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Judaism: Shemot: Devoted Daughter Batya

The lessons Pharaoh's daughter taught Moses.
Published: Friday, January 08, 2010 10:18 AM


As summarized by Channie Koplowitz Stein.

We know that whatever the Torah includes is there not for superficial knowledge, but for education, to teach us how to be better human beings and better ovdei HaShem, servants of God. This is so not only for events, but even more particularly for the personalities that fill our holy Torah. One of the less studied of these personalities, but one overflowing with lessons for all of us, is Batya, Pharaoh's daughter and stepmother of Moses.

The Torah states that Batya had gone on the Nile to bathe when she saw the little basket that contained the infant
We will discover the beauty of Batya's "neshama" and the messages for all of us.
Moses. She knew immediately that this was a Jewish baby; yet, she stretched out her hand to take him, and then brought him to Pharaoh's palace to raise him as her son, as Pharaoh's grandson.

Immediate questions arise from the simple reading of this narrative. First, why was Batya washing herself on the Nile? Wasn't there a royal bathhouse on the palace grounds? Further, how could she have the absolute daring to defy her father's decree and not only save a baby boy from death on the Nile, but actually bring him home to that demagogue's palace? As we research these answers, we will discover the beauty of Batya's neshama and the messages for all of us.

The Midrash tells us that everyone called her Batya, including the feuding Dathan and Aviram. The Avnei Nezel tells us that Pharaoh had named her Batya, the daughter of the god he imagined himself to be. Batya rejected that name, and was called by the Torah Bat-Par'oh, the "daughter of Pharaoh". But HaShem renamed her Batya, "daughter of the true God", saying, "Moses was not your son, but you called him your son. Even so, you are not My daughter but I call you My daughter."

There is more to this medrash than the act of saving Moses from physical death, and adopting him and providing for his physical needs. Batya became a true daughter of HaShem, a true bas Yisroel. When she went to the Nile, she had a twofold purpose. First, the day was extremely hot, but Batya was stricken with tzoraat, leprosy, and therefore could not seek relief in the royal "pool". But on a second level, she was also now completing a long and arduous process of searching, eventually rejecting all that her father and Egyptian culture stood for. Immersion in the Nile was the final step in her conversion. While Pharaoh considered himself the deity whose beneficence flowed to the entire kingdom through the Nile, his alter ego Batya immersed herself in the Nile to wash away all residue of this lifestyle. She rejected the gods of Egypt, particularly her own tyrannical father, and embraced the God of the Jews. In return, as she touched the basket containing the infant Moses, her leprosy was cured.

It is interesting to calculate the date of Batya's conversion. We know that Moses was born on the seventh of Adar. His mother Yocheved was able to hide him for three months. At the end of three months, she placed him in a basket covered in pitch to keep it waterproof. The end of this three month period is the sixth of Sivan, the day
The savior of our savior.
B'nei Yisroel would stand at Mount Sinai eighty years later and receive HaShem's Torah - through this infant grown to maturity whom Batya had saved. Our medrash tells us that Batya saw the aura of God's Presence surrounding the child, that same aura that would pierce the clouds around Mount Sinai when all of B'nei Yisroel would receive the Torah. Batya as an individual accomplished what our nation as a whole would later reenact, the meeting of the upper world and the lower world through the medium of Moses.

But Batya did more than become a Jew intellectually and physically. Batya transformed herself into a true daughter of Abraham by her first act after conversion. We are rachmanim b'nei rachmanim, genetically compassionate, and gomlei chasadim, selfless doers of loving kindness. Batya's first act as a Jewess after immersion was to feel compassion for this child of the Nile and, against all reason and judgment, defy her father, risk possible death, and bring this baby home as her own. It is this completely selfless act that earned her the merit of having this child, this greatest of all leaders and teachers of Torah, be called throughout the Torah exclusively by the name she gave him, rather than by any of his other six beautiful names.

This lesson of selfless love for other Jews, not just for Moses, that Batya must have exhibited from that time on was not lost on Moses as he grew. As the Torah states, "Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and observed their burdens...." From whom did Moses learn this compassion, this sense of justice, of righting wrongs? His own mother, Yocheved, could have nurtured and taught him only so much in two years of being his wet-nurse. The rest he must have gotten from the mother who raised him to adulthood, Batya. From her he learned not only compassion, but also the drive to attempt to do the right thing even when that appears to be impossible.

How could Batya realistically have stretched out her arm and reached Moses' basket on the Nile? Her heart was completely devoted to that effort and so HaShem extended her arm to reach that extra sixty cubits. Batya teaches us that when we put in our effort with a full and selfless heart, HaShem will extend His hand to help us achieve that goal. She teaches us that when we include HaShem and mitzvot as part of our hishtadlus, our "personal effort" to achieve a goal, whether it's a shidduch, a livelihood, health or anything else - especially when within that goal the ultimate purpose is to be better able to serve HaShem - then we have opened the eye of the needle for HaShem to stretch it to allow chariots of blessings to enter.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from Batya is that whatever HaShem gives us, whether we initially
Batya could undoubtedly recognize the absolute irony as the redemption unfolded.
perceive it as good or bad, is for our own good. HaShem has already prepared the cure for us before he sends us the trouble. Batya wanted so much to become an integral part of Am Yisroel. To let her achieve this end and ensure her place in the history of our people, HaShem struck her with leprosy so that she would go to the Nile and be the savior of our savior through HaShem's behind-the-scenes direction of events.

Batya could undoubtedly recognize the absolute irony as the redemption unfolded. Pharaoh's plan was to kill every baby who posed a threat to his reign and to his tyranny over the Jews. Therefore, he decreed to throw all newborn male babies into the Nile. But it was this very decree that became the actual vehicle through which his own daughter would save that savior. Only through HaShem's ordering of events could that child be playing on the lap of Grandpa Pharaoh, playing with his glistening crown, and emerge as his nemesis.

As Batya was able to overcome her Mitzraim, her "constricted places", through her tremendous effort and faith, so too do we have that same ability. HaShem is in our corner; we have more than a fighting chance.