1999The Children of Israel, fat and happy in Goshen, get a wake-up call. A new Pharaoh arises who did not know Joseph and as a result the ever-multiplying Children of Israel get to taste the bitterness of exile. They are enslaved and the midwives are instructed to cast every male child into the Nile.
Moshe Rabbenu: A Very Bright Boy
The midwives make heroic excuses for why they have been incapable of executing the orders of Pharaoh. Pharaoh then commands all Egyptians to cast all Hebrew male children into the Nile. It would now seem to be virtually impossible to keep Hebrew male children alive, yet one child miraculously survives. The scene is now set for the birth and survival of Moshe.
"Now a man from the house of Levi went and took (to wife) a daughter of Levi. The woman (Yocheved) became pregnant and bore a son. When she saw him, that he was goodly (tov), she hid him for three months."
Your Torah Navigator
1. What does goodly "tov" mean in this context?
2. If she hadn't seen him as goodly, would Yocheved have treated her baby differently?
The early rabbinic commentary, Midrash Rabba, notes that the first time "good" or "goodly" is used is when God created light. "And God saw the light that it was 'good.'" (Genesis 1:4) Reading the verse very literally, the midrash understands that the words "light" and "good" are synonyms and thus makes the following comment:
Midrash Shmot Rabba 1:20
...The Rabbis taught: "When Moses was born, the whole household was filled with light, as it is written: When she saw him, that he was goodly, she hid him for three months." And it is written in the creation story: "And God saw the light and it was goodly." (Genesis 1:4)
Your Midrash Navigator
1. Why, according to the Midrash, did Yocheved decide that Moshe may have had a chance?
2. What did the phrase "household filled with light" symbolize?
According to this understanding, baby Moshe was unique. Yocheved instinctively and intuitively recognized that he would "enlighten" the whole of Israel. She also knew that without her efforts, Moshe would not survive. The light was a sign and it was up to her to make sure that Moshe would live to complete his assignment. It is a mother's love and belief in the destiny of her son that sets the stage for the redemption of Israel. Without the efforts of Yocheved, we would have missed this opportunity for redemption.