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Moses' Mother

Moses' Mother

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One of the colorful figures in in the Talmud is a certain Rabbi Yirmiyah, 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.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Joginder Rajpal Finland January 8, 2018

Moses' mother by Yanki Tauber born "between the boundary walls". I am unable to understand for I don't know this expression. Please explain.
I always enjoy reading your valuable articles they improve my knowledge . God bless you. Reply

Shoshana January 2, 2018

Is it possible to recieve the text source of this beautiful piece? Reply

Anonymous 31606 January 2, 2018

I may be misunderstanding the timeline of when Moshe was born, or how old Yocheved was when she gave birth to Moshe. By the time Moshe was born there had to have been many generations separating him from when Israel entered Egypt. It doesn't add up. Reply

Menachem January 4, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

The Jews were in Egypt for a total of 210 years.

Yocheved was 130 when she gave birth to Moshe, and Moshe was 80 years old when he brought the Jews out of Egypt.

See Rashi's explanation on Shemot (Exodus) 2:1 where he explicitly says that Yocheved was 130 and explains the math.

Hope this helps! Reply

Mendel Adelman January 4, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

Hey Anonymous,

Good point!

The Talmud (Sotah 12a) actually mentions that she was 130 years old when she gave birth to Moshe.

He was eighty when the Exodus took place, and the slavery only lasted for 210 years.

The Talmud actually says that she had a miraculous return to youth, and therefore the verse refers to a 130 year old woman as "a daughter of Levi" (Exodus 2:1, see Rashi).

This is not the only mention of someone living an extraordinarily long life in the Torah. Moses himself lived to 120 and was perfectly healthy and spry up until his death (Deuteronomy 34:7).
. Reply

Anonymous THE VALLEY - ANGUILLA January 5, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

In learning the daily Chumash with Rabbi Gordon (of blessed memory) he points out that Jochebed was 130 years old when Moses was born. I was really puzzled too but when he explained then things started to 'add up'. Those were days of endless miracles. Reply

Joey Florida January 1, 2018

I find this particularly interesting because Moses was also, in a way, straddling the line between Hebrew (his birth) and Egyptian (his upbringing). The person will the skills to solve the problem also had to be on both sides of it. Reply

Chani Benjaminson, chabad.org 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

Ahl' Berth MX January 2, 2018
in response to vanessa:

Exodus 6:20; Numbers 26:59 Reply

Phil Ochs via chabadtexas.org 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
Reply

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