Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on January 8, 2021

The origins of our greatest hero is shrouded in mystery. An anonymous Jewish man meets an anonymous Jewish women from the house of Levi and they have a child who is described by the general adjective as ‘good’. The Talmud wonders what this multi- purpose adjective alludes to and settles on five different possibilities. Interestingly, the first two possibilities are that this was Moshe’s actual name- Tov or the other opinion, Tuvia. But why were these names hidden in the Torah and never spelled out? Why is it that it is Batya, the daughter of Pharoh who saves Moshe, the one who gets to name arguably the most important Jewish person of all time? Further, what does the name mean and is it Egyptian?


The first question is addressed by the midrash. It answers beautifully that Batya won the naming rights for Moshe because of her heroic act to save a Jewish baby that likely endangered her own life. The Torah’s foundation is act of loving kindness and because she acted in such a way, it is the name that she gave Moshe that became the name he is known as even over his own parents. But why was that name a perfect fit to be the name of the redeemer of the Jewish people?


The Torah says that the name means that he was drawn from the water. The strange part, though, is that the conjugation of the name means that he will draw others up from the water. In other words, because he was saved from the death, he would then be a person that would save others from death. Often, it is the dramas in a person’s life that become their life mission, and this was the case for Moshe. More than that, there is an emphasis that Moses was drawn up specifically from the waters (as opposed to the river) in the sense that he was separated from the water. A commentary points out that it implies that his

essence was different than the water. Water is a substance that takes the shape of its surroundings because it is formless on its own. In contrast, Moses, the ultimate leader is one who leads with purpose and vision- he has a shape of where he wants to go that is not determined by its surroundings. This is the prophetic name that Pharoh’s daughter gives to the baby and it is a Divine sign that he is in fact the perfect person to lead Israel out of Egypt.