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29 Adar 5759 - March 17, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
The Best Name
by Rabbi Shmuel Globus

Moshe was called ten names: Yered... Yekusiel... Avigdor... HaKodosh Boruch Hu said to Moshe, "Of all your names, I will use the one which Basya, daughter of Pharaoh, gave you; `...and she called his name Moshe.' " Thus it is written, "Vayikro el Moshe -- Hashem called to Moshe." (Midrash Rabbah Vayikro, 1:1)

The Midrash lists ten names for Moshe Rabbenu, each signifying a unique trait he possessed. There is one name, though, which seems to say nothing about him: Moshe.

He was called Yered, descent, because he brought the Torah down from heaven to earth. He was called Yekusiel, he who hopes to G-d, because he brought Bnei Yisroel to place their faith in Hashem. He was called Avigdor, father of boundaries, because he was the greatest of all to set boundaries for Klal Yisroel. Each name describes a different quality of Moshe Rabbenu.

The name Moshe -- "the one pulled out" -- describes what Basya, daughter of Pharaoh, did for him. She pulled him out of the waters of the Nile River, when she found him there as a crying baby. She did it, not he.

What does the name, Moshe, tell us about the greatest leader the Jewish People ever had?

This is the beginning of Chumash Vayikro: Hashem calls Moshe Rabbenu by name.

He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them -- When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem . . . (Vayikro 1:1-2)

Hashem spoke to Moshe Rabbenu countless times. "Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe leimor" is the most common verse in the Torah. Yet, how many times did Hashem call Moshe -- by name?

A name is not just a name; it defines. It gives us a handle with which to grasp the essence of something. It is not so easy to name something. Angels cannot do it; only man can.

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu, when he created Odom Horishon, called the angels. The angels asked Him, `What is the nature of man?' HaKodosh Boruch Hu replied, `His wisdom is greater than yours.'

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu then brought livestock, wild animals, and birds before the angels. He asked them, `What do you call them?' They did not know what to say. HaKodosh Boruch Hu then brought these creatures before Odom Horishon and asked him, `What do you call them?' He replied, `This is an ox, this is a donkey, this is a horse, and this is a camel.'

"Then HaKodosh Boruch Hu asked him, `And what is your name?' Odom Horishon replied, `It is fitting to call me Odom, because I was created from earth (adomoh).'

"Then HaKodosh Boruch Hu asked him, `What is My Name?' Odom Horishon answered, `It is fitting to call You Hashem, because You are the Master of all.' HaKodosh Boruch Hu then said, `I am Hashem -- this is the name which Odom Horishon called me'" (Bereishis Rabbah, 17:4).

A name is a very deep matter.

Basya, when she pulled Moshe Rabbenu out of the Nile, demonstrated considerable mesiras nefesh. By saving Moshe Rabbenu, she disregarded the decree of her father Pharaoh.

Pharaoh issued a series of anti-Jewish decrees. He was terrified of Bnei Yisroel's immense population increase. He felt that he faced a threat to his kingdom. What if Bnei Yisroel would, in time of war, join forces with the enemy?

Pharaoh set out to do what he perceived to be essential to his survival: he planned to destroy the Jewish People. He slaughtered their children and bathed in their blood. He tortured the multitudes of Bnei Yisroel with forced labor, making the men sleep in the fields, away from home. His campaign against the Jewish People culminated with the famous decree to throw all male newborns in the Nile. The purpose of this was that they should perish.

Basya saved a Jewish baby. This took devotion and self- sacrifice. It was a rare act of care. She risked her life.

HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, in Sichos Mussar, writes: "The pulling of Moshe Rabbenu from the water came about through the mesiras nefesh of Basya -- who transgressed her father's command, in order to save a life.

"Since Moshe Rabbenu was saved by an act of mesiras nefesh, this quality of mesiras nefesh permeated Moshe Rabbenu's body and soul. . . . Moshe Rabbenu's own trait of mesiras nefesh came to him from the mesiras nefesh of Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh.

"This is why the name, Moshe characterizes Moshe Rabbenu more than any other name. . . . HaKodosh Boruch Hu chose the name Moshe over all other names because it represents the quality most needed by a leader of Klal Yisroel -- mesiras nefesh for each and every individual Jew."

Indeed, Moshe Rabbenu excelled in mesiras nefesh. The Midrash describes how Hashem tests potential leaders of Klal Yisroel, looking for this essential trait:

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu tested Dovid Hamelech as a shepherd, and found him a talented shepherd. Dovid would first bring the baby animals out to pasture, so they could graze on the tender grass. Then he would bring out the elderly animals, so they could graze on the ordinary grass. Then he would bring out the youthful animals to eat the tough grass. HaKodosh Boruch Hu said, `The one who cares to shepherd his flock according to each individual animal's needs, he will come to shepherd My People Israel.'

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu also tested Moshe Rabbenu through shepherding. Once, a kid escaped and ran away from the flock. Moshe ran after it. . . . The kid found a pool of water, and stood to drink.

"Moshe caught up with the kid, and said, `I didn't know that you ran away because you were thirsty! Now you must be tired out.' Moshe put the kid on his shoulder to carry it back.

"HaKodosh Boruch Hu said, `You show such compassion in leading the flock of a human being. You will surely be the shepherd of My flock, Israel'" (Shemos Rabbah, 2:2).

Continues HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, "The shepherd and leader of the generation must be concerned for every individual. He must satisfy the needs of each, according to the individual's unique capacity. This is what is written about Yehoshua: `A man of spirit' (Bamidbar 27:18). Rashi (ad loc.) explains that Yehoshua could discern the individual spirit of every Jew.

"It is not enough to lead the people in a general way. Leadership must be tailored to each Jew's nature and abilities. Without mesiras nefesh, it is impossible to care for each member of Klal Yisroel."

Hashem called him Moshe; the name given by Basya, the daughter of Pharaoh. She didn't just pull him out of the water and leave him; she raised him as her own child. Moshe Rabbenu grew up in the royal palace of Pharaoh, the wealthiest and most powerful man in the world. Shouldn't such an upbringing spoil a child? Not Moshe.

Chazal say, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu does not place His Shechina on a person, unless he is strong, wise, wealthy, and humble" (Nedorim 38:a).

An unusual combination of qualities; says the Ksav Sofer. He writes, "What difference does it make to Hashem if a person is rich? Hashem does not favor the wealthy over the poor. The same is true concerning physical strength.

"From the Maharsha's commentary, it is clear that the primary trait -- by which a person merits prophesy -- is humility. However, one who is impoverished is naturally humble. From where should he derive haughtiness? Chazal considered an arrogant pauper an intolerable fool.

"A person who possesses wealth, wisdom, and strength is in a different situation. He has reason to be proud. He is tempted to consider himself superior to those who lack his assets.

"If, in spite of it all, he remains humble and modest -- this is the trait of humility which Hashem is looking for. On such a person, Hashem wishes to place His Shechina."

This, explains the Ksav Sofer, is the greatness of Moshe Rabbenu. He grew up in the house of Pharaoh and had every reason to be haughty. Yet, he did not consider himself superior to even the lowliest Hebrew slave. "Moshe, however, was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth" (Bamidbar 12:3). This is what the name Moshe points to -- Moshe, who was raised by Pharaoh's daughter, remained humble.

Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah that every Jew is obligated to be like Moshe Rabbenu. Perhaps this is a way we can fulfill Rambam's ruling: by striving to live humbly, with mesiras nefesh and care for each and every Jew.

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