This week we are reading the first parshah of the second book of the Torah. Shmot is probably the best-known book of the Torah. Even those who have never read a page of it have either seen the movie The Ten Commandements or the animated film The Prince of Egypt. Obviously neither film truly reflects what Shmot is about but they have contributed to making it known worldwide.
In this week’s portion baby Moshe is found by Pharaoh’s daughter after his mother, Yochved, had made an ark of bulrushes, daubed it with slime and pitch, put the boy inside, and laid it in the river hoping to save his life.
The Egyptian young woman adopted the little boy as her son and named him him Moshe because – the Torah tells us – “she drew him out of the water”. The Midrash explains that Moshe had been given numerous names. Thus he was called Jekuthiel (by his mother), Heber (by his father), Jered (by Miriam his sister), Avi Zanoah (by Aaron his brother), Kehath, Avi Soco (his wet-nurse), Shemaiah ben Nethanel (by people of Israel).
However only one name has really remained, the name that Pharaoh’s daughter had chosen. Why the name given by a stranger and not from someone within his own family?
Rabbi Twerski suggests that Moshe kept this name as a tribute to the young woman who had taken risks to save a Hebrew boy. He concludes that this apparently small detail teaches us that we should be grateful to those who have helped us. I would tend to think that we need to be even more thankful and appreciative when the person who helps us is someone, like Pharaoh’s daughter, whose positve action was unexpected even unlikely.
In her weekly parshah post, Leora reflects on the transition from Bereshit to Shmot.