A Bridegroom of Blood and Water

This sheet on Exodus 4 was written by Rachel Sharansky Danziger for 929 and can also be found here

The blood is dripping off Zipporah’s fingers, and Moses can’t tear his eyes away.

His first mother may have held him with such hands when she gave birth to him. He imagines them sometimes: chafed by servitude, stained with labor. He imagines them reaching down to her thighs and pulling him out, life gore and all.

His second birth, the one he knows about, was different. His second mother’s hands pulled him from the river’s water. The hands remained unsoiled: there was no blood to mark his passage into life.

“A bridegroom of blood,” Zipporah spits at him, and finally, he doesn’t need to imagine. He can finally see, truly see, the bloodied hands of a woman forming life.

You saved us, he wants to tell her, but words fail him. As he told God earlier, he is not a man of words.

You took me back to my very beginning, he wants to add then. You gave me life through blood. I am reborn.

Moses doesn’t know it yet, but he will never be free from the shadow of his second birth. Water and miracles will continue to define his trials and his fate. He will lead his people through a sea and grant them wellsprings in the desert. He will hit a rock to give them water and die alone by a river he can’t cross. And they – his people – they will follow him. They will cross the sea and drink from the wellsprings, flock to the rock and cross the river once he’ll die. But they will do so begrudgingly, distrustfully. They will take his water and his miracles and see him as Other. They won’t see him as a man of flesh and blood and wants.

But this will come later. For now, there are only bloody fingers and a sense of wonder. One day soon, Moses will replace the Nile’s water with red blood. But today, for once, it’s Zipporah turn to birth a miracle. Moses was born in blood, but knew only of the water. Today, Zipporah showed him what it is to come from blood.

The blood is dripping off Zipporah’s fingers, and Moses can’t tear his eyes away.

(כה) וַתִּקַּ֨ח צִפֹּרָ֜ה צֹ֗ר וַתִּכְרֹת֙ אֶת־עָרְלַ֣ת בְּנָ֔הּ וַתַּגַּ֖ע לְרַגְלָ֑יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֧י חֲתַן־דָּמִ֛ים אַתָּ֖ה לִֽי׃
(25) So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his legs with it, saying, “You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me!”

Rachel Sharansky Danziger is a Jerusalem-born Boston-based writer and speaker about Judaism, parenting, and life in Israel.

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