The exodus from Egypt, when it occurred, represented anew innovation in the world. The stay in Egypt refined the souls who had caused damage to the original state of the universe.

The Talmud says that during the one hundred and thirty years that Adam had separated from his wife, he emitted semen which developed into negative forces in the world, instead of children. (Eruvin 18) This is reflected in Yocheved's being one hundred and thirty years old when she gave birth to Moses. This is a further aspect of Moses in his capacity as the equivalent of the Jewish people, atoning for mankind's past sins, and enabling the innovation in the world to commence. (Mechilta Beshalach 15:1) This is according to the view that she had been born while Jacob was on his way down to Egypt. (Sotah 12) I have explained this elsewhere (on Gen. 15:12 especially) that "a great darkness and fear overcame Abraham". The generation of the deluge…represented a failure of the sun and moon to perform normally…

The Arizal writes that the word "aima", meaning "fear", in the above verse refers to the generation of Enoch during which the ocean flooded one third of the earth's surface. The word "chashecha", meaning "darkness", refers to the generation of the deluge, which represented a failure of the sun and moon to perform normally.

The word "gedula" (meaning "greatness", also hinted to in the above verse) refers to the tower of Babel, with Moses' speech impediment being equivalent to the confusion of language at that time. His being placed in the basket smeared with clay is reminiscent of the clay used to make the bricks for the tower of Babel. His being cooped up without seeing anything in the basket amid the reeds of the Nile River is comparable to the blindness the men of Sodom had been smitten with. The word "nofelet", "was falling" (like "overcame") refers to the destruction of Sodom.

By being exposed to water Moses and the Jewish people atoned for the generation of Enoch part of whom were drowned whereas part survived. Every difficulty Moses experienced was in some way a means of atoning for other past generations' shortcomings. Moses' experience in Egypt paralleled that of mankind up to that point, i.e. he suffered to achieve mankind's rehabilitation. Moses was the reincarnation of AbelJethro was the reincarnation of Cain

Cain and Abel were the first men born by woman. They were intended to be the typical Adam, i.e. representative of what mankind should develop into. Now it had become the turn of the people of Israel to be refined and to acquire the appellation "Adam". According to our Kabbalists, Moses was the reincarnation of Abel, whereas Jethro was the reincarnation of Cain ["chaver ha'kini" - "friend of the Kinites" (see Judges 1:16, Zohar III:216)]. The latter's 3 souls, i.e. the "lower" soul, life force Nefesh, was reincarnated in the body of the Egyptian who was slain by Moses. (Ex. 2:2) His "middle" soul, Ruach, was reincarnated in the body of Korach, whereas his "upper" soul, i.e. Neshama was reincarnated in the body of Jethro.

Cain had killed Abel because he had wanted Abel's second twin sister for himself. She was reincarnated in the person of Tzipporah (Jethro's daughter and Moses' future wife) and that is why Jethro represented Abel at that point. This explains how the same Moses who was reported to have refused to suckle on the breast of a non Jewish wet nurse (Sotah 12) could nonetheless marry a woman of non Jewish origin [because she was to him like Eve had been to Adam, i.e. a missing part of his body (see Gen. 2:21-23)].

When Jethro came to Moses in the desert, he said to him, "Come forth on account of your wife whom I give to you, and her two sons." The first letters in the verse "Ani chotencha, Jethro" - "I am your father-in-law, Jethro" (Ex. 18:6) spell "achi", meaning "my brother". This was when he had realized that he, Jethro, representing Cain, was Moses' brother, whose former incarnation had been Abel. Jethro's words "now I know" (Ex. 18:11) reflect this new-found knowledge of Jethro (Cain). Cain had murdered because he did not believe that G‑d is a judge, that there is justice in the world, and that there is life after death.

The Targum Yonathan says that the word "now" represents Jethro's new found insight, and that this is the reason that this portion about the installing of a broadly based system of judges was added at Ex. 18:21. (I have not been able to find this in the Targum Yonathan - Ed)

The reason Jethro had entrusted his flock to Moses (Ex. 3:1) was that it was symbolic of the sheep he had stolen from his brother Abel in his previous incarnation, the latter having been a shepherd (Gen. 4:2). Moses had not wanted to accept this flock, believing it to be rightfully Jethro's. The Sages do not like someone tending the property of an idol worshipper, since the chances are that such property may have been acquired as payment for services rendered to idols; the Torah therefore stresses Jethro's sheep that the flock was not derived from such sources. Had Moses not killed the Egyptian…he would not have been in a position to help Jethro's daughters…

All this helps us understand the Midrash Shemot Rabba (1:32) on the verse, "an Egyptian man has saved us", that the daughters of Jethro described their rescue at the hands of Moses as having been the work of an Egyptian. (Ex. 2:19) Surely Moses did not claim to be an Egyptian! The Midrash then describes a person who had been bitten by a wild ass as rushing to the river to get relief for his feet. As soon as he gets to the river, he finds a baby about to drown in the river. He reaches out, and saves the baby. Had the man not been bitten by the wild ass, the baby would have drowned. Similarly here. Had Moses not killed the Egyptian, and had he not been forced to flee for his life, he would not have been in a position to help Jethro's daughters. This is what those daughters meant when they said, "An Egyptian man has saved us". They attributed their rescue to the Egyptian whom Moses had killed.

The problem is that if the daughters wanted to describe the cause of their rescue, why did they not mention the immediate cause, i.e. the fact that Datan and Aviram had informed against Moses to Pharaoh thus forcing Moses to flee for his life? Or take the even more immediate cause, Pharaoh's decree to have Moses executed?

The answer is that the killing of the Egyptian was not an occurrence of secondary importance; rather it was a primary occurrence. It was the lower life form, Nefesh, of Cain that was killed when Moses struck that Egyptian. This enabled the "higher" soul, Neshama, of Jethro to become refined, since it was no longer attached to the Nefesh part of Cain. It enabled Jethro to establish brotherly relations with Moses, and as a result the former jealousy between Cain and Abel was no longer part of the relationship of their respective reincarnates.

This also helps explain Jethro's question, "Where is he, why did you abandon the man?" (Ex. 2:20) The sequence should have been, "why did you abandon the man, and where is he?" Then the letter vav, meaning "and", would be justified as a letter denoting something additional.

Jethro was not clear whether he should understand the words "an Egyptian man", or whether he should read a more profound meaning into it as we have just described. Therefore, he said, "Call him so he can eat bread". These words would be appropriate both if the man was indeed an Egyptian in which case he deserved to be rewarded at least with a meal. If, on the other hand, "an Egyptian man" meant what we have just described, then the words "call him and he shall eat bread" is a euphemism for offering Moses one of Jethro's daughters' hand in marriage, since clearly one of them was meant to become Moses' wife. This is why he said "v'ayo" the letter vav both at the beginning and at the end of the word "ay", meaning "where?" That letter could then be applied to either possibility. It would then be a reminder of G‑d's original question "ay" - "where is your brother Abel?" (Gen. 4:9)

Another possibility is the one mentioned by the Zohar, that the letter vav is symbolic of the sign that G‑d gave Cain, i.e. a letter from the holy Torah, so that no one who came across him would kill him as a murderer. (Rosenberg Montreal edition page 42)

This also explains the Midrash saying that Tzipporah was so named, since like a bird, in Hebrew "tzipor", she purified - referring to the offerings of birds to signify purification of people who had previously been afflicted with tzara'at (a skin affliction resulting from sin) (Shemot Rabba 32; Lev.14:4) Similarly it is used to purify the house afflicted with certain kinds of stains. (Lev.14:49) Cain was jealous, blaming his fate on the original sin of his father Adam…

Rabbi Yossi used to refer to his wife as "his home". As long as this twin sister of Abel had been under the control of Cain - maybe she (Tzipporah) blamed G‑d. Cain was jealous, blaming his fate on the original sin of his father Adam who had brought contamination into the world, had made him an outcast like the person afflicted with that skin disease. This fits because we know that such an affliction is usually due to slanderous talk of a person. (Eruvin 15)

Moses' staff was rooted in the Tree of Life, the secret of Abel who had not been tainted with sin. Abel lived for 49 days, as the Arizal explains the meaning of the word "sevenfold" (Gen. 4:15) to mean seven times seven. The word "yakam", meaning "will be avenged", is composed of the respective letters in the threesome Jethro, Cain, and Mitzri (meaning "Egyptian").

Abel lived 49 days in this world which was created with the letter hei (Gen. 2:4, see Menachot 29). The number 49 is equivalent to the numerical value of the word for Moses' staff (in Hebrew, "mateh"). The letter hei in the word is a reference only to G‑d having created the world with the help of that letter. It became the staff and symbol of Moses later on. When Moses refused the mission to go to Pharaoh and bring about the new innovation in the world, his staff was turned into a serpent, and his hand became afflicted with tzaraat, skin excema, to show that he had aborted his purpose in life.

We find two opinions in the Midrash (Bereshit Rabba 22:12) as to the kind of "sign" G‑d gave to Cain. Rabbi Yehuda says that G‑d made the sun shine for him; Rabbi Nehemiah says that G‑d certainly would not have gone out of His way to make the sun shine for such a sinner, rather the "sign" was a form of tzaraat, very visible. This comment is not to be understood as disagreement with Rabbi Yehuda. G‑d said to Moses: "If they will not believe you, and not listen to the impact of the first 'sign' (miracle), they will be convinced by the impact of the second miracle." The first sign was that Moses' face would shine like the sun, and Cain would benefit from this. Rabbi Nehemiah elaborates that Cain certainly would not benefit from this, until, when reincarnated and his soul had been cleansed since he had accepted G‑d's judgment, he had become Jethro. Only then would his sign be radiation of the face of Moses, rather than the sign of tzaraat Moses' teacher was the angel Zeganzegal…

…However, if we view all the happenings in the light of the reincarnation of Abel/Seth/Moses, we view the earthly existence of Abel as having been very brief. When his soul was in the body of Seth, he was still in "a strange land", i.e. not within the body he was destined to inhabit ultimately.

Once his soul inhabited his present body, it could be said of his body, "his eye did not weaken..." (Deut. 34:7) This proved that his body and soul were well matched. The reason the grave of Moses could not be located (see Deut. 34:5) was because his body had not lost its vigor, i.e. had not become a cadaver. Not only at the revelation could it be said of Moses that he could stand next to G‑d (see Deut.5:28). When he had said, "The G‑d of my father has come to my assistance", (Ex. 18:4) he implied that even his father Amram had become so refined and purified that he qualified as a man of G‑d. The words, "He has saved me from the sword of Pharaoh", in addition to "the G‑d of my father came to my help" mean that just as one grants additional wisdom to those who already possess a degree of wisdom, so Moses, seeing he had already possessed basic qualifications, advanced to even higher rank both spiritually and physically; even Pharaoh's sword could not harm his neck anymore than it could harm a pillar of marble. This is a hint that marble is incapable of becoming ritually impure.

When the four Sages entered the Pardes, i.e. the study of esoterics (Maaseh Merkava), Rabbi Akiva warned his colleagues, "When you see pure marble, do not say "water, water!" (Chagiga 14). It is written of Moses that "I have drawn him from the water". (Ex. 2:10) When pondering the statements of our sages, we must remember that though they may be describing things physical, i.e. water, marble, etc., these are merely euphemisms for matters spiritual.

The same applies to the verse "And the name of the one was Eliezer". The word "the one" refers to "The One", G‑d. His name could not be revealed until the giving of the Torah, since only then did it become clear how Moses was particularly qualified to assume the role he had been assigned by G‑d. Since he had already possessed all the basic qualifications, he could now ascend further, i.e. Mount Sinai, receive the tablets, etc. When Job rhetorically asks, "Where is wisdom to be found?" (Job 28:12) this is an allusion to Moses; i.e. only people who are already spiritually and physically prepared will achieve that stature (being the reincarnation of Abel). Being the reincarnation of Abel meant having been purified by fire into being sinless. (Shabbat 89 describes Moses as being fearful of the heat that emanates from the mouths of the angels, since the latter are sin-free creatures, seeing they have no body).

The immediate reincarnation of Abel had been Seth, some of whose descendants survived the deluge, i.e. became the founders of mankind. The world's survival depends on Torah. The word "me-ayin" (Hebrew for "from where") quoted previously in Job 28:12 has a numerical value of 101. This is a hint at what our Sages say when they claim that if one studies a subject matter one hundred times, this is not as good as when one studies it one hundred and one times (Chagiga 9). Moses' teacher was the angel Zeganzegal whose name has a numerical value of 101 (plus one for the value of the word itself). (Eruvin 18) In other words, he was the source, or "me-ayin", of Moses' wisdom.

We see that the verse "Where will you find wisdom?" is a hint referring to Moses, to whom the principle that "once you possess the basics you will be endowed further" was applied.

The relationship between Moses and Jethro became possible after Moses had killed the Nefesh part of Cain's reincarnation manifest in the person of the Egyptian who had abused or killed a Jew (Ex. 2:11-12). Jethro had absorbed the "higher" soul, Neshama, of Cain, and as such could "twin" Moses, who had absorbed the Neshama of Abel.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk.]