Sunday, January 14, 2007

How old was Moshe?

Parshat Shmos

This weeks shabbos table question was about Moshe growing up. I began: Moshe was born and as a baby was hidden for 3 months and then placed in a basket/ark in the Nile River. Batya, the daughter of Pharoah found him and "rescued" him.

The child would not eat from Batya's wetnurses, so she was given to Miriam and Yocheved to take care of. Eventually they had to return the child to Batya. The Passuk does not say how old the child was when returned, and that might be the source of the answer to the question.

We are then told that Moshe grew up in the palace of Pharoah. At some point, he went outside to see "his brothers". Rashi says he went out to see how his brothers the Jews were doing. He saw an Egyptian fighting with a Jew and Moshe interceded and slaid the Egyptian.

My question is, how did Moshe know to go see his brothers the Jews, and why would he defend the Jew against the Egyptian? He was raised as an Egyptian prince in the palace of Pharoah, not as a Jew. He should have had more powerful feelings for his Egyptian identity than his Jewish one, if he even knew he was Jewish at that point.

It probably depends on how old Moshe was when Miriam/Yocheved returned him to Batya.

On the one hand, Moshe was probably returned to Batya right when he passed the stage of needing a wetnurse. Meaning, he was probably somewhere in the range of 2 years old. Maybe 3. Maybe 1. But somewhere between 1 and 3. If that is the case, he would not have known he was Jewish or would hardly have known, so the question is strong.

On the other hand, maybe his return was delayed a bit. Maybe they kept him in their care a bit longer and had the opportunity to teach him about his heritage before they had to return him. If that is the case, the question is weaker. He would have known at least a little bit about being Jewish and what was happening to his people. He could have been curious so he went out to see what was really happening to them and then came upon an Egyptian beating to death the Jew so he defended him.

My 7 year old son thought that Yocheved and Miriam probably had a chance to tell Moshe who he was and that would answer the question. It seems to make more sense in the context of the Parsha.


yingerman said...

Levi was the last of the shvatim alive. Died at age 136.
So by default, he was the godol hador. After him Kohos was the spiritual leader.
As all the shvatim worked for pharoh but Levi, so the leader of Levi was Kehos.
After Kehos the rav was Amram as Rashi points out regarding the separation of the couples and Miriams nevu'a, that all followed Amrams lead.
Amram being the godol hador probably had access to the palace like Mordechai in Persia, there by educating Moshe.


Moshe was kept home until he almost full grown. And only attended court as needed, until he got a protekzia job for Pharoh.

Rafi Goldmeier said...

just because he had access to the palace (if he did, and I do not recall ever seeing a source saying that he did), he might notnecessarily have had access to the royal family...let alone to teach Moshe about the jewish people...

the OR makes sense though.