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Sharona Margolin Halickman
Sharona Margolin Halickman

Was Moshe a good baby?

In Shmot 1:22-2:3 we read:

Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every boy who is born must be thrown into the river; but every girl shall be allowed to live.” A man of the house of Levi went and married the daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was “ki tov”, exceptionally good, and she kept him hidden for three months. When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus box and coated it with clay and tar. She placed the child in it, and placed it in the reeds near the bank of the river.

According to Rashbam, the woman (Yocheved, Amram’s wife) conceived during the time period of Pharaoh’s decree that every male baby had to be thrown into the Nile to be drowned.

Rashbam explains that anyone who thinks that Yocheved only hid the baby because he was “tov,” good, is lying. Mothers display mercy for all their children. The words “She saw that he was exceptionally good” can be compared with the end of the story of creation in Breisheet 1:31, “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was “tov meod,” very good…” At the end of six days of creation, God surveyed all He had done to find out if any of it needed improving. He was pleased to find that all had turned out as He had wished it to be.” Here too, since Moshe was born three months early, Yocheved was able to hide him as the Egyptians had not expected her to give birth until the end of nine months. When Yocheved noted that in spite of being born so early Moshe was fully formed in every way, she saw that he was well enough to hide for three months until the end of the ninth month. If the inspectors would show up, she would tell them that the baby had been premature and didn’t make it or that the Egyptians had drowned him.

In Breisheet 1:10 (the creation story), we read “Vaya’ar Elokim ki tov,” And God saw that it (His creation) was good. Those words are interpreted by Ramban to mean that it was able to endure.

Here too, as soon as Yocheved saw that despite Moshe’s premature birth, he was able to endure, she did everything possible to save him.

Chizkuni adds another interpretation. The words “ki tov” hint that Moshe had been born already circumcised. The custom at a Brit Mila, circumcision ceremony, of reciting the verse “Hodu LaShem ki tov”, “Praise God for He is good”, reminds us that Moshe did not need to be circumcised.

Chizkuni gives us insight into the calendar dates of when she hid him for three months: The rabbis taught in the Talmud, Kidushin 38a that Moshe was born on the seventh day of the month of Adar. His mother hid him for twenty-three days of Adar as well as all of Nissan and Iyar, so that the last day of the three months was the sixth day of Sivan, when she put him in the basket in the Nile, the date on which in the future, the Torah would be given to lsrael.

So what was so exceptionally good about Moshe?

He was born in the sixth month and survived despite not having access to neonatal healthcare as we know it today.

He was born already circumcised which shows us the high spiritual level that he was on. It was also one less thing for his parents to worry about during those difficult times.

Moshe’s real due date was the sixth of Sivan,the date that he was placed in the Nile and saved, the day that ultimately B’nai Yisrael would receive the Torah (Shavuot).

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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