Parshat ShemotThe dvar torah comes from Strive for Truth (including a footnote of Aryeh Caplan) In the Mechilta on Shemot it comments that Yitro married off his daughter, Tziporrah, to Moshe on condition that he swear to give his firstborn to idolatry. How could Moshe, the soon-to-be prophet of G-d and leader of Israel, agree to that?
The Maharal(in a different context) explains that the dramatic language of the midrash can be telling us the meaning of a person's thoughts but not his actual physical actions; once Moshe merely agreed to live in the house of a man not yet committed to Judaism, Moshe is already blamed for consenting to having his firstborn grow up with
idolatrous influences. * How could Yitro, who gave up idolatry, force it on Moshe's firstborn? What was he thinking?
Just as Yitro sought the truth in the world by testing out every religion and found Judaism the hard way, he insisted that his grandson would also work it out himself [and thus appreciates his finding all that much more.] Accordingly, the midrash can be translated that "the son who will be born to you (Moshe) shall be first for idolatry" and
not that his firstborn will be for idolatry.

  • [In actuality, his firstborn, Gershom, was not circumcised (according to targum yonatan) until Moshe's life was threatened by the Angel of death at the inn. Another sad occurance was when moshe's grandson from Gershom, abandoned the faith and served idols in the time of the shoftim (shoftim 18:30 and rashi there).By the way, the same gemara that says that this grandson did avoda zara also explains his rationale (an incredible thought in Rav Dessler's essay on giving and taking) and says that he eventually did teshuva.]