In this week's parsha, Moses flees to Midian, where two sons are born to him and Tzipporah. But the sons seem to be named in the wrong order. His first son is named Gersham - meaning that "I am a stranger in a strange land." His second is Eliezer - meaning that "God saved me from Pharaoh." Moses names his sons as a continual reminder of the goodness that exists in his life. Moses is a stranger in a new land and yet God has allowed him to prosper. He has been saved from Pharaoh who wished to kill him. Every time he calls to his sons, he will be reminded of these blessings.
It's a great idea, but not chronologically correct. Because first, Moses was saved from Pharaoh, and then when he fled to Midian, he prospered in a strange land. So why did Moses reverse the order?
I think the answer lies in our ability (or lack of it) to appreciate immediate goodness.
I often find, for example, if I take my kids out for the day, I will look back at the end of the day and think of how pleasurable it was to watch them have such a good time. But take me back to the middle of the day when all was going crazy and it was a lot harder for me to enjoy myself. It's sad that so often, we can only enjoy pleasures once they have passed.
I think the reason for this is obvious. True and deep pleasure requires effort and struggle. When experiencing the effort, it's so much harder to stop and appreciate the goodness. But once the effort is over, we can look back and recognize just how good it was.
There is only one problem, however. We only "remember" how good it was. We experience a memory of the pleasure, but not the real thing. The deepest pleasures require that we experience the pleasure while it is happening, even though it is also very difficult. Surely, the time for me to enjoy my kids is not once they are in bed, but when I am actually with them.
Moses has this idea mastered. For him, the immediate goodness is that he is thriving in a strange land. This is hard to appreciate, as it is also very challenging. So he names his first son as a reminder of the goodness he has in spite of the struggle he is going through. His salvation from Pharaoh is goodness he wishes to be reminded of also. But the pain of this has passed and so it is easier to feel the pleasure. For a great man like Moses, it is of secondary priority, and hence is the name given to his second son.
We could take so much more out of life if we didn't allow the effort to distract us from the pleasure. It's not easy to do, but if we focus on the goodness, we can even enjoy our children ... even when they are driving us crazy.