“Every man has a name"

in Parshat Shemot we find quite a few people whom the Torah chooses not to call by name. What is this intended to teach us?

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol , | updated: 6:25 PM

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

This Shabbat we merit to begin Chumash Shemot (literally: “names”), where the children of Yaakov (Jacob) morph from a family into a nation. Indeed, at the beginning of the book and the Parsha we find a list of names, and later on we meet new characters with new names. At the same time, there is an interesting phenomenon - in this particular Parsha there are many nameless people.

For example, the Hebrew midwives, Yocheved and Miriam, who are not mentioned by name but are referred to as "the Hebrew midwives, one called Shifra and the other called Puah."

Yocheved, along with her husband Amram, are not mentioned at the beginning of the Parsha either, but we are told "a man went out from the house of Levi and took (as a wife) the daughter of Levi".

Later on, Miriam's name disappears and the Torah tells us that "and his (Moshe’s) sister stood."

The name of Pharaoh's daughter, Batya, does not appear either, but instead the Torah writes, "And the daughter of Pharaoh went down," and the name of Yocheved is hidden behind the words, "And you shall call the mother of the child.


We saw a more modern example of the attempt to destroy individual identity just one generation ago when the Nazis turned people from names into numbers.
The reason for this is simple – a name is one’s essence and identity. Before the bondage began, the people of Israel had an identity and therefore they had names, but from the moment the bondage began, the Jewish people lost their identity and lost their names. We saw a more modern example of this attempt to destroy individual identity just one generation ago when the Nazis turned people from names into numbers.

In contrast, the first time we find a name during the slavery of Egypt is when the Torah talks about Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses,. "And the child grew, and he was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter, and he was to her as a son, and she called his name Moshe, saying, ‘From the water I drew him out.’ And it came to pass in those days, that Moshe grew up, and went out to his brothers, and he witnessed their affliction, and he saw an Egyptian man hitting a Jewish man, his brother.”

We see that when the Torah describes Moshe growing up in Pharaoh's house, and rescuing the Jew beaten by the Egyptian, he is mentioned by name because here we have the appearance of the redeemer and the beginning of the redemption.

Now that we understand that a name is one’s essence and identity, we will try to deepen our understanding of the name Moshe. After a long period of lack of names, the name of Moshe appears. Ostensibly the name Moshe is a technical name, as Batya the daughter of Pharaoh named him Moshe because she drew him (משיתהו, pronounced 'meshitihu') from the water. Why was the name of Moshe - the redeemer, the one who brought down Torah, the leader - determined for generations by the name of a technical action? Why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu merit a name with a deeper meaning?

Moreover, Sages teach us that Moshe Rabbeinu actually had ten names, as the Midrash writes “Moshe was called by ten names: Yered, Chever, Yekutiel, Avigdor, Avi Soko, Avi Zanuach, Tuvia, Shmaya, Levi and Moshe. And G-d said to Moshe ‘By your life, from all of the names that you are called, I will not call you any other name besides what Batya the daughter of Pharaoh called you.’ “

Each of Moshe’s other names has important meaning. For example; Yered – that the manna fell (ירד) in his days, Chever – that he connected (חיבר) the Jewish people to their Father in Heaven, Avi Soko – that he made for Israel huts (סוכות) in the desert, etc. So, what did Pharaoh's daughter do to merit that the “technical” name that she gave to Moshe was chosen over any other name?

The answer is that the name Moshe not only expresses a technical action as it seems at first glance, but something much deeper. Moshe Rabbeinu was born in a generation in which Pharaoh decreed that newborn babies be cast into the river, and he was saved from that decree. The name that he was called reminded him 24/7 that he was saved and received his life as a gift. A name that reminds a person of the fact that he could have been among the dead and yet he was saved, creates a tremendous responsibility in him to become a savior.

And indeed, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu saved others his entire life. In Egypt he rescued the Jew beaten by the Egyptian, he rescues the daughters of Yitro from the shepherds, he reaches the peak of his life and saves the people of Israel from Egypt, and finally he is the conduit to receive the Torah whose job it is to save the people of Israel and the entire world.

To a certain extent, it can be said that after many exiles full of troubles and torments, all of us who are privileged to live here in the renewed State of Israel, are survivors. There is no one who has not lost family members over the generations due to the actions of our enemies, especially in the last generation during the terrible Holocaust. Therefore, we are all considered survivors who have a huge mission and responsibility on our shoulders, for our own sake and for the sake of those who are no longer here with us today, to be saviors and make the world a better place: to save the exploited from their oppressors, to save the world from its iniquity and impurity, and to bring the world to its tikkun as the Kingdom of G-d – “לתקן עולם במלכות ש-די”.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in



top