Religious Beliefs

Who was Moses and why is he important in Jewish tradition?

Moses (born c. 1390 B.C.E.) was the son of a Hebrew from the tribe of Levi. His mother was named Jochebed. When Moses was just three months old, according to traditional accounts, his mother set him adrift in a basket on the Nile to save him from the pharaonic decree that all Hebrew male babies were to be slaughtered in their infancy. A daughter of Pharaoh found the infant Moses and raised him in her household. As a foster son of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses would have been well educated in political, religious, and military affairs, and he would have been given important responsibilities in government upon reaching maturity. Although he could have enjoyed prosperity, power, and respect in his adopted Egypt, he chose instead to associate himself with his downtrodden people. Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and through their desert wanderings, delivered to them their Law and liturgy—which remain to this day—and helped them form their nation. He supervised the construction of the Ark, a symbol of God’s presence with Israel, and oversaw the construction of the tabernacle, a tent-shrine that was the focal point of the nation’s worship. The celebration of Passover was begun in commemoration of the night God spared the lives of the Jewish firstborn sons and slew only the sons of the Egyptians.


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