Hagaon Rav Gedalya Shor zt”l on Parshat Shemot

Nov 05, 2014
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(from Or Gedalyahu, Parshat Shemot, p. 19)
Moshe’s Name: The Inner Meaning

What is the significance of the name “Moshe”?

The Torah itself (Shemot 2:10) gives the basic answer, “For I (Pharaoh’s daughter) drew him out of the water.”

The Maharal brings out the inner significance of this expression. Water embodies physicality (the medieval Hebrew word for physicality is “gashmiut”, related to “geshem”, rain), so Moshe’s name indicates that he is removed from the barriers of physicality. Since spirituality is the source of his greatness, his name reflects this essential quality.

The Or Gedalyahu (after quoting the Maharal) suggests another inner meaning to Moshe’s name. “Moshe,” he says, is basically the word “ma” (Mem Hei) with the letter “shin” in the middle of it.

“Ma” is an allusion to Moshe’s extreme humility. Moshe said (Shemot 16:7), “Veanachnu ma. . .?” (What are we [that you complain against us]?), expressing total self-abnegation. The Torah calls Moshe the most humble man that ever lived, and his name reflects that.

The “Shin”, teaches the Baal Haturim (Devarim 28:10), is an acronym for “Shem Hashem Nikra” (You are called by the Name of G-d). The letter “Shin” is spelled “Shin”, “Yud,” which is the first letter of the Divine Name, then “Nun”. Hence, Moshe’s name expresses the kind of humility within which the Divine Presence can rest.

Moshe was the type of messenger able to transmit G-d’s Will. In order for Hashem to lead the people out of Egypt and give them the Torah, He needed someone who would make it clear that the miracles and the Torah were coming totally from G-d, not from any human source. Moshe was that kind of person. His name expresses the total humility (“ma”) that says, “The Name of G-d is here within.”

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