Baby Naming

Parshas Shemos

The name which we call our greatest leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, was not chosen by his parents, nor by Hashem. Rather, he was named by Basya, daughter of Paroah.  She chose this name as a linguistic play on the words “from the water I drew him”. The Torah tells us that she did not name Moshe at the time that she extracted him from the water. It was only later, when the child was weaned and Yocheved returned him to Basya, that he was named.


Why did Basya not name the child earlier? Why wait two years after the incident at the river to commemorate it in Moshe’s name?


On reading the verse closely, we see that it adds a phrase which sheds light on this difficulty. The naming took place when Basya took the child back from Yocheved “and he was to her – a son”. It was at that point, when Basya assumed all the duties of an adoptive mother, that she named Moshe. The privilege to name him, came from the parent-child bond that they now experienced. It is not just the biological connection of birth that provides the prerogative for a parent to name a child, but also the connection built through nurturing. 


Nurture is as equally important as nature.


Nosson the Babylonian (2nd century Sage) was once visiting the seaside towns. He was approached by a woman who had circumcised her first son and he subsequently died, she circumcised her second son and he too had died soon after; the third she brought before Nosson. “Shall I perform a Bris on this son too?”.

On examining the baby, Nosson observed that he was excessively red. He said to her: “Wait until his blood is absorbed, and then when the danger has passed perform the Bris”. So she bided the time, anxiously awaiting until his blood was no longer close to the surface. When she noticed the blood had been absorbed she had him circumcised, and he survived. The child was forever known as “Nosson the Babylonian”  recognizing the advice of the one who enabled to him to circumcised. The inspiration for his name, represented the fact that he could develop and be nurtured as a circumsied Jew. 

Weekly Halacha

On Shabbos, water may not be poured on a stain, even to prevent it from setting. 


  1. Rabbi Apter,
    Out of curiosity, why do you call her “Basya”? The origin of her name is Divrei Hayamim Aleph 4:18 which Chaza”l understand to be talking about Moshe Rabbeinu. In that Passuk, it calls “Moshe” the son of “Bisya, the daughter of Pharoah”. {In King James, its spelled “Bithia”}

  2. Dear YS,
    I was actually in quandary whether I should write Bisya or the more popular Basya. Looking in the Shulchan Aruch regarding names, it seems there is definitely a name “Basya”. Some attribute this as nickname for Bas-Sheva while others say it is a reference to Pharaoh’s daughter. Seeing as you correctly point out the Tanach refers to her as Bisya, we are obliged to say that Basya is a nickname for Bisya, and this would explain why in common parlance the daughter of Pharaoh is known as Basya.

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