Z is for Zipporah, Wife of Moses by Marek Halter
My recent foray into the Biblical world for the A to Z Reading Challenge was oddly rewarding. I am a Roman Catholic by birth, although I haven’t practiced in a long, long time. Reading a Bible-based story was not necessarily motivated by a desire to delve back into my religion through leisure reading, but a choice based more on looking at Biblical characters from a historical perspective. Marek Halter’s Zipporah, Wife of Moses is, as the title suggests, the story of the wife of Moses and their early life together in ancient Israel.
I had mixed feelings about this book that I think stem from the duality of my spiritual beliefs. While on the one hand, I am not a practicing Catholic anymore and believe more in the existence of a God in general than one associated with a particular religion, I also have eight years of Catholic school, with uniforms, religion classes, and Church twice a week, along with the belief and moral system associated with that ingrained at a subconscious level. Surprisingly, I was able to enjoy this book for the historical fiction that it was, from a removed perspective. While the plot and character development is tied to spirituality and Judaism specifically, as Moses is both one of the founding fathers of the Judeo-Christian religion and a character called to the service of God, it does not overshadow the author’s writing and storytelling. I especially enjoyed Halter’s creation of such an amazing female character in Zipporah. She is a strong, independent woman who does what she has to do to get things done. She is intelligent, faithful, loyal, caring, and definitely the great woman behind one of the great men of history.
However, as much as I enjoyed those elements, there was always something at the back of my mind that made me uneasy reading this book. I had a little bit of a problem thinking of Moses as a love interest, even though there wasn’t any explicit love scenes or Romance-novel pining. This is the story of an amazing relationship between two incredible people in a brutal time of uncertainty in the ancient world. But, Moses and other Biblical persons are kind of like your parents and grandparents; you know they had children, because you and your mother and father exist, but you REALLY don’t want to think of them doing the “dance with no pants.” There was also an exceptionally uncomfortable scene in the book where Zipporah’s children and Moses become real, full Jews. Yes, Zipporah has to, in the words of Rabbi Tuckman, “nip the tip.”
But, while I had my own issues while reading this book, I don’t think it should stop anyone else from reading it. It wasn’t the strongest book I’ve ever read, but it was an interesting piece of historical fiction that made me think of the lofty characters of religious history in a very real and human way.