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Thursday, August 11, 2022

An Interpretation of a Mysterious Tale - Related to a Circumcision in the Torah

 In his Meshivas Nefesh on Shemos chapter 3, Rabbi Yochanan Luria has a lengthy piece on various topics related to Bris Milah. One short paragraph aims to give a little clarity to a mysterious tale in the Torah, when Moshe and Zipporah are on their way to Egypt shortly after the burning bush story, and something happens and someone almost dies, and the tragedy is averted when Zipporah circumcises her son. 

One of the common interpretations of the story is that Moshe almost died, having been mostly consumed by an angel (or angels) in a serpent-like fashion. Zipporah says two things after she circumcises her son, in verses 25-26 below (taken from

24Now he was on the way, in an inn, that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. כדוַיְהִ֥י בַדֶּ֖רֶךְ בַּמָּל֑וֹן וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֣הוּ ה' וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ הֲמִיתֽוֹ:
25So Zipporah took a sharp stone and severed her son's foreskin and cast it to his feet, and she said, "For you are a bridegroom of blood to me." כהוַתִּקַּ֨ח צִפֹּרָ֜ה צֹ֗ר וַתִּכְרֹת֙ אֶת־עָרְלַ֣ת בְּנָ֔הּ וַתַּגַּ֖ע לְרַגְלָ֑יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֧י חֲתַן־דָּמִ֛ים אַתָּ֖ה לִֽי:
26So He released him. Then she said, "A bridegroom of blood concerning the circumcision." כווַיִּ֖רֶף מִמֶּ֑נּוּ אָ֚ז אָֽמְרָ֔ה חֲתַ֥ן דָּמִ֖ים לַמּוּלֹֽת:

Her two statements (in bold in the preceding text) are quite mysterious. The following is a summary and partial loose-translation of Rabbi Luria's explanation of this text .

Zipporah saw that Gehinnom has no dominion over Milah, when Moshe Rabbenu was consumed by angels trying to kill him over delaying his son’s circumcision (Rashi 4:24, Nedarim 32a), but the angel stopped at the Makom HaMilah. Zipporah thought Moshe was to die for having violated the prohibition against a circumcised man having relations with an Aramis (herself) for which the punishment is death. However, when she realized that the angels left his Milah untouched, she realized the solution to the problem was to circumcise her son.

When she said “Chasan Damim Ata Li” it is understood that she meant “You are a groom whose blood is at risk on account of me!”, as Rabbi Luria puts it “he is being punished for having had relations with an Aramis.” As Targum puts it “Because of the blood of Milah (that he underwent) the rule is that my groom should never have married me.” But when she saw that Milah was so significant, she circumcised her son, causing the angel to withdraw. Then she said “A groom of blood to circumcisions” after she understood that the punishment coming to her husband was due to having delayed his son’s circumcision, and not because of his relationship with her.

וראה שאין גיהנם שולט במילה שהרי במרע"ה שבלעו מלאך המות מראשו ועד ירכו ומרגליו עד אותו המקום ולא היה [יכול] לשלוט במילה אז היתה סבורה ציפורה שבעלה הוא חייב מיתה על שנימול ובועל ארמית ולא מפני שנתעצל (במצות) בנו ואבר זה ניצול מפני חשיבות המילה להציל את בנה מדינה של גיהנם ומלה אותו ולא על דרך שידעה שבעלה נענש על ככה, שהרי אמרה חתן דמים אתה לי ומתרגמינן שכוונתה שהוא נענש על ככה שבעל ארמית, ע"כ תרגום בדמא מהולתא הדין מתחייב חתנא לנא פי' מפני שנימול לא היה לו לישא ארמיתא ומשראתה חשיבות המילה מלתה את בנה, וירף ממנה אז אמרה חתן דמים למולות, אז הבינה שנענש על שנתעצל במילת בנו וע"כ תרגם שבשבילו הוא נענש.

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