Friday, April 6, 2012

Five For Friday: Passover

One of the religions followed in my home is Judaism, and tonight we will be celebrating Passover. As part of the Seder ritual, we will read the story of the Exodus, including the following passages about the birth of Moses (from Lynn Lebow Nadeau's Promise Land Haggadah):
One pharaoh was afraid of [the Hebrew] people, who remained strangers in his land. He commanded the midwives to kill every newborn Hebrew…. One day, a [Hebrew] slave woman named Yocheved gave birth to a healthy boy. She put him in a little ark she wove of papyrus reeds and hid him in the tall grasses. Her young daughter, Miriam, waited by the river, and when the time was right, pushed the ark downstream so it floated right in front of the pharaoh's daughter.

The Torah tells us that the pharaoh's daughter sent her slave girl to fetch him. She took the baby home and named him Moses, which in Hebrew means "he who is pulled out."

Miriam quickly came out of the reeds and said that the baby needed a milk mother, and suggested she ask Yocheved to nurse him. And so, Moses was brought up as a prince in the palace by the daughter of the pharaoh and his own mother.
Last year during Passover, I found myself wondering about the pharaoh's daughter. How did she respond when Moses returned to his original family, becoming a leader of the Hebrew people? So I did an online search and learned some interesting things. Here are five things that have been said about the pharaoh's daughter, according to Jewish tradition (at least, as reported at and Wikipedia):
1) She was called Bithiah, from "bat" ("daughter") and "Yah" ("God").
2) God said to her, "You have called Moses your son, although he was not your son, therefore I will call you my daughter, although you are not my daughter."
3) Though she was an Egyptian first-born, she was not affected by the tenth plague; she was spared because of Moses' prayers.
4) When Moses and the Israelites fled from Egypt, Bithiah went with them.
5) She converted to Judaism and married into the tribe of Judah.
What interests me, but isn't shared as part of the story, is what the relationship was like between Moses' two mothers, Bithiah and Yocheved. At what point did Bithiah become aware that the wet nurse was the biological mother, and how did she respond? Alas, the writers of the traditional stories did not share my focus on open adoption so I can only speculate.

And I will continue to write my own story of open adoption. Tonight, as we sit down to Seder, there will be a number of adopted people in attendance (myself, my daughters, and at least one other guest), several adoptive parents (including myself), and one birth mother: Erica. Ashley and Mackenzie will spend a good portion of the time away from the table, chasing after Tyler (he's Ashley's biological brother, but Mackenzie adores him, too). Blessings will be said, greens will be dipped, the afikomen (a ceremonial piece of matzoh) will be hidden and found. We will observe traditions that have been passed down through the ages, while at the same time creating traditions of our own.


  1. What a neat perspective that I've never really thought about. I will now. Thanks for the enlightenment!

  2. I've never thought about this either. That open adoption is not a new concept is such an important thing for us (for society) to remember. How I wish we knew more of that story...

  3. That is a great perspective - I too hadn't thought about that either!

  4. Lori Lavender LuzApril 6, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    I always love looking more deeply into a well-known story. Thanks for this, Rebecca, and Chag Pesach sameach.

  5. this is really fascinating. of course my perspective on the story has changed since adopting our daughter. thanks for sharing!

  6. I loved this post! I hope your family has a happy Passover. Much love to you!

  7. Really enjoyed this post! Thanks for bringing it to the forefront!