What’s in a Name-Giver?

Question

Hi Rabbi, who gave Moshe his name? I heard it was the daughter of Pharaoh, who found him in the Nile River. If so, why didn’t his parents give him his name? Thanks.

1 week

Answers

  1. I was once taught by a Rabbi that sometimes the answer to a question is contained in the question itself. He saw my befuddled look and asked me what troubled me. “That statement doesn’t seem to make sense. A question is a question and an answer is an answer. If the question was the answer then there wouldn’t be a question!” The Rabbi warmly smiled and then gave a few examples of what he meant. I said, “Aha! That’s why you’re the Rabbi and I am the student…”

    Here also, we are taught that his parents did in fact give him a name, but that the name given by Pharaoh’s daughter was his foremost name in the sense that it teaches us his essence as the leader who helped us become free from being slaves in Egypt and receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. Allow me to explain.

    We are taught that Moshe actually had 10 names. His father called him Chever, his mother called him Yekutiel, his sister Miriam called him Yered, etc.

    Yet, the name given by Pharaoh’s daughter was the one chosen by God. The Torah never refers to him by any name other than Moshe. Why is this so?

    Pharaoh’s daughter saved Moshe’s life and adopted him and cared for him as her very own son. Therefore, she merited that “her name” prevailed. And Moshe most likely called himself by the name given to him by Pharaoh’s daughter out of gratitude to her.

    The name “Moshe” translates in English as “Pulled out of the water.” This is the literal reason for his being given the name Moshe. But on a deeper level, he was named Moshe and the Torah calls him Moshe to describe his mission in life as perhaps the most important Jewish leader in history. It conveys the message that just as he was rescued and drawn from the water, so too would he rescue others from hardship — and that is exactly what he did! He was not only a great historical figure, but in this sense he was a uniquely important role model as well.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team