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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

I am a Bird

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Indeed, Parshat Yitro is about Yitro, the wise father-in-law of Moses, who shares wise and practical advice with his son-in-law, who shoulders a heavy burden. Yitro is much deserving of having a portion which highlights his contributions to Moses and the governance of the unruly traveling Hebrews.

Also mentioned in this parsha is Tziporah, the daughter of Yitro the Midianite priest, the wife of Moses and the mother of his children. Tzipporah, which means bird, never speaks in the torah, but her actions in the fourth chapter of Exodus tell of a brave woman, who acts to save her husband by quickly and decisively performing a circumcision on her son en route to Egypt. In the Book of Numbers she is described as a Kushite which could mean of African descent or comely. Due to the nature of Moses' direct relationship with God, he and his wife lived separate lives, leaving Tziporah alone.

For the next few moments I want to focus in on Tziporah, another fearless woman we encounter in Torah texts. I have tried to describe her as her namesake, a bird. There are fascinating midrashic accounts of Tziporah. I will put links to them on the bottom of this page with hopes that you will read more about this mysterious and powerful woman.


I am a bird,

my eyes small and piercing

sharp and perceptive,

but reveal nothing of what is in my heart.

They sense danger approaching

and see movement

far below.

You may hide but I will find you.

With a swoop and a dive;

silently I strike,

to protect my own

I am a bird

I have been told my feathers

are comely;

with a sheen as dark as midnight.

My form, sleek and tapered, yet strong.

My unfurled wings catch the current

as I soar silently in the clear blue sky.

I feel the freedom of flight

the air racing through my feathers,

the exhilaration of seeing the earth

far below me.

I am a bird

My beak razor sharp

My yellow talons strong,

tear and draw blood.

I will protect what is mine

with my life.

I am fearless.

I am a bird

My mate flies far from me,

high above the clouds.

He does not return to me


I sit on my nest alone,

the space beside me

cold, but ready

should my mate return one day.

Now I preen only for myself,

my dark feathers catch the sun's rays

and glimmer.

I am a bird

You may not hear my silent cry

in the dark of the night.

You might even discount me,

but I am here;

just beyond your vision;

wings twitching to open.

To defend,

to pounce,

to hunt.

I am fierce.

I am a bird.

I fly alone.

My patience is infinite.

So Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after she had been sent home,

Exodus 18:2 (Translation from Sefaria)

I have said to you, “Let My son go, that he may worship Me,” yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your first-born son.’”

At a night encampment on the way, the LORD encountered him and sought to kill him.

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!”

And when He let him alone, she added, “A bridegroom of blood because of the circumcision.”

Exodus 4:23-26

וַתְּדַבֵּ֨ר מִרְיָ֤ם וְאַהֲרֹן֙ בְּמֹשֶׁ֔ה עַל־אֹד֛וֹת הָאִשָּׁ֥ה הַכֻּשִׁ֖ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָקָ֑ח כִּֽי־אִשָּׁ֥ה כֻשִׁ֖ית לָקָֽח׃

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married: “He married a Cushite woman!”

Numbers 12:1

For more information on Tziporah-

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