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She called his name Moshe, as she said “For I drew him form the water” (Shemos 2:10).
In this week’s parsha Moshe is born. The Midrash lists various names of Moshe which allude to his great spiritual qualities. It is noteworthy that the exclusive name the Torah uses in reference to him is Moshe. The name Moshe was given to him by the daughter of Pharaoh in commemoration of her drawing him out of the Nile. The commentators are puzzled as to why the Torah specifically chose to refer to Moshe by this seemingly mundane name instead of one of his other names with allude to his spiritual qualities.
We are aware that Moshe was selected by Hashem to serve as His agent in redeeming the Jewish people. It is noteworthy that Moshe was not the first man to act as a great savior. Noach similarly served as Hashem’s agent to save life on earth at the time of the great flood.
If we contrast the method of salvation of Moshe with that of Noach perhaps we may have more of an appreciation of the name Moshe.
Both Moshe and Noach lived in difficult times when decrees of annihilation were issued. In the time of Noach, Hashem decreed that all life on earth would cease to exist due to the sins of the generation. Likewise, at the time of Moshe’s birth, Pharaoh decreed that all male children be cast to the Nile. Chazal comment that this decree applied to non-Jews as well. The Egyptian astrologers could not determine if the savior of the Jews was to come from the Jews or the non-Jews and therefore out of doubt decreed that all male children be cast into the Nile.
Furthermore, we may note that both Noach and Moshe were saved by being placed in a tayvah. However there is a difference with regard to the exact nature of their survival. With regard to Noah the posuk says that after the great flood passed the tayvah “rested” on Mount Ararat (Bereishis 8:4). This posuk teaches that Noach survived the flood. The danger passed and he survived. Moshe on the other hand was removed by the daughter of Pharaoh from the dangerous water. The danger remained but Moshe was removed.
Moshe and Noach represent two different types of salvation. When one is faced with a problem there are two methods with which one may deal with it. One way is to simply “wait out the storm.” The second method is to actively deal with problem and overcome it. Noach followed the former type of salvation. He made it known that the world would be destroyed and gave all an opportunity to repent. He did nothing more. The people failed to repent and the flood came. Noach survived in the tayvah. The flood came and went and the tayvah eventually “rested” on Mount Ararat.
Moshe on the other hand took a hands on approach. He challenged the evil Pharaoh and succeeded in bringing out the entire nation from Egypt.
We many now return to the name of Moshe and Noach. Noach who survived by passively waiting out the storm is called Noach. The name Noach is related to the Hebrew word rest. His name is symbolic of how he survived. He allowed the flood to pass and eventually had the tayvah with its survivors “rest” on Mount Ararat, rather than leading an active campaign to inspire the world to repent and thus avoid the flood entirely.
On the other hand Moshe, who Chazal teach was on a higher level than Noach, saved the Jewish people by actively liberating them from their trouble. He was thus was called Moshe which is related to the Hebrew word draw.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002