I am listening to my 9-year-old son read a book to his little brother. He animatedly asks him what sound a cow makes, and patiently waits as the 2-year-old goes through his entire cache of animal noises until he finally arrives at “moo.” I kvell as I feel I am seeing an early sprout of my planting efforts in raising my children. Actually, a more accurate description would be a trampled bit of brownish-green reassembling itself to continue growing upward, as said 9-year-old had earlier behaved less than ideally toward his 4-year-old brother.

As the mother of young children, it is easy for me to lose perspective amidst the peaks and valleys of parenting. It will be years before I will see the fruits of my labor: will my watering and weeding yield contributing, functioning members of the Jewish community and society at large?

Sprout, planting, fruits, watering, weeding. Amidst the peaks and valleys of parenting, it is easy to lose perspectiveI am by no means the first to compare parenting to planting, especially within the context of Jewish tradition. Jochebed is described by the rabbis as having planted a vineyard, namely her son Moses. King Solomon in Proverbs describes the ideal woman: “She envisions a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard.” The rabbis explain in Midrash Eishet Chayil that this verse represents Jochebed, the mother of Moses. Moses represents all of the Jewish people, and they are called a vineyard in the book of Isaiah.

This explanation is ripe with imagery of parenting as a planting process. Jochebed first envisions a field—the home and its atmosphere in which she will raise her children. She then acquires it: she works on her character to ensure that she lives up to her own moral standards. Finally, with proper love, care and attention from her own hands, she sees her seeds come to life in her children and their accomplishments. She doesn’t see just one plant come to life; her efforts produce an entire vineyard!

We first met Jochebed in Parshat Shemot as a nameless daughter of Levi who must hide her newborn son for three months. Ultimately, she is forced to make a basket for him and send him down the Nile River, where he is ultimately saved by the daughter of Pharaoh herself. Jochebed is sought out as a wet-nurse, and the daughter of Pharaoh actually pays her to nurse her own son. With this arrangement, she is able to raise him during the first few formative years of his life. Imagine her care in mothering, knowing she would have to return him to the palace.

According to the rabbis, we were introduced to her even prior to the birth of Moses, as one of the two brave midwives who defy Pharaoh’s decree and let all the Jewish babies, male and female alike, live. They maintain their courageous stance even after Pharaoh confronts them. Throughout this entire narrative, we never hear the name Jochebed.

The Throughout this entire narrative, we never hear the name Jochebedfirst time Jochebed is mentioned by name, it is in a bizarrely placed genealogy immediately prior to Moses’ and his brother Aaron’s first encounter with Pharaoh in Parshat Va’eira. If this appeared in an ordinary book, our eyes would skim over this section as quickly as possible to get to the “good stuff.” The Torah, however, is no ordinary book. Every sentence is meaningful, and we have something to gain from every word, every letter. Why is this list of faceless names placed here, at this point in the story?

Moses has just failed to inspire the Israelites. They are so overburdened by their life of servitude that they cannot even conceive of freedom. G‑d then commands Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh and demand freedom for the children of Israel. Moses wonders aloud: how he will ever convince Pharaoh to do something at considerable economic loss to his kingdom, when he cannot even motivate the Israelites with all that they have to gain from their impending freedom? G‑d repeats His command, and so begins the genealogy starting with Jacob’s first son Reuben and his children, then Simeon and his children, and finally Levi with a more detailed list of his progeny. Within this list, we see in chapter 6, verse 20: “Amram took Jochebed, his aunt, as his wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses.” This is the first mention of Jochebed by name. She is also the first woman mentioned in this genealogy.

Many rabbis throughout the ages have commented on why this genealogy appears at this exact juncture. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (a 19th-century German rabbi) highlights the change that occurs from here on. “From this point onwards begins their triumphal mission, a mission which has never been accomplished before or after them, so that it became a real necessity to first establish their parentage and relationships so that for all time their absolutely human origin, and the absolutely At birth, a baby is nothing more than potential for the fully formed person he will becomeordinary human nature of their beings should be firmly established.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe elaborates on this theme: “The Torah wants to emphasize that a Jewish leader is not one who is born in a supernatural way. He is a normal person who has a father and mother, and who has elevated himself spiritually to be worthy of his rank. Every Jewish boy has the potential to become a Moses—a leader of the Jewish people in his generation.” (Cited in Vedibarta Bam)

Moses, like all human beings, was born of a mother and a father. At birth, a baby is nothing more than potential for the fully formed person he will become. It is at this point in the Torah, immediately before Moses’ amazing leadership feats that brought the Jewish people from slavery to freedom, that we learn the names of the man and woman who planted these seeds in him from birth, Jochebed and Amram. They have done their job as parents; they can now enjoy the fruits of their labors. Jochebed did indeed plant a vineyard by her diligent parenting of her son Moses.