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Karl and Daniel delve into Exodus, Ch. 4 and make many jokes about donkeys and circumcision.  Daniel’s selection of midrash is below.

1-9 — signs and wonders for moses


G‑d said to him, “Throw [your staff] on the ground,” and it turned into a snake . . . He put his hand into his bosom, and his hand was leprous, as white as snow (4:2–6)

G‑d was indicating to Moses that he acted wrongly in saying that the people of Israel will not believe. The snake is an allusion to the primordial serpent, who was punished for his evil talk; leprosy is the punishment for slander.

(Midrash; Rashi)

10-17 — Moses protests his position

“I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (4:10)

When Moses was a child in the royal palace, Pharaoh would take him on his lap to kiss and hug him, and Moses used to take the crown of Pharaoh and place it upon his own head.

The magicians of Egypt sat there and said: “We fear that this is the one of whom we prophesy that he will take away the kingdom from you.” Some of them counseled to behead him, others to burn him. But Jethro was present among them, and he said to them: “This boy has no understanding of what he is doing. However, test him by placing before him a gold vessel and a live coal; if he stretches forth his hand for the gold, then he has understanding, and you can slay him; but if he reaches for the live coal, then he has no understanding, and there can be no sentence of death upon him.” So they brought these things before him, and he was about to reach forth for the gold, when the angel Gabriel came and thrust his hand aside so that it seized the coal; Moses thrust his hand with the live coal into his mouth, so that his tongue was burnt, with the result that he became slow of speech and of tongue.

(Midrash Rabbah)


Moses was afflicted with a speech impairment so that no one should think that his success in transmitting the Torah to the world was due to his oratorical skills. Rather, it derived solely from the fact that “the Divine Presence spoke from his throat.”

(Derashot HaRan)


Moses said to G‑d: “O my G‑d, I am not a man of words, also not yesterday, also not the day before, also not since You are speaking to Your servant . . .” (4:10)

For seven days G‑d was persuading Moses at the bush to go in His mission. “Yesterday,” “the day before” and “since You are speaking” are three days; three times “also” indicate another three days; thus Moses was standing on the seventh day when he said, “O please, my G‑d! Send by the hand of him whom You shall send!”



The anger of G‑d burned against Moses; and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother?” (4:14)

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korchah said: A lasting effect is recorded of every instance of divine anger in the Torah, but no lasting effect is recorded in this case.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: A lasting effect is recorded in this instance too, for it says, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother?” Now, wasn’t Aaron a kohen(priest)? However, originally Moses was to be the kohen and Aaron the Levite, and their roles were reversed.

(Talmud, Zevachim 102b)


You shall take this staff in your hand, with which you shall do the signs (4:17)

This staff was created at twilight of the sixth day of creation, and was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Adam gave it to Enoch, Enoch to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Isaac, and Isaac to Jacob. Jacob brought it with him to Egypt and gave it to Joseph. When Joseph died, his house was looted, and the staff ended up in Pharaoh’s palace. Jethro, who was one of Pharaoh’s soothsayers, saw the staff with the mysterious markings on it and coveted it; he took it and planted it in the garden of his home, and no man was able to come close to it.

When Moses came to Jethro’s house, he entered the garden, saw the staff and read the markings on it; he reached out his hand and plucked it from the ground. When Jethro saw this, he proclaimed, “This man shall redeem the people of Israel from Egypt,” and gave him his daughter Zipporah as a wife.

(Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 40)


18-23 — Moses returns to Egypt

20 –mounted them upon the donkey: The designated donkey. That is the donkey that Abraham saddled for the binding of Isaac, and that is the one upon whom the King Messiah is destined to appear, as it is said: “humble, and riding a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). — [from Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 31]


20  and he returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff: Chronological order is not strictly adhered to in the Scriptures.

24-26 — Brit Milah

24 on the way, in an inn and sought to put him to death: [I.e., He sought] Moses, because he had neglected to circumcise his son Eliezer. Because he neglected it, he was [to be] punished with death. It was taught in a Braitha: Rabbi Jose said: God forbid! Moses did not neglect it, but he reasoned: Shall I circumcise [him] and go forth on the road? It will be dangerous for the child for three days. Shall I circumcise [him] and wait three days? The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded me, “Go, return to Egypt.” [Moses hurried to Egypt intending to circumcise Eliezer upon his return.] Why [then] was he to be punished with death? Because first he busied himself with [the details of] his lodging. [This appears] in tractate Nedarim (31b). The angel turned into a sort of serpent and swallowed him [Moses] from his head to his thighs, and then [spit him out and] swallowed him from his feet to his private parts. Zipporah therefore understood that it was because of [the failure to perform] the circumcision [that this occurred]. — [from Ned. 32a, Exodus Rabbah 5:5]


and cast it to his feet: She cast it before Moses’ feet. — [from Yerushalmi, Ned. 3:9]


For you are a bridegroom of blood to me: You were a cause that my bridegroom would [almost] be murdered. You are to me the slayer of my bridegroom.

27-31 — Convincing the people