Imrei Noam,found in Nechama Leibowitz, New Studies in Exodus (Eliner Library, 1995).


Original Text:

Shifra and Puah were originally Egyptians who embraced Judaism. Otherwise how could Pharoah have ordered them to kill Jews? How could they in the first place have agreed? Surely every Jew is obliged to sacrifice his life rather than commit idolatry, incest or murder! That is why the text observes: "The midwives feared God"- implying that previously when they were still heathens they had not feared Him. Had they not been Egyptians what would have been the point of telling us that they feared God. Surely as Jewesses that was taken for granted. But though Pharoah offered them bribes they refused to accept them. The text would accordingly have to be read not "the Hebrew midwives" with ivriyot (Hebrew) in attributive relation to meyaldot (midwives) but "midwives of the Hebrews" with ivriyot understood as the object of meyaldot, ie they acted as midwives to the Hebrew women.


Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. Does it matter if Shifra and Puah were Hebrews or not?
2. What is the role of righteous gentiles in the Jewish tradition?
3. Does the nature of the midwives' activism shift if they were Hebrews?

Time Period:
Related Texts:
Related Sourcesheets:Women and Leadership, Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses [2007], Our Obligation to Feed and Help those in Need

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