(ויקח משה את אשתו ואת בניו וירכבם על החמור וישב ארצה מצרים ויקח משה את מטה האלקים בידו” (שמות ד:כ”
“So Moshe took his wife and sons, mounted them on the donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt; and Moshe took the staff of G-d in his hand” (Shemos 4:20)
The HaKsav VeHakabalah writes: “`On the donkey.’ Donkey riding is simply enjoyable. You ride straight ahead with a smooth gait and do not even feel the ride. Donkey sellers in Arabian lands show how evenly the donkey moves by galloping on the donkey while holding in their hands a bowl full of water. Despite the galloping the water does not spill out. The pasuk (verse) is telling us that Moshe mounted his wife on a donkey since she was ill, and our Sages teach that this was when his son was circumcised [and therefore Moshe’s wife was within two weeks of having given birth] (commentary of Rosh). Rebbe Eliyahu Mizrachi (Pinchas 238:1) writes that a donkey does not cause discomfort to its rider.”
The journey from Midian (presently part of Saudi Arabia, Southern Jordan and Southern Israel) to Egypt was at that time a drawn-out and tiresome one. Moshe chose the animal that would afford his wife and children the most comfortable ride. Since at that time Moshe Rabbeinu was sent by Hashem to liberate bnei Yisrael from their enslavement in Egypt and so that later they could receive the Torah on Mt. Sinai, apparently Moshe Rabbeinu should have chosen the fastest way of transportation to fulfill Hashem’s Divine Will as soon as possible. Horses are much faster than donkeys and camels are used for rugged terrain more than donkeys. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, knew that even when engaged in saving bnei Yisrael and bringing them to their cherished goal of being Hashem’s chosen nation, he must first ensure the well-being of his wife and children. Moshe’s earnest concern for his wife and children did not constitute a contradiction to Divine Will. On the contrary, such thoughtful attention is part and parcel, an essential part, of His Will.
Sometimes a person involved enthusiastically in avodas Hashem (Hashem’s service) invests all of his time and energy to attain his sacred goal. Such ardent devotion is certainly positive and constructive. But if such total commitment comes at the expense of his family, the result is liable to be deficient, and sometimes even be a mitzvah haba’ah be’aveirah – a mitzvah brought about through sinful behavior. When we realize we are investing considerable activity in chesed or other mitzvahs outside the home, it is worthwhile to take out some time to contemplate and discuss with one’s spouse if the loss is more than the gain. All such activities should ideally be done with the full consent and agreement of the spouse.
Leah* was several weeks after giving birth. Previously, her husband, Yosef, had temporarily discontinued studying in his night kollel during the last trimester of her pregnancy in order to have time to assist her. Now that Leah seemed physically well and was comfortably resting in her mother’s house, Yosef desired to return to his night kollel. He did not perceive any further need to remain nearby her in the evening. His wife, however, vehemently disagreed; she demanded he remain home at night. Needless to say this raised the tension in their family life sky-high.
In a counseling session Leah poured out her substantive need for her husband to be near her at night: without him she experienced acute loneliness. After Yosef latched on to her feelings, and how essential it was for her that he be around at night, it was clear to him that he should remain at home until she was emotionally ready for him to attend a night kollel. He consented wholeheartedly. A few weeks later Leah herself encouraged him to return to the night kollel.
On the one hand, the husband realized its being Divine Will that he study Torah, and on the other hand, honoring and comforting his wife is also included in His Will.
*This story is true but the names used are fictitious