Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

My Photo
Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pashat Shemot

The Abandonment of Moshe

Pharaoh had issued an evil decree: "Every son who is born you shall cast into the Nile, and every daughter you shall allow to live" (Shemot 1:22). Moshe was born at the time of this decree. Yocheved succeeded in hiding him for three months (ibid 2:30), however she eventually realized that she had no choice but to obey Pharaoh's decree.

It is interesting to note that by putting Moshe into the Nile in an ark, she actually fulfilled Pharaoh's decree, though not in the way Pharaoh had intended. By doing so, she gave her son a chance to survive. But what kind of chance was it really?

The Nile was a crocodile infested river that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Furthermore, for a three month old baby would not be able to survive the Egyptian heat without being fed.

It seems that for all intensive purposes, it appears that Moshe's parents accepted their son's fate. They tried to delay things as much as possible, by hiding him for three months and creatively obeying Pharaoh's decree, but nevertheless, if not for the stroke of luck that Pharaoh's daughter found him, they must have assumed that they would never see him again; or did they?

If we examine the text carefully, we will notice that it was not mere luck, that Moshe was not attacked by crocodiles, that did not sail off into the Mediterranean or that he was found by Pharaoh's daughter.

First of all, note that Yocheved put the ark "into the reeds at the river's edge" (ibid 2:3). This means that the Ark could not float off as it was stuck in the reeds. Also notice how Miriam "stood from afar" (ibid 4). She did not move. There was no need for her to as the ark was not moving. Indeed, should the ark have been freed, Miriam would have been on hand to secure it again.

Moreover, the fact that Pharaoh's daughter was bathing there means that Moshe was not placed into the Nile. The Nile would have been unsafe for Pharaoh's daughter. Therefore, they must have put him into one of the Niles many safe tributaries that leads to the Nile.

Is it possible that Yocheved carefully selected the spot she put Moshe? Is it possible she looked for the spot where the childless Egyptian princess bathed?

Is it also possible that when Miriam waited "to know what would be happen to him” (ibid) she was actually waiting to see if their plan of action would succeed? Is it also possible that Miriam's suggestion to Pharaoh's daughter that Yocheved act as a wet nurse for the child, was pre-planned?

We will never know the answer to all these questions, but it is clear that the spot Yocheved chose to put Moshe was carefully selected and that Miriam was waiting on hand to ensure that no harm befell Moshe and that she was also ready to supply Pharaoh with an intelligent plan of action.

All the above, suggests careful planning, that Moshe was not abandoned to his doom by his family and that his family were very meticulous in securing his future. It also shows that while God does work in mysterious ways, humans need to be on hand to do their share of the work.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat VaYechi, entitled: "The Ark and the Princess" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Shemot, entitled: "Moshe - Assimilated Jew" appears at

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home