Friday, January 20, 2006

In the begining....

"The woman conceived and bore a son. She saw that he was good and she kept him hidden for three months. " (Exodus 2:2 )

On this verse Rashi tells us (citing Sotah 12A) that when Moshe was born the whole house filled with light. Why? (Not "why light and not, marshmallows;" but "why doesn't Rashi take the verse at face value?")

Well, if you read closely, like Rashi did, you'll see that the verse seems to say that Moshe was saved because he was good. Strange, no? Doesn't every Jewish mother think her children are good? And yet, not every Jewish child was saved. This suggests (to Rashi, at least, who had a gift for catching subtle suggestions) that there was something odd about this particular child. A house full of unexplained light, you will agree, is seriously odd.

A second midrash says that Moshe was born circumcised and though we can easilly imagine Moshe's mother recognizing that as a sign that her son was worth saving, Rashi rejects it in favor of the house of light. According to someone who's name I forget, Rashi prefers the first midrash because the words themselves support it: On the day of his birth Yocheved looks at her son, and she saw he was good (vatera oto ki tov hu) ; on the first day of creation, God looks at the light, and he sees that it was good. (vayare elokim et ha'or ki tov.)

It's as if we're meant to understand that the birth of Moshe represents the begining of a second creation.