We begin an entirely new book of the Bible this week. This is the story of the Jewish people’s enslavement in Egypt and their liberation. It is the beginnings of the nation of the People of Israel. We meet Moses who as an infant is adopted into Pharaoh’s home. The Pharaoh, so different from the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time, has enslaved the Hebrews and seems fearful of the foreign nationals in his midst.
And yet the kindness and gentleness of his own daughter saves a Hebrew baby set adrift in the Nile to escape the menace of the murdering Egyptian soldiers who were acting under orders of Pharaoh to kill all male Hebrew babies. The rabbis of the Midrash name Pharaoh’s daughter Batya – daughter of God. Moses’ sister Miriam set in motion the rescue of this baby Moses. She has a hand in helping Batya take in this child and even suggests his own birth mother, (her own mother) Yocheved as a wet nurse! Thus the infant Moses was nourished not only by the courage of his sister Miriam but by the milk of kindness of Batya and the milk of his own mother.
Batya must have known and must have put two and two together. She must have understood that this was a Hebrew baby. She must have understood the implications of rescuing a child that her father had ordered dead.
But her chesed, her lovingkindness, extended toward this Hebrew family in saving their infant boy and eventually raising him in Pharaoh’s court beneath the very eyes of Pharaoh is but one of the everyday miracles associated with the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt.
Our Torah teaches us “Love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. Batya intuitively understands this principle. Her act of defiance by raising a Hebrew slave boy as her own under the nose of Pharaoh himself creates a tikkun, a repair in the fabric of the universe. Her kindness and courage runs counter to Pharaoh’s cruelty and fear of the “other”.
In saving just one life-that of the baby Moses, Batya literally saves a world! She saved the Israelites from certain destruction because Moses grows and is able to receive the call from God at the burning bush. Did God direct the hand of Batya as well?
Moses would eventually be able to bridge worlds: the world of the Egyptian royal house and the world of the Hebrew slave and the world of the desert nomads when he married into the household of Jethro the Midian High Priest. This helped him lead the Israelites toward the Promised Land and become a nation.
But without the help of courageous women, his sister Miriam, his own mother Yocheved and his adopted Egyptian mother Batya, Moses would have not survived. Celebrate the love and strength of a woman in your life this week in honor of these three courageous women in Moses’ life.