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At Exodus 18:6, Moshe's father-in-law, Yisro, tells Moshe that he had come with Moshe's wife and "her sons." Why didn't he say to Moshe that she had come with "your sons"?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted
  • Alshich explains that Yisro was worried: Perhaps Moshe would not be interested in a Midyanite woman and would rather marry a Jewess. He therefore emphasized that he brought "her two sons" with him (and not "his two sons"), since a man comes to like his wife because of the children she bears him, and this would persuade Moshe to remarry Tziporah. (See also Maskil Ledovid on Rashi for a very similar explanation)

  • Rabbeynu Bechaya explains that the way of the Pesukim is to link sons to their mother and daughters to the father. (see Rashi 46:15 "The males are attributed to Leah and the females to Jacob").

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Good answer -- better than I could find, or the half-dozen rabbis I asked this weekend. But is there any possibility that Yisro was being critical of Moshe; suggesting that while Moshe was in Egypt, Tzipora was raising his children? – Bruce James Feb 4 '13 at 19:41
@BruceJames Sounds like an interesting idea, but I would be hesitant to accept that for a couple reasons - a) Moshe originally planned to bring his wife and children with him to Egypt and was later persuaded not to by Aahron for their own safety (see Rashi to 18:2). Surely Yisro would understand that Moshe had his children's best interests in mind. b) Yisro seems worried that Moshe will not come out and meet him (see Rashi to 18:6) and is trying to convince him to come. It will be ill-timed at that point for him to be telling him off. – Michoel Feb 4 '13 at 23:27
Regarding your point b): It is that Rashi that led me to ask the question. If Yisro was worried that Moshe would not come out to see him, that might be more of a reason to say that he brought "your children" rather than "her children." The opinion of the Alshich might make sense it that was the mind-set of that generation. I would think in our era the father might interpret Yisro's statement as if to say, "your sons are no longer yours." Interestingly, I think this is the last we hear about Moshe's sons. – Bruce James Feb 5 '13 at 14:36
@BruceJames Rashi there does seem to strengthen the question, but see the Maskil Ledovid I quoted who writes that this is actually the basis for Rashi's remark. – Michoel Feb 5 '13 at 23:28

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