Samuel Huntington erred in suggesting that civilizations clash. Nations so divergent as to belong to different civilizations have very little in common, and very little to clash about. While the borders of Islam might be bloody, the borders of almost every other state are even more so. Even in the globalized twentieth century, the bloodiest wars were essentially internecine, among Europeans.

Jews, too, have had our share of internecine wars. The Maccabees are the most common example: a civil war between liberals and ultra-Orthodox Jews devastated the country but saved the nation. Lesser-known events took place on Sinai.

Moses’ descent is enigmatic. He came to the Jews from Midian, and his Hebrew was so poor that God gave him Aaron for an interpreter. The explanation that Moses had been torn from his Jewish family at birth flies in the face of other evidence: Moses’s mother abandoned him to save him from the pharaoh’s order to kill all babies, but Aaron raised young children. Midrash tells of the cruelties the Egyptians inflicted on Jewish babies—who therefore were obviously not killed. The Torah itself reveals that the babies were not killed: Pharaoh allegedly told Jewish midwives to murder them, rather than enforcing his order through the usual means. Clearly, the midwives could not possibly have killed any babies on Pharaoh’s secret order, for they would have been lynched. Recognizing this impossibility, the Torah corrects itself: after the midwives ducked the order, Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians to kill all newborn males. Here, however, the Torah offers us a precious hint: always precise and painstakingly accurate, here it speaks about newborns without qualifying them as Jewish, as if to suggest that the account is not to be taken literally. Obviously, Pharaoh did not tell the Egyptians to murder their own babies.

Moses’s children achieved no prominence after his death, an exceedingly unusual thing for an ancient leader. He did not appoint them to major priestly positions, as he did Aaron’s children.