שֵׁם הָאֶחָד גֵּרְשֹׁם כִּי אָמַר גֵּר הָיִיתִי בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה וְשֵׁם הָאֶחָד אֱלִיעֶזֶר כִּי אֱ-לֹהֵי אָבִי בְּעֶזְרִי וַיַּצִּלֵנִי מֵחֶרֶב פַּרְעֹה
[Moshe] named the first one Gershom, for he said “I am a stranger in a foreign land.” The name of the other was Eliezer, “for Hashem helped me and saved me from Pharaoh’s sword”.
Moshe was in Midyan. He married Yitro’s daughter and had two sons. He named the first son in “commemoration” of him being a stranger in Midyan, and the second commemorating the miracle of getting saved from death.
There are a few eyebrows that might be raised upon hearing such a thing. Getting saved from an all but certain death is quite the experience, and naming a child for that is understandable…almost too understandable. Once the obvious-ish question of why he named a son after the idea that he was a stranger in Midyan is answered, we’d still have to figure out why it came first. Wouldn’t getting saved from death take precedence?
The Chafetz Chaim explains that we first need to understand the situation Moshe was in. In all of Midyan, Moshe was the only person who believed in Hashem. Even Yitro who later converted, was, at the time, not yet close to such a thing. Yitro actually made Moshe promise his first son would be dedicated to idol worship, and prevented him from getting a brit as long as he was by him. Under these circumstances it is clear why Moshe’s chief concern was himself or family members getting influenced by their surroundings. Moshe wanted to preempt this by instilling in them that this wasn’t their place. When one is just visiting somewhere he doesn’t adopt the customs of the place, he eventually has to go back home and be normal there.
By naming his first son Gershom, Moshe made it clear to himself and his family how important it was that this remain a focus of theirs.
May we all learn to avoid the terrible influences around us and merit to go to our eternal home once more.