If Moshe Rabbeinu was living today and was applying for a job, what would he have write under “ethnic group”? Technically, he would have to say that he is “Egyptian,” since he was born in Egypt. On top of that, he was given an Egyptian name, grew up in an Egyptian household surrounded by Egyptian culture, and looked like an Egyptian. We know this because the Torah details it, especially that he looked like an Egyptian, as the daughter’s of Yitro called him an “Ish Mitzri” (“Egyptian man,” 2:19).
When did Moshe transition from being an Egyptian to being a Hebrew (biblical Jew) in the Torah? The pivotal moment for Moshe was when he matured and rose to prominence in Pharoh’s palace. He looked out and realized what was happening outside of the palace.
“During that time Moshe grew up, and he went out to his brethren and saw their suffering; and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brethren. He turned this way and that and saw that there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (2:11-12).
At that point in time, something gnawed inside of him. He was reminded of his roots, but more importantly, he realized the correct thing to do at that moment. In that moment he risked it all and his actions speak volumes. He could have decided to do nothing and remain in the comfort of the Pharoh’s palace. Yet, instead, his life changed and he was now in danger. He had to run away to save himself.
As an Egyptian of the palace, it would have been natural and beneficial for him to stay silent and do nothing. To choose comfort over agony. Yet, something inside of him was stirred and he chose the “gut wrenching feeling” of the unknown. He did not think what it might bring, because deep down he knew it was the right thing to do. At that moment, he did not become a full fledge Hebrew, but he disrobed himself of his Egyptian identity.
Truth be told, Moses did not have control of his childhood and he may well have been called and labeled an Egyptian at the beginning of the story. But we all know that by the end of his story he did not have a shred of Egyptian in him. Not only was he instrumental in destroying the cruel Egyptian nation, but he was chosen by Hashem to lead us out of that place and take us to the land that Hashem promised us.