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Moshe's Parents

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Rabbi Ozer Alport

Why is no mention made of the names of the names of Moshe's parents, who obviously had great merits and holiness and yet are generically referred to (Exodus 2:1) as "a man and woman from the tribe of Levi?"

The commentator Kehillas Yitzchok explains that although Moshe was the leader and redeemer of the Jewish people, who ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah and performed unprecedented miracles, the Torah wants to prevent the false ideas which would be promulgated by other religions in the future by stressing that the man who saved the Jewish people, was just that, a man. He was a human who was born to regular human parents, as opposed to those who would believe that holy men must be descended directly from God.

Alternatively, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Darash Moshe) explains that the Torah doesn't give Moshe's parents any praise for merely bringing such a special child into the world. Only in next week's parsha, when Moshe had grown up and matured to a level where God selected him to be the redeemer of the Jewish people and receiver of the Torah, did the Torah mention (Exodus 6:20) the names of his parents to extol them for taking his tremendous raw potential and raising him in a manner which allowed it to be translated into action.

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Exodus 1:7 uses six words of "increase," to which Rashi comments that the Jewish women in Egypt gave birth to six babies at a time.

The Oznayim L'Torah recounts that a Jew once approached Rabbi Eliezer Gordon, the Rav and Rosh Yeshiva of Telz in Europe. He argued that he although he believed whatever is explicitly written in the Torah, how could he, a modern and sophisticated intellectual, be expected to believe in apparently exaggerated Midrashim, such as Rashi's comment that the Jewish women in Egypt miraculously gave birth to six children at a time?

Without batting an eyelash, Rabbi Gordon answered him with a beautiful mathematical proof of the Midrash's claim. In Parshas Bamidbar, the Torah records the results of the census conducted approximately one year after the Exodus from Egypt. The total number of first-born males was 22,273 (Numbers 3:43), and assuming that there were an equal number of first-born females, there were a total of 44,546 families.

The total number of men between the ages of 20 and 60 was 603,550 (Numbers 1:46), and doubling this number to account for the men under 20 and over 60 yields a total of 1,207,100 men. Assuming that there were an equal number of men and women results in a total of 2,414,200 Jewish people. Dividing 2,414,200 by 44,546 yields an average family size of approximately 54.

It takes a woman almost one year to conceive and give birth to a child. In those times, it took a woman two years after giving birth until she was able to conceive again (Talmud - Niddah 9a), meaning that each child required roughly three years. A woman normally has 27-30 child-bearing years during her life. If each child takes three years, she will be able to give birth a maximum of 9-10 times during her lifetime. Dividing the 54 children the average woman had by the roughly nine times she gave birth yields a result of exactly six children per delivery, a proof which left the questioning Jew stunned and speechless.

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When was Moshe placed into the river (2:3), and what was the significance of this date?

The Rosh and Rabbeinu Bechaye note that Moshe was born on 7 Adar (Talmud - Sotah 12b). Because he was born in the beginning of the seventh month of pregnancy, his mother Yocheved was able to conceal him for three months before the Egyptians expected her to give birth and came to inquire about the fetus. At that time, she placed him in a basket near the banks of the river.

A quick mathematical calculation reveals that the day she did so - three months after his birth - was 6 Sivan, the day that we know as the holiday of Shavuos, on which Moshe and the Jewish people would later receive the Torah at Mount Sinai.

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Why did Moshe's wife Tzipporah use a stone to circumcise her son instead of a metal instrument, as we are accustomed to use today?

The Perisha (Yoreh Deah 264:7) writes that until the times of King David, it was customary to circumcise children with rocks, as Tzipporah did. The reason we use metal today is based on a fascinating Midrash, which relates that when David slew Goliath, the rock that he slung wanted to penetrate Goliath's metal armor but knew that it was impossible based on the laws of nature. The angel of rocks began negotiating in Heaven with the angel of metal and offered him the right to be used for circumcisions from that point on if he would allow David's rocks to miraculously penetrate Goliath's metal armor. The angel of metal agreed, and as a result, Goliath was killed and today we circumcise with metal instead of rocks.

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