In honor of National Adoption Month, Jewish Treats pays tribute to Bithia, the daughter of Pharaoh, whose adoption of a baby in a basket changed the course of human history.

While Moses’ tale is best known from the perspective of Yocheved (his mother, who set him in the Nile to save him) and Miriam (his sister, who watched over his floating cradle), little is said about the brave woman who raised him. Bithia (as she is called in the Midrash) knew that the babe in the basket was an Israelite, but, despite his pedigree, from the moment she spied him in the basket, a bond was formed. 

Certainly there were challenges. Pharaoh’s advisors did not trust the foreign child (see Rabbi Buchwald’s comments on Shemot 2002). But “Pharaoh’s daughter hugged and kissed him and loved him as if he were her own son” (Exodus Rabbah 1:26).

This love and devotion brought her the ultimate reward: “Said the Holy One to Bithia, daughter of Pharaoh: ‘Moses was not your son, yet you called him your son. You, too, are not My daughter, but I shall call you My daughter. Thus it is written (I Chronicles 4:18) ‘These are the sons of Bithia’ (Leviticus Rabbah 1:3) who is Bat (daughter) Yah (of God). This is why she is commonly referred to as Batya.” 

While Moses was raised by Bithia, he did eventually come to know his biological family. While they also had a great impact on his life, the Midrash notes that, “Although Moses had many names, the only name by which the Torah refers to him is the one given him by Bithia, daughter of Pharaoh” (Exodus Rabbah 1:26).

Jewish Treats salutes all the adoptive/fostering families out there for the tremendous love that they provide to God’s children.

This Treat was last posted on November 19, 2010.