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Friday, January 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

At this beginning of this week's parsha, Shifrah and Puah are faced with the daunting challenge of defying Paroah's orders to kill all firstborn males. It is stated in the pasuk (1:17) "And the midwives feared the Lord and they did not do as they had been commanded by Paroah and they let the children live." It is interesting that their actions are classified as fearing HaShem. It could have simply been an act of defiance. Perhaps it was an act of emotion ‑ they couldn't bring themselves to kill the babies. However, we do find that this situation is a halachic matter. The gemara (Sanhedrin 72b) asserts that it is forbidden to terminate the life of one in order to save the life of another. Shifrah and Puah's lives were certainly at stake. In a bad moment, Paroah could easily have terminated them for disobeying his orders. Nevertheless, they knew that it was forbidden for them to take one life to save their own ‑ certainly to take many. The Torah goes out of its way to make it clear that this was not simply an emotional decision that Shifrah and Puah made. It was a decision to do the right thing according to the letter of the law no matter what fate would befall them.

 

There is another interesting nuance in this pasuk. The midwives were commanded to let the females live but to murder the males. However, the pasuk concludes, "vatechayena es hayeladim." The word yeladim is the generic gender‑non‑specific word for children. The phrase "vatechayena es habanim" would have been more appropriate. Surely, this pasuk speaks of something deeper.

 

Paroah had sinister plans for B'nei Yisrael that certainly went beyond killing the baby boys. Although he allowed the girls to live, he surely did not want for them to have any sort of Jewish upbringing. As with every other adversary we have faced, Paroah had a disdain for the Jewish identity and wished to strip it from us. That the midwives defied his decry is already clear by the words "velo asu ka'asher diber aleihen melech Mitzrayim." The end of the pasuk is actually completely superfluous. Rather, it does not at all pertain to Paroah's actual decree. Shifrah and Puah did not only let the babies live. They gave them life. We are taught in the gemara (Sotah 11b) that Shifrah and Puah were really pseudonyms for Yocheved and either Miriam or Elisheva (Aharon's wife). Not only were these women responsible for letting the baby boys live, they were responsible for building the future of Klal Yisrael. They defied Paroah in ways he never even knew. Surely, their heroism and sacrifice gave life to all the children ‑ the girls as well as the boys. Thus, the pasuk does conclude "vatechayena es hayeladim."


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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