Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Batyah or Bityah

The name Batyah is a common Hebrew female given name. The source of the name is the daughter of Pharaoh who drew Mosheh from the water when he was an infant and raised him like a son. The midrash in Vayikra Rabah (chpt.1 , paragraph 3, s.v. ve-eleh bene Bityah) homiletically interprets her name as being composed of two words: “bat” and “Yah” meaning “daughter of God”. God says to Batyah that just as Mosheh was not her actual son but she called him son (and took care of him as one), so too, even though Batyah is not God’s daughter (i.e. she was not born a Jew), He refers to her as His daughter. Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at Jewish Theological Seminary, pointed me to the work Arukh ha-Shulhan by Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel Epstein. Rabbi Epstein opines (Arukh ha-Shulhan, Even ha-Ezer, chpt.129, “shemot nashim”, s.v. [b] Basha) that notwithstanding the common practice (and the homiletic teaching of the midrash) the proper pronunciation of this name is Bityah (with a hirik under the letter bet) and not Batyah (with a patah under the letter bet). He reasons that the only time this name is mentioned in the Bible is in Divre ha-Yamim I 4:18 where it is given as Bityah bat Par’oh. An edition of the Bible based on authoritative Masoretic sources (especially the Aleppo Codex) was printed by Mosad ha-Rav Kuk in 1977 under the editorship of Mordechai Breuer. I examined this edition and found that the reading was, indeed, Bityah.

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