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Thursday, Tevet 23, 5781 / January 7, 2021


In Parshat Shmot we read about the birth of Moshe (Moses) and how G-d chose him to be leader of the Jewish people and to go command Pharaoh to let the children of Israel out of Egypt (Mitzrayim). Moshe's parents, Amram and Yocheved, already had two children, Miriam and Aaron, before Moshe was born.


When Pharaoh ordered to throw every newborn boy into the river, Amram didn't want to have anymore children and divorced his wife. Other Jews followed his lead and also divorced their wives.


Miriam, who was five years old, said to her father, "Your decree is even harsher than Pharaoh's! His decree affects only boys. But by not having any children, you are preventing girls from living too.  Amram realized that his daughter was right and he remarried Yocheved.  As a result, Moshe was born.


When Yocheved gave birth to a boy, she was able to hide the baby for three months.  Then she had to find a way to save him. The Torah tells us that she placed the child in a basket and put it by the river. Miriam stood from afar to see what would happen to her little brother.


Pharaoh's daughter, Bitya, came to bathe in the river and saw the basket.  Although the basket was far from her, she stretched out her hand and G-d performed a miracle. Her arm "grew" so she could reach and retrieve the basket. When she opened the basket she found a baby crying.  She said, "It must be from the Hebrew babies." Bitya named him, Moshe ("pull out"), for "from the water I have pulled him..."


Q.   How old was Moshe’s mother, Yocheved, when she gave birth to Moshe?


A.   According to many Torah commentaries she was 130 years old. We know this because Yocheved was born as soon as Yaakov and his family came to Egypt, which was 210 years before the Exodus. Moshe was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus. Thus, she had to be 130 when she had Moshe.   


Q.  What is the meaning of Moshe’s sister’s name, Miriam?


A.  The name Miriam comes from two words "Mar" (bitter) and "Yam" (water). It alludes to the bitterness of the Jewish plight at the time of her birth, when Pharaoh decreed that every Jewish baby boy be drowned in the NileRiver.


Q.   Why did Pharaoh decree that every male child be drowned in the river?  What difference did it make to him how the boys were killed?


A.    Pharaoh’s stargazers told him that the future leader of the Jewish people will be punished through water.  Thus, Pharaoh decreed that every boy be drowned in the waters of the Nile River. 


However, their mistake was that Moshe’s punishment by water referred to when G-d told him to speak to the rock and he, instead, hit the rock to make it give water.  Moshe was then punished not to go into the Land of Israel.