The birth of Moses is originally shrouded in genealogical mystery. We are not immediately told who his parents are. His sister remains anonymous even as the text describes her role in ensuring her brother’s safety. Indeed, in a book called Shemot, which means ‘names’, Moses’ family remain nameless when we first encounter them. Later, in several places, including this week’s parsha, the identity of his biological family is revealed.
“The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and she bore…Aaron, Moses, and their sister Miriam.” (Num 26: 59)
An organic family unit consisting of parents with children gradually changes as children reach adulthood. When siblings are children, they live together. As they mature, they slowly leave their family, often establishing a family of their own.
Moses, however, is raised in separation from his biological parents and siblings. He returns to them in an extremely meaningful way. Rather than the siblings building separate independent lives, they join to co-lead a nation. The original absence of the names belonging to Moses’ biological family highlight a pattern in which he grows closer to his family.
The commandment to honour one’s parents is a calling to mature, independent adults who are genuinely busy looking after their own families to prioritise their parents when managing their time. Jewish law legislates the same for siblings, encouraging even those living far away to maintain their family bond.
ω Boruch M Boudilovsky is rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya