Contact Us

Moses' Mother

Moses' Mother


One of the colorful figures in in the Talmud is a certain Rabbi Yirmyiah, famous for his incessant, unrelenting questioning. No sooner is a law cited, than Rabbi Yirmiyah has a half-dozen scenarios with which to test it: what if the situation were reversed? what if it were bigger, smaller, darker, lighter, nearer, farther?

At one point, the patience of his colleagues reached its limits. They were discussing a certain law regarding food preparation on the festivals which differentiates between a pigeon found within 50 cubits (approximately 75 feet) of the pigeon house, or more than 50 cubits from the nest. "What would be the law," asked Rabbi Yirmiyah, "if the pigeon is standing so that one of its legs is within the 50 cubit limit, and the other leg outside?" Rabbi Yirmiyah was ejected from the study hall.

But Rabbi Yirmiyah has a point. Conventional wisdom would argue that a thing is either near or far — it can't be both. But somewhere there is a boundary, a line that separates the near from the far, the within from the without. If you can straddle that line, if you can stand with one foot inside and the other foot outside, you can be both.

And often, in the trajectory of our lives, we must be both. And in the history of a people, there must be leaders and visionaries who are both.

The Torah tells us that when Jacob and his family came to Egypt, they numbered "seventy souls". But the detailed list given by the Torah (in Genesis 46:8-27), includes only 69 names. Our sages explain that when Jacob's family departed the Holy Land, there were only 69 Jews; but upon their arrival in Egypt, they numbered 70. Who is the mysterious 70th soul? It is Jocheved, the mother of Moses, born "between the boundary walls" as the first Jewish family entered our first galut (exile).

If you are outside of a problem, you can't solve it. If you are part of the problem, you can't solve it either. You need to be both.

The woman who gave birth to and raised Moses could not have been of the generation that was born in Egypt, the generation for whom galut was the reality. She could not have been of the generation born in the Holy Land, for whom galut was never real. She had to be both.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Chani Benjaminson, October 30, 2008

Moses' Mother Moses' mother's name was Yocheved (or Jochebed), see her entry in our knowledgebase for more on this remarkable woman. Reply

vanessa makati, philippins October 30, 2008

bible where is the name of moses' mother? Reply

Phil Ochs via January 3, 2008

Rabbi Yermiyah' Pigeon Solution Apply Quantum Theory, so the Pigeon is in both places at once. Reply

Eric S. Kingston North Hollywood, CA July 9, 2005

Inbetween The lesson here is: Do not be the stiff tree that will not bend in the wind. But Do not be the soft reed that bends in the wind. BE THE WIND and in doing so you will know both. Reply

Jochebed San Diego, CA June 10, 2004

My Name I was thrilled to read about my name an know of what a great and astounding women the biblical Jochebed was. Thank you sincerely