In this Midrashic Monologue, we meet Zipporah, wife of Moses and mother to Gershom and Eliezar, as she and her family travel toward Egypt. As they make camp, she considers and struggles with how her life has changed now that Moses has learned of his destiny as God’s prophet.
As the sun arrived at its tallest point, we reached the crest of a particularly large dune and were stunned to find a small oasis directly in our path. We decided to make camp, luxuriating in the shade and water that we found in this haven. As Moses and I went about the work of setting up our tents, his face was lit with a magnificent smile.
He grinned as he told me that his God must have created this tiny bit of paradise for our family. I teased my husband, asking him if I needed to worry about my place as his beloved since his God was able to provide him with such lavish presents. He laughed as he embraced me and spun me around in cool shadows of the trees. When he stilled, he put his hands on my cheeks as he recited the words from our marriage ceremony:
“Your heart is mine. My heart is yours. We choose to belong to one another for the rest of our days. Our journeys will be intertwined from this moment until our last moment.”
His words soothed my spirit. I had been worried that our life would no longer be our own since the moment my husband had come back from the desert, lit from the inside with the glow of his God. I do not know my husband’s God. My only sense of this new Power comes from Moses’ rushed and giddy explanations of his new responsibilities as a prophet. Since we left my father Jethro’s home, Moses has seemed both uplifted and burdened by the journey ahead. This God’s hold on my beloved unsettled me.
Warm tears fell down my cheeks. My husband noticed and his joy seemed to dim behind a cloud of concern.
“What is it, my bird?” he said to me.
I wiped my eyes and smiled at him. “No, no. Do not worry,” I replied. “I am just glad to see that my husband still exists! I have been traveling with a prophet, and he laughs much less frequently than the man I’ve lived with for these many years. In truth, he is much less fun than my Moses!”
He wrapped his arms around me once again, “A prophet indeed! Such a solitary life. I couldn’t bear to face each day without you and our boys. I think I’ll remain a man instead.”
He kissed me with the same joy and love that he did when we bound ourselves to one another, and I felt my worries recede even farther into my mind. For a few moments, we held onto each other, enjoying the closeness that we felt as we stood in that blissful oasis in the desert, listening to our sons, Gershom and Eliezer, splash in the water, and gaining strength from one another. And then we returned to our work, completing the preparations that would ensure that our family would be settled for the night.
Later, we sat around the fire Moses had kindled, eating our evening meal and watching as the sun drew closer and closer to the sand. I reached out to Moses, linking my hand with his. “I have not met your God myself, but I can not sit in this space without wanting to thank its creator! Do you think your God would accept a prayer of gratitude from me?” My husband smiled, nodding. I could see his eyes crinkle with happiness as I showed him that I wanted to learn more of his God.
I glanced at my sons, both of whom were watching me with interest and a bit of the skepticism I am sure that they inherited from me. I made a face at little Eliezer, and he laughed. I sat up straighter, cleared my throat…
A new voice entered the oasis.
Moses and I jumped up and spun toward the sound, clutching whatever weapons we had been able to reach. Tension filled the air as we watched a stranger approach the boundary of the oasis. Slowly, he raised his hands in a gesture meant to calm us. He didn’t look at me, instead staring only at my husband.
“Who are you?” I cried at this interloper, gathering our sons behind me so that I could more easily protect them.
“Moses. I am Aaron, your brother. Our God sent me to you; I will be your voice. We are meant to be partners; we will walk together for the rest of our days. Our journeys will be intwined for all time.”
When Moses remained silent, I quickly glanced at my husband. He seemed overwhelmed and unsure.
I moved slowly, making my way toward him without taking my eyes off of the stranger. “Why should we trust…”
My question was cut off as Moses rushed toward the other man. For many moments, I stood with my sons, watching as my husband and the stranger embraced, weeping on the other’s shoulder and speaking of their brotherhood.
At some point, Gershom reached for my hand, “Mama, why is it so dark?” It was only then that I realized that the light that had radiated from within my husband, the light which usually brightened our little family, no longer shone on us. Now it illuminated his brother instead.
As the two men sat together talking about their forthcoming journey, their shared mission, I alone carried my boys into the tent, helping them prepare for sleep. I began to sing, trying to distract them from the fact that their father had not come to give them the blessing he had said every night since they were born. Then I settled into our tent. Alone.
Before I fell asleep that night, I looked out of the mouth of our tent and saw the two men huddled together in front of the fire. Their hands danced as they spoke animatedly, planning their sacred work. Sighing, I turned away from the sight, whispering to myself, “A prophet indeed! Being the wife of such a man is such a solitary life. But I couldn’t bear to face a life without my husband and our boys. And so, I’ll remain with the prophet and hope that the man he once was returns someday.”
CLICK HERE to read the piece that helped to inspired this Midrashic Monologue.