Shemot – Sheini

Habitat for Midwifery

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Pharaoh called the midwives and castigated them for not carrying out his orders. The midwives excused themselves by telling him that the Jewish women were more robust than the Egyptians; they usually deliver before the midwife even arrives! Because the midwives risked their lives in defense of the helpless, G-d rewarded them with “houses.” (Rashi cites the opinion that this refers to the priesthood, descended from Yocheved, and the kingship, descended from Miriam.) Pharaoh, on the other hand, stepped up his solution to the “Jewish problem” by ordering all newborn Israelite boys thrown into the Nile.

Amram, a descendant of Yaakov’s son Levi, married his aunt Yocheved, Levi’s daughter. (Actually, he remarried her, as they had separated.) At this time, she became pregnant with their third child. When a boy was born, she concealed him for three months. When she was no longer able to hide him in the house, she put him in a box in the Nile; the boy’s sister, Miriam, stood to the side to see what would happen.

Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river to bathe. When she saw the box, she stretched out her hand to retrieve it. Even though she was well aware that it was a Jewish baby, she decided to raise him as her own. Miriam came out and volunteered to go get a Jewish wet nurse. Pharaoh’s daughter agreed and Miriam brought the baby to Yocheved – his own mother! When he was weaned, the baby was returned to Pharaoh’s daughter, his adoptive mother; she named him Moshe (Moses), from the word meaning to draw forth, since she had drawn him out of the water.

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