The life of Moses is saved and shaped by women. According to the Midrash, his mother Yocheved insists that he be conceived, and then she hides him by the river. Pharaoh’s daughter finds and rescues him. Later, his wife Zipporah saves his life by circumcising their son. And upon leaving Egypt, it is Serah Bat Asher who enables Moses to fulfill the promise of taking Joseph’s coffin to Israel.
When later the daughters of Zelofchad approach Moses with a question, he takes them seriously, for he has learned the power of women to alter the path of events. And we see Moses’ appreciation of the combined power and responsibility of a woman’s role when he asks God in despair:
“Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?” [Numbers 11:12].
The self-made man, wrote Twain, is as likely as the self-laid egg. The inattentive reader of the Torah might assume that it is God alone who guides Moses. But if you read carefully you see that he is also molded by the influence of the women in his life, who save him and enable him to lead Israel.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).