First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/yitro-delayed-repercussions/
Baal Haturim Exodus: Yitro
Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Moses arrives in a strange land. He has escaped his birthplace of Egypt. He has left his birth-nation of Israel. He finds himself amongst the idolaters of Midian and hosted by their High Priest, Jethro. Jethro appears to be a kindly, wise man. He gives Moses his daughter in marriage. However, the two men come from very different cultures and traditions, and that is where the trouble begins.
Moses comes from a monotheistic religion that believes in the one, unseen, allpowerful God. Jethro serves man-made idols. They both realize the importance of educating children. The midrash states that Moses made a deal with Jethro. Moses promised that his first son would be raised in the ways of idol worship (keep in mind this happens before the initial encounter of Moses and God at the burning bush). However, the Baal Haturim on Exodus 18:3 explains that Moses expected the wise Jethro to finally understand the error of his idolatrous ways and allow the son of Moses to be raised according to the Jewish faith.
That is indeed what happens, but the Baal Haturim says that the damage was already done, though we are not to see the results until the following generation. At the end of the book of Judges there is a not-so-subtle hint that the grandson of Moses becomes a High Priest to idol worship. The deal, even though apparently annulled was fulfilled anyway, not with a son, but with a grandson.
May we be cautious of the deals we get into or hope to get out of. They have a way of biting you when you least expect it.
To my brother-in-law, Rabbi Daniel Epstein, on his induction as Rabbi of Cockfosters and N Southgate Synagogue. May it be a deal they and the community enjoy for a long time