Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Shemois 2015: Who Named Moishe?

hello_my_name_is_moshe_small_mugRaboyseyee and Ladies

Who named Moishe?

Shoin, last week we closed the book on Sefer Bereishis; we will certainly miss the many exploits of the Yakkov Oveenu mishpocho, especially those of Reuvain, Shimon, Levi, Yehudah and even Dina.  Not to worry, we will certainly revisit with them again next year. Of course you should feel free to pick up a chumish and learn at any time; it won’t kill you. Mistama you recall that parshas Bereishis featured the nochosh (snake), the very one that got Odom, Chava and himself into some trouble. Back then, the snake desired forbidden fruit of every variety, if you chap. Guess what? He’s back! In fact, the snake will make several appearances this week and next. This one had a bigger appetite, he had his eyes on Moishe; he will wreak havoc on Moishe and his eishes chayil, Tzipoira. Though this episode appears much later in the parsha, and though we previously covered this topic, it’s back by popular demand ober ershtens (firstly)………..

We met many good people in Sefer Bereishis; we got to know our Ovois (forefathers) and colorful characters including Loit and his fabulous daughters. Interestingly, even superstars like Avrohom and Yitzchok were only featured in but 3 parshas each.  Yaakov and Yoisef stole the show with 4 parshas each. Yaakov also stole the birthright and the blessings that came along. And why is this information being shared? Because Moishe, who will be born this week and who went on to become the savior of the Yiddin, will, going forward, be mentioned by name in every single parsha but one. Which one? We’ll cover that as we get closer.

Shoin, two weeks back (parshas Vayigash) the Mitzrim were starving, Yoisef had control of the food granaries and under his tutelage, king Paroy became very wealthy. So hungry were the Mitzrim, they suggested and volunteered to become Paroy’s slaves.  They did? Mistama you missed that possik but at a chumish class the Oisvorfer attended this past shabbis, the rabbi taka made mention of this factoid; let’s learn it. Says the heylige Toirah (Bireishis 47:19) azoy: “Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our farmland? Buy us and our farmland for food, so that we and our farmland will be slaves to Pharaoh, and give [us] seed, so that we live and not die, and the soil will not lie fallow.”

Seemingly, while the Yiddin were enjoying suburban life over in Goishen, where they mistama shopped at  the local  Glatt Emporium and had plenty to eat, the Mitzrim, having sold all their possessions and land, also sold themselves to Paroy. Yoisef’s economic measures made for a very happy king. Ober this week and many years later (exactly how many, ver veyst, but it’s zicher many), it’s quite farkert (opposite).  And as we open the book on Exodus and Parshas Shmois, the Yiddin are the slaves to the Mitzrim. How that came about and when that all happened is not clear but it appears that it’s at least 200 years later. Let’s learn some parsha.

Ober before we do, if you enjoy a good medrish now and then, you will be in medrish heaven mamish this week as they struggle to fill in the big lacunas in the text.  This week we have several to explore. Just 2 weeks ago, Yoisef reunited with his brothers and then his father. Last week but 17 years later, Yaakov was on his deathbed and giving last minute instructions to his great boys, some even got real blessings. And by the end of Vayichi, Yoisef was suddenly 110 years old; he had been ruling Mitzrayim as Viceroy for approximately 80 years.  What happened during that time period?  Moreover, as we begin Sefer Shmois, the Yiddin have already been enslaved kimat 210 years. It’s been so long, the RBSO suddenly heard their cries for help and remembered or recalled His promise to our Zeyda Avrohom to redeem them.  Why were they enslaved in the first place? We don’t know! And why don’t we know? Because the Toirah didn’t tell us. All we know is that the RBSO told Avrohom that his children would one day be strangers (read: slaves) in a nation that does not belong to them.  Guess what? He didn’t forget! The bad news: Seemingly the RBSO has a long memory and avada that cannot be good news for most of you giferliche oisvorfs who think otherwise. Luckily He also promised to redeem them and in this week’s parsha He sets the process in motion. That process will begin with the birth of Moishe who was born to a Jewish mother, raised by a shiksa princess and was married to a tinkele (very dark) shiksa Midianite meydel whom he encountered over at a well while on the run for an act of murder. One medrish will tell us that he was previously married to another shiksa, ver veyst. His qualifications to lead the Yiddin sound impeccable.

Was Moishe’s shiksa wife related to his adoptive shiksa mother? Who would have thought so until we read this eye-opening medrish and shtikel Kaboloh. And once we do, you’ll quickly chap why it’s not recommended that people under 40 study it. Why? Because, it blows the mind! Citing the Zoihar Hakoidesh, the midrash tells us and halt kup here (pay attention) as what you are about to read is definitely not found in the heylige Toirah text. Not even Rashi will discuss it. Ober the medrish ventured into new territory and tells us this givaldige chiddish (breakthrough). Basya or Bisya, whatever your preference, Paroy’s daughter and Tzippoirah, Moishe’s wife, had something else in common besides a relationship with Moishe. And what was it? Tzippoirah and Basya were twin sisters. They were what? Says the medrish: they were taka twin sisters, and  separated only when they were separately sold in the market place shortly after birth. In other words: two different men purchased them. And it so happens that these two men were Yisroy and Paroy.  And more: They had somewhat similar upbringings: Both were raised in homes of royalty (one in an Egyptian palace and the other in the home of the High Priest); both were of course steeped in homes and lands of Avoida zoroh (idolatry). And each, in their own way, played a significant role in shaping and molding the man named Moishe who would end up leading a slave nation to freedom, and to nationhood as the RBSO’s chosen people. Shoin!  Moreover, their pagan backgrounds, devoid of any “yichus” of an Avrahom, Yitzchok or Yankif, served them in their later roles in life. Having “been there, and done that”, their strength of conviction and commitment to the RBSO’s laws and the Jewish people did defy any human power on earth and did outshine their peers, even those born into the covenant. Well, blow me down. Shoin, so much for yichus (pedigree) as a priority. Is it time to look for shidduchim in the Far East? And as we’ve suggested in the past: it’s one thing to mess with the Zohan but one should never argue with the Zohar!
The bottom line: the RBSO works in mysterious ways but always has a plan. Typically we are not privy to the details. Grada (so happens) the Ibn Ezra  chapped that concept and said as follows. “The thoughts of the RBSO are deep; who can perceive His secret? To Him alone the plot is clear. Perhaps the RBSO caused it to come about that Moishe would grow up in the royal palace, that his soul might be habituated to be on the highest level, not lowly and accustomed to being in a house of slaves…..”

We will of course meet Moishe at birth and twice more when he grew up. Exactly what his age was when he grew up, killed the Mitzri and skedaddled out of town, is of course the subject of a machloikes (argument). In any event, by the time we meet him again later in the parsha, he is a more mature 80. Shoin, another 50 or 60 years have gone by and we know nothing about him during that time period. What does the heylige Toirah tell us about Moishe’s life once he skipped out of Mitzrayim as a wanted man or teen? Nothing! And what taka happened during all the missing years? We don’t know because the Toirah does not tell us.  Let’s learn the text.  Says the heylige Toirah (Shemois 2:21-3:1) azoy: And Moishe agreed to dwell with the man, and he gave Tzippoirah, his daughter, to Moishe. And she bore a son and he called him Gershom, for he said: ‘I have been a stranger in a strange land.’ And it came to pass during those many days that the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel sighed from the labor and they cried… And Moishe shepherded the flock of Yisroy his father-in-law, priest of Midyan, and he led the flock far into the desert…” Shoin, several decades at least are squeezed into these three verses. One thing is zicher: his life changed forever when he encountered the burning bush. Wouldn’t yours,  if you chap?


And because we don’t know, the medrish, as they do so well, came up with myriad theories -one could even be emes maybe, ver veyst- as to where he was.  Was he in the yeshiva of Shaim and Ever? Isn’t that where every Toirah personality goes, according to the medrish, when we cannot account for some time period? Indeed it is!  Maybe he was over at one of the Israeli yeshivas that seem to house kids for a year or years, ver veyst?

And before we look at a few other stimulating medroshim, let’s take note that Moishe was not the first Toirah personality who had gaping holes in his resume. Let’s avada recall that when we first met Avrom (before he became Avrohom Oveenu), he was far from a spring chicken. The Toirah told us kimat nothing about his childhood, teen years, or even his adult life: nothing mamish. Ober not to worry, the medrish of course saw these holes and filled them in so nicely. And from year to year, we discuss each medrish over and again trying to make sense of his qualifications to be one of our Ovois.  We do know that the RBSO selected him and not you! The medrish will tell us that he was mamish a monotheist, a believer in the RBSO’s way and maybe also a preacher and teacher. The bottom line:  the medrish knows exactly what happened to him, to Moishe and to others. How they knew, ver veyst? Did they just imagine these things, ver veyst?

Shoin, we have lots to cover and lommer unfangin (let’s begin), but not before giving a well-deserved shout-out to the many heroines who appear in parshas Shmois. They include Shifra, Pua, Miriam, Yoicheved and let’s not forget Bisya or Basya as the medrish refers to her. Some say that Miriam and Yoicheved were Shifra and Pua. Others suggest they were but two good Samaritan Egyptians. Whoever they were, they were good people!  These great women were instrumental and played pivotal roles in the redemption of the Yiddin: they deserve more than a passing hello and taka we should and will give them their due one week. Ober for today, let’s start with Bisya, Paroy’s shiksa daughter and taka begin the review by asking who named baby Moishe?

blog moses found

And guess what? Among the many questions that our rabbis, the heylige Gemora and the medrish cover this week, the origin of Moishe’s name gets a lot of attention. Says the heylige Toirah (2:10) azoy: Bisya, Paroy’s daughter, discovered Moishe floating in the river, scooped him out, adopted him, and named him Moishe because “min ha-mayim meshisihu” – “I drew him from the water”. Veyst zich ois (seemingly), the name “Moishe” evolved from the Hebrew word “meshisihu (“I drew him”), or, more precisely, is a variation of the Hebrew word “mashui” – “drawn.” And now the fun begins with these questions:

One medrish (Vayikra) tells us that Moishe had ten names and if so, we ask azoy: why is it that only the name given by Basya, the shiksa princess, stuck? Moreover, how was it that Paroy’s daughter was familiar with or spoke some Hebrew? And even if she liked the name, why would an Egyptian princess comment in Hebrew about the child she discovered? And why would she give her adopted son a Hebrew name that would be out of place in his royal Egyptian environment? And we can also ask azoy: what name did his mother Yoicheved give him at birth? Wasn’t he at least a few months old when she placed him into the basket and didn’t he already have a Hebrew name? Was he nameless? Wouldn’t Yoicheved have named him at his bris? And lu yitzur (let’s say) she didn’t, or that he never had a bris, we still have to assume that Moishe must certainly have had a name by which he was known to his biological parents during the two or three years that he spent in their home until he was weaned and handed back to Paroy’s daughter. But the text does not reveal it to us; instead, it records only the name given to him by Paroy’s daughter, seemingly confirming and approving the legality of her status of motherhood. Who gave Bisya the right to name him and why did the RBSO also call him only but that name? This name doesn’t describe Moishe the person. Farkert: It describes that which Basya did for him. Shoin, so many excellent kashas (questions); let’s see how some addressed them.

Says the Chizkuni: Paroy’s daughter mamish spoke Hebrew. Maybe she took the first ever Ulpan class, ver veyst? As support for this theory, he references a medrish which tells us that Princess Bisya was a baalas tshuva, had embraced the Israelite faith, and as part of her journey into Judaism, had begun speaking Hebrew. Of course she did! And if this is pshat, it’s poshit (plainly understood) why she named him Moishe was able to explain in perfect Hebrew the rationale for his name.

Ober when he came to his senses, Chizkuni offered another pshat and said he azoy: Bisya did not name Moishe! And if she didn’t who did? It was Moishe’s birth mother Yoicheved, and not Bisya who gave the name. Ober how could that be? Doesn’t the heylige Toirah tell us otherwise?  Shoin, in order to chap this theory, one admittedly a shtikel shocking to read and chap, we must taka re-read the story one more time. The posik wherein he is named immediately follows the verse which tells that Bisya hired Moishe’s biological mother – Yoicheved – to nurse the infant. The Toirah then tells us “The child grew up, and she (Yoicheved) brought him to Paroy’s daughter. She named him ‘Moishe,’ and she said, ‘for I have drawn him from the water.”  The phrase, “she named him ‘Moishe’” is then followed by a new subject and predicate – “and she said, ‘for I have drawn him from the water’.” Says the Chizkuni so gishmak azoy: these two phrases refer to the comments of two different women.  Yoicheved named the boy “Moishe,” whereupon Bisya inquired as to the meaning of this term. Yoicheved then explained that Moishe relates to the Hebrew word for “draw,” and the princess noted the appropriateness of this name – for “I drew him from the water.” In other words: Bisya was not a baalas tshuva, she did seemingly speak some Hebrew but likely did not immerse herself in Ulpan. She did immerse herself in the waster where she found Moishe floating in a basket. His real mother–Yoicheved- gave him his Hebrew name, she liked it and thought it was appropriate. Is that gishmak mamish or what?


Ober says the Ibn Ezra: “Moishe” may not have been the name given by Paroy’s daughter. Moishe’s name in Egyptian was “Moniyus,” which likely derived from the princess’ remarks made in Egyptian about drawing the infant from the water. The name “Moishe” would thus be simply the Hebrew translation of Moishe’s Egyptian name. Ibn Ezra then speculates as does the Chizkuni (above) that the princess either knew Hebrew or inquired into the Hebrew word for “drawing” in choosing a name for her Israelite-born adopted son. Shoin!


And citing Philo and Josephus, said the Malbim that the name was the combination of two ancient Egyptian words that mean “water” and “pull.”  The name “Moishe” reflects “drawing from water” in both Egyptian and Hebrew – which, Malbim asserts, is not at all coincidental.  The RBSO specifically wanted the redeemer of the Yiddin to be raised as a prince, to develop the confidence and leadership skills the mission would require.  At the same time, of course, it was imperative that this leader genuinely identified with the nation, its struggles and its destiny.  The RBSO therefore saw to it that he would be raised as an Egyptian prince in Paroy’s palace, but would also bear a name that would serve as a constant reminder of his Israelite origins. Thus, the RBSO arranged that Bisya, would choose a name that meant the same in Egyptian and Hebrew.  She taka named him “Moishe” as an Egyptian name, but, as it turned out, this name also served as his Hebrew name, thus ensuring that Moishe would retain his identity as an Israelite, even while being raised as a prince in the king’s  palace. Veyter.

On the other hand, the heylige Toirah does provide examples where the biological mother does not have the right to name her own baby and zicher you recall that Rochel and Leah choose the names of the children of their maidservants. It’s taka emes that each gave their husband Yaakov their maidservant so that Yaakov could impregnate them ober  this act alone did not give them the  right to name the children. Shoin!

What was it that made Paroy’s daughter – both in her own eyes and in the eyes of the narrative – the mother of the child, entitling her to give him his name? Seemingly she saw herself as the mother, the one that saved his life and therefore had to right to name or rename him: the RBSO agreed proving that this act of chesed was deserving of her having the right to so name him. The name stuck. And taka said  the Netziv (Ha’amek Davar, Shemois 2:10) “‘And he became a son unto her’ – Since she saved him from death and also raised him, it was considered as though she had given birth to him, as she says: ‘And she called his name Moishe.’ Thus she explains the reason why the child is hers: ‘for I drew him out of the water’ – for it is as if he drowned in the river, and so his father and mother have no portion in him, and I am the mother of the child. This is truly called acquiring a person. Veyter.

In a scene that unfolded thousands of years before the creators of Mission Impossible wrote the first scene, Moishe will be appointed messenger to bring the Yiddin out of Egypt. He will protest that he is unworthy but will be assured of Divine assistance. Says the medrish: the entire conversation lasted seven days. Once he accepted the mission, Moishe asked Yisroy for permission to leave Midian. Why he needed such permission, will be addressed below.  But something went awry and Moishe was almost killed. Rashi, quoting the heylige Gemora (Nedarim 31B) will fill in the blanks. Along the way, two angels in the form of snakes appeared and engulfed every part of Moishe’s body except his makoim milah (penis). They did what? We will be taught that the snakes mamish swallowed him from head to toe except for his mila. Shoin, many Jewish husbands can relate, if you chap.  What really happened? Seemingly, one snake swallowed him from his head to his mila and the other from his toes to his mila. His eishes chayil (wife) Tzipoirah somehow realized that the crisis was mila related. How? Quite poshit (simple): when she noticed that all that was left of her husband was his mila, she deduced that this was the problem area; it usually is! No kidding! What to do? She, in the first ever Jewish bris performed by a woman, chapped a sharp stone and circumcised her son, threw the foreskin at the snakes and immediately thereafter, the snakes released Moishe unharmed. Mamish? The Gemora says all that? And more! The Gemora will tell us that on his way from Midyan to Mitzrayim to fulfill his mission, of delivering the RBSO’s message to Paroy, the Moishe family stopped off at an inn. And while there, we are told (Shemois 4:24)  “the RBSO encountered him and wished to kill him”. Wished to kill him but why? And before we address that, let’s point out that the Gemora, in another version will tells us that it’s not clear if Moishe or one of his sons was swallowed up by the snake. What happened to the snakes? They went on to become rebbes in the yeshiva world where they perfected their swallowing skills, if you chap- which they did.

Shoin, I teased you by telling you that Moishe needed permission to leave Midyan with his pregnant wife and son. What taka happened? Way was Moishe so beholden to Yisroy? Nu, let’s review the background of their relationship. The Toirah advances 40 years into the future as we are introduced to Tzipoirah, daughter of the Chief of Midyan whom Moishe meets at the well (seemingly still a decent place to meet one’s bashert) and who is given to Moishe as a wife. There he married Tzipoirah, the daughter of Yisroy, and had two children Gershoim and  Eliezer. They all lived happily ever after. But is that what really happened?

Not according to the Targum Yoinoson ben Uzeil, he with the most amazing of all imaginations, who said azoy: When Yisroy found out that Moishe was a fugitive from justice in Mitzrayim, he threw Moishe into a pit where Moishe languished for 10 years. During that time, one of Yisroy’s own daughters took a shine to Moishe (we assume Tzipoirah), took care of Moishe’s needs, if you chap,  and eventually became his eishes chayil. Well, blow me down! What those needs are, the Targum doesn’t mention, but we imagine that food was also included. We can assume that Yisroy made Moishe agree never to leave Midyan without his consent. And our sages taka understood that Moishe, either as a condition of getting Tzipoiirah to continue servicing him as his wife or maybe to stay alive, made a commitment to Yisroy. Rashi will further illuminate and tell us that the commitment was taka limited to Moishe promising to stay, live, and work with him. Ober says another medrish (Mechilta de-Rabi Yishmael) azoy: Moishe agreed to let Yisroy have his oldest son for idol worship, and that the rest (of his kids with Tzipoirah) would belong to them.  In other words: Moishe agreed to abandon one of his children to be raised by idol worshippers. Another medrish will tell us that the RBSO was not very pleased with this decision and it was for that reason that the RBSO sent snakes to attack him while in route. Would Moishe have agreed to this arrangement? Another medrish, in trying to chap why Tzipoirah chapped a sharp stone and performed a bris, will tell us that the RBSO was upset over them not having performed the baby’s bris on time. What really happened? We don’t know. Would the RBSO mamish want to kill His messenger? Ver veyst.

And we need to chap why the RBSO got so angry with him over what appears to be such a minor offense. Why then was the RBSO so upset? Why would the RBSO, having just appointed Moishe to lead the Yiddin out of Mitzrayim , then send a malach in the form a of a snake that threatened to kill him, ver veyst?  It appears the Moishe got punished for what appears to be very minor infractions. And that’s taka how the RBSO deals with the very righteous people; thankfully, oisvorfs like most of us, can relax.

A gittin shabbis-

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer Ruv

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