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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach



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PARSHAT Shemot – 5784

The essence of a person is encapsulated in their name, reflecting fundamental and indispensable qualities. Moses, known as “drawn from the water,” signifies a profound spiritual transformation. While he bore multiple names, Moses truly encapsulates his essence, highlighting the significance of being drawn from the material world to the spiritual realm.[1]

Exodus 2

The child grew up, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became like her son. She named him Moses, and she said, “For I drew him from the water.”
 יוַיִּגְדַּ֣ל הַיֶּ֗לֶד וַתְּבִאֵ֨הוּ֙ לְבַת־פַּרְעֹ֔ה וַֽיְהִי־לָ֖הּ לְבֵ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א שְׁמוֹ֙ משֶׁ֔ה וַתֹּ֕אמֶר כִּ֥י מִן־הַמַּ֖יִם מְשִׁיתִֽהוּ:

In Exodus 2:10, Moses’ adoptive mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, names him Moses, emphasizing his rescue from the Nile. This name becomes synonymous with his identity, used by G-d when speaking directly to him in Exodus 4:20.

The L-rd saw that he had turned to see, and G-d called to him from within the thorn bush, and He said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am!”
 דוַיַּ֥רְא ד’ כִּ֣י סָ֣ר לִרְא֑וֹת וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֨יו אֱלֹהִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֗ה וַיֹּ֛אמֶר משֶׁ֥ה משֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי:

However, Moses had other names during his formative years, such as Yekutiel, reflecting hope and trust in G-d’s plan. This name was given to him be his mom. Yalkut Shimoni[2] states that his other names were: Yered, Avigdor, Chever, Avi Socho, Avi Zanoach, Toviah, Shemayah ben Nethanel, Ben Evyatar, and Levi.[3]

The Maharal of Prague highlights the perception that the material world appears solid and stable, while the spiritual world seems formless and elusive. However, the reality is different. The material world is constantly subject to changes and decay. Consider sturdy rocks that seemingly withstand all seasons but, over time, succumb to dust through wind and water erosion. This contrasts with the spiritual world, which lacks a fixed form, remains unchanged, and is impervious to decay. Those who attach themselves to this world grow in strength.

Water, being the most material aspect of this world, illustrates this concept by flowing from high to low and consistently seeking lower levels. It also demonstrates adaptability, assuming various forms and adjusting to the color of the container it occupies. Water fully conforms to the material world.

Moses was drawn out of this material realm and transformed into the spiritual world. The Rambam emphasizes that this distinction made Moses unique among all other prophets. Moses was the only one with whom G-d could speak face to face because he transcended the material world. This sets him apart from other prophets with whom G-d communicated through prophecy or vision.

When Moses returned to Egypt, as recounted in Exodus 4, he took his wife and sons, placed them on the donkey, and journeyed back to the land of Egypt, holding the staff of G-d in his hand.

So Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them upon the donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt, and Moses took the staff of God in his hand.
 כוַיִּקַּ֨ח משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֣וֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֗יו וַיַּרְכִּבֵם֙ עַל־הַֽחֲמֹ֔ר וַיָּ֖שָׁב אַ֣רְצָה מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיִּקַּ֥ח משֶׁ֛ה אֶת־מַטֵּ֥ה הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּיָדֽוֹ:

The Hebrew word for donkey is “chamor,” which is connected to “chomer” or “chomarut” (חומר- חומרות), signifying substance or materialism. Moses had the ability to utilize the material world for a spiritual purpose. According to the Midrash, this donkey was the same one that Abraham used during the Binding of Isaac, as described in Genesis 22

And Abraham arose early in the morning, and he saddled his donkey, and he took his two young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for a burnt offering, and he arose and went to the place of which G-d had told him.
 גוַיַּשְׁכֵּ֨ם אַבְרָהָ֜ם בַּבֹּ֗קֶר וַיַּֽחֲבשׁ֙ אֶת־חֲמֹר֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֞ח אֶת־שְׁנֵ֤י נְעָרָיו֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וְאֵ֖ת יִצְחָ֣ק בְּנ֑וֹ וַיְבַקַּע֙ עֲצֵ֣י עֹלָ֔ה וַיָּ֣קָם וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אָֽמַר־ל֥וֹ הָֽאֱלֹקים:

Both Abraham and Moses transcended the material world, employing it for divine purposes and instigating a spiritual revolution in their respective eras. Abraham directed the world towards the One True G-d, while Moses conveyed the commandments of the One True G-d to the people.

This stands in contrast to typical revolutions, rooted in the material world and aiming for its improvement. Think of figures like Karl Marx, influential in movements such as communism and socialism, driven by discontent with the material world and a desire for enhanced existential security. However, every material revolution is destined to decline, in contrast to spiritual revolutions.

Rashi not only teaches that Abraham and Moses utilized the same donkey but also predicts that the Messiah will employ this (symbolic) donkey, as indicated in Zechariah chapter 9.

Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold! Your king shall come to you. He is just and victorious; humble, and riding a donkey and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys.
 טגִּילִ֨י מְאֹ֜ד בַּת־צִיּ֗וֹן הָרִ֙יעִי֙ בַּ֣ת יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֔ם הִנֵּ֚ה מַלְכֵּךְ֙ יָ֣בוֹא לָ֔ךְ צַדִּ֥יק וְנוֹשָׁ֖ע ה֑וּא עָנִי֙ וְרֹכֵ֣ב עַל־חֲמ֔וֹר וְעַל־עַ֖יִר בֶּן־אֲתֹנֽוֹת:

This narrative underscores the theme of spiritual transcendence, exemplified by Moses, Abraham, and the anticipated Messianic figure, in contrast to the impermanence of material revolutions.

The future Messianic era, depicted in Zechariah 9 and Isaiah 11, promises a global spiritual revolution. Filled with the knowledge of G-d, this transformative period will bring about lasting peace, echoing the sentiments of Zachariah 14:9. The recognition of G-d’s sovereignty will unify humanity, heralding a world free from disease, poverty, sorrow, and death—a world elevated above the constraints of the material realm.

Isaiah 11

They shall neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mount, for the land shall be full of knowledge of the L-rd as water covers the seabed.
 טלֹֽא־יָרֵ֥עוּ וְלֹֽא־יַשְׁחִ֖יתוּ בְּכָל־הַ֣ר קָדְשִׁ֑י כִּֽי־מָֽלְאָ֣ה הָאָ֗רֶץ דֵּעָה֙ אֶת־ד’ כַּמַּ֖יִם לַיָּ֥ם מְכַסִּֽים:

Zacharia 14

And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the L-rd be one, and His name one.
 טוְהָיָ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה לְמֶ֖לֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִֽהְיֶ֧ה ד’ אֶחָ֖ד וּשְׁמ֥וֹ אֶחָֽד:

In essence, Moses embodies the progression of the spiritual revolution that began with Abraham and culminates with the Messiah, with this revolution transcending the limitations of the material world. As we look forward to the Messianic era, we anticipate a global shift toward spiritual recognition and a harmonious world under divine rule.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] The name a person has reflects their essence, referring to fundamental and indispensable qualities, encapsulating one’s identity. Consider, for instance, the first human named Adam. The Hebrew word for “human” is Adam אדם and the word for ‘ground’ is ‘Adamah’ אדמה. The initial human received his name because Genesis 2:

And the L-rd G-d formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.
 זוַיִּ֩יצֶר֩ ד’ אֱלֹקים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה:

As Adam’s essence was deeply connected to the earth, he could name all the animals based on their essence.

[2] On Leviticus, remez 428; and Exodus, remez 166, where attributions of the names are given. Most of these names are mentioned in I Chronicles 4:18, and the name Shemayah ben Nethanel ibid. 24:6; see Targum ad loc.
[3] Chabad Article: What Was Moshe’s Real Name?  On the origin of the name Moshe (Moses) By Eliezer Danzinge
Kol Yehuda by Rabbi Yehuda Amital

With thanks to B. Yaniger for the inspiration and feedback

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