Always Hope for Love

Yael Eckstein  |  July 13, 2023

Two little girls hugging each other

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, together with Moses’ sons and wife, came to him in the wilderness, where he was camped near the mountain of God. — Exodus 18:5

These devotions explore the Jewish perspective of love. In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others enables us to love one another.

In the Book of Exodus, we read, “Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). The Jewish sages wonder what, exactly, did Jethro hear that made him want to leave his life as a wealthy high priest to join the nation of Israel? Was it the Ten Plagues? The revelation at Mount Sinai? Israel’s victory against the Amalekites? The Splitting of the Sea?

While the sages suggest each of these answers, I want to explain another possibility: Jethro heard that there was hope for love.

In today’s world, many argue that the traditional institution of marriage is crumbling. With staggering divorce rates and celebrities switching partners as quickly as they switch outfits, it’s not hard to see why. But divorce is not something new. In Exodus verses 2-4, we learn that Moses left his wife, Zipporah, and their two sons in Midian with her father, Jethro. Unable to balance his family life with his God-given mission, Moses got divorced.

Always Hope for Love

Soon after, Jethro heard about the parting of the Red Sea. The sages explain that God could have created a new and permanent reality—a pathway of land separating between the two sides of the sea. But He chose not to. Perhaps what caught Jethro’s attention was not the splitting of the Red Sea, but the fact that it came back together as if it had never been parted.

He said to himself, “If the sea can come back together, there is hope for my daughter’s marriage.” In the next verse, we read that Jethro brought Zipporah and her sons back to Moses, and according to Jewish tradition, they remarried.

While there are obviously cases when ending a toxic relationship is the right thing to do, there are also times when people can come back to one another. Whether it is siblings who have become estranged, children and parents who have fought, friends who have drifted, spouses who think they have hurt each other too deeply to make amends, perhaps there is room to keep trying. There is always hope for love.

Your Turn:

Are there people in your life from whom you have parted ways? What step might you take today to rebuild the relationship?