name, saying, “You saved my son and called him your son; I will now call you my daughter.” Her spiritual odyssey from paganism and perversion was within the privacy of Pharaoh’s palace, where she transformed herself from the daughter of Pharaoh to the daughter of Hashem. Self-made, she fulfilled her tafkid as the woman Rav Mintz described.
Rewarded for rejecting the rishus of Mitzrayim, Basya was zocheh to marry Calev, considered equal to Yehoshua in gadlus. Calev was also called Mered, rebellion. Why, asks the Midrash, did such a giant marry the daughter of Pharaoh? “Let the one who rebelled against the spies’ slander marry one who rebelled against her father. He saved the flock, she saved the shepherd.”
Marry the daughter of a pagan priest? The Lekach Tov describes Moshe’s marriage as a model for future generations. Although the hand of Hashem’s hashgachah leaves fingerprints on every detail of creation, shidduchim highlight this more than any other aspect of life. With so many variables, we can never know them all. In shidduchim, the scenarios are more limited. If we can’t see why this couple “fits,” focusing carefully on how the shidduch unfolded, the complexity of factors involved, we see the pieces come together in a way that only Hashem could orchestrate.
The labyrinth of Moshe’s shidduch clearly demonstrates this clearly. Yisro’s advice saved young Moshe when he took Pharaoh’s crown. Yisro’s initial rescue allowed Moshe to reciprocate by rescuing Tzipporah at the well. Tzipporah subsequently saved Moshe from the serpent. Hashgachah created a couple that seemingly wasn’t compatible. At creation, Hashem knew it would work. The gematrias of Tzipporah and L’Moshe each equal 375.
There are many lessons to be learned: (1) Basya and Tzipporah’s résumés were far from impressive. Those who won’t consider BT’s or converts must remember—if they were good enough for Moshe and Calev, they’re good enough for us. Moshe learned in a most prestigious yeshiva—Pharaoh’s palace. (2) Yichus is not the main focus. Middos are the true measure of a person—not mishpachah. It’s not about who made you, but what you made of yourself. (3) We should not quickly dismiss suggestions for a couple who superficially don’t seem to match. We all know many “go figures,” including Basya and Tzipporah. More shidduchim might be made if we “figure” less. (4) Sometimes, the better the shidduch the longer the wait. Tzipporah had to wait ten years until Moshe was freed; Basya waited for Calev much longer.
Waiting time is not wasting time. Rav Chaim Mintz relates: If an unforeseen delay due to factors beyond our control prevents us from performing a mitzvah as planned, this wait becomes an integral part of the mitzvah: a late guest who “holds up” Kiddush, long-line Shabbos shopping, traffic en route to a simcha, or waiting for a shidduch. Patience is more than a good middah; it is an action which reaps rewards equal to performing the mitzvah itself. Mitzvos are not just to be performed; they must be pursued—ASAP. “Every minute another obstacle arises” (Mesillas Yesharim).
How can we calm our frustration, deal with disappointment, or alleviate anguish during this long wait? Tzipporah’s acceptance of agonizing losses can serve as a solace. The s’char always matches the mitzvah; albeit, not necessarily granted to us but rather received by our descendants.
Tzipporah returned to Midian while Moshe facilitated Yetzias Mitzrayim, missing three of the most monumental events of world history: Yetzias Mitzrayim, Kriyas Yam Suf, and Shiras HaYam, the revelation of the Shechinah with total kedushah and clarity. Imagine her pain, losing the loftiest realms of revelation forever. Compensation came generations later. Devorah HaNeviah was a gilgul of Tzipporah. When Devorah sang, her nevuah actually came through Tzipporah’s neshamah. The second pasuk in the Shirah refers to her reward for performing the b’ris and saving Moshe.
Tzipporah didn’t complain or blame. Our twins, Basya and Tzipporah, made supreme sacrifices, took severe risks, and had many reasons to play the blame game: parents, culture, religion, wealth, fear. Blaming never builds—it destroys both the blamer and the blamed. There are no winners in the blame game. Yet it has an antidote: stop the blame, start to reframe.
Our heroines looked at life through Torah lenses—the beauty, harmony, and symmetry of the universe designed by the Master Architect. Once we truly appreciate the world as a gift of G-d, naturally we have hakaras ha’tov, recognizing the good. You can only recognize what you see. We must use their Torah lenses to see the good in people, events, even “problems.” Seeing good evokes gratitude; appreciation is the antidote to blame. There will be nothing to complain about, no one to criticize or blame.
Our heroines taught us that if something was worth living by, it was worth dying for. Baruch Hashem, we don’t have to die for doing mitzvos; we have to live by them by doing them with simcha.
Our builders empowered us with the spiritual genetics to survive galus until geulah. A new field of neuroscience, epigenetics, has proven that the impact of historical events is transgenerational. As explained by Dr. Moshe Szyf: “Traumatic experiences in our ancestors’ past leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA . . . experiences become a part of us. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited through 100 generations. They become a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding.”
“Ma’aseh avos siman l’banim.” We don’t need the proof, but it can boost bitachon.
Our Avos and Imahos passed down their spiritual genetics; it was imbibed by our twins, who bequeathed them to us. We now have the obligation to do the same for our descendants. This awesome responsibility is both intimidating, and inspiring. It is incumbent upon us to build our ruchniyus, recognizing that even seemingly small thoughts, words, and actions make an eternal impact on the genetics of future generations.
Our mission statement and job description is to continue building these Torah towers higher, climbing step by step, empowering our heirs to reach the top. Our “builders” built themselves; only then could they build others. Let us follow their legacy—let us build ourselves.
How did Basya and Tzipporah know how to design towers strong enough to stand for millennia? They didn’t—they didn’t have to. The Creator gave them His blueprint. Following that blueprint, we cannot fail.
The flame of Torah may flicker, but it can never be extinguished. Glowing embers still ignite the sparks within the neshamos of Am Yisrael. “All of your children are learned . . . do not call them your children but your builders” (Berachos).
America’s Twin Towers collapsed, crumbled, were reduced to rubble. Ours still stand—and will stand—forever.
“For you have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy” (Tehillim). v