In Parshas Shemos we find that the "Jewish " people are enslaved by Paroh in
Egypt, persecuted cruelly and bitterly in a long and bleak exile that included 210 years
of hard labor. Generation after generation of children are born into slavery and there
seems to be no hope of salvation. Amram, the great sage of the generation, leaves his wife
Yocheved in order not to bring anymore children into this infernal existence. The rest of
the men follow his example and leave their wives as well.
Paroh decrees that all Jewish baby boys must die and calls the midwives, Shifra and
Puah to carry out his evil designs. Our Sages say that Shifra was really Yocheved and Puah
was really Miriam, her daughter. Kli Yakar discusses why it is important for us to know
that their names were changed. Puah is a word meaning "speech", and this suits
Miriam well because she was a prophetess and prophesized that her mother would give birth
to the future redeemer. (It was after Miriam's prophecy that Amram took his wife Yocheved
back a second time.) Shifra means "beauty" because she returned to her youthful
beauty when she bore Moshe the redeemer, at the age of 130.
The Kli Yakar says that the Torah shows us that Paroh's plan to annihilate the Jews was
bound to fail because he called specifically these two women whose names imply salvation
and the birth of a redeemer and how would those two particularly ever kill the children?
The telling of their names shows their tremendously strong faith in Hashem and their
belief that salvation would definitely come. That is why they didn't listen to Paroh. If
they would have had doubts about the salvation of the Jews from Egypt, perhaps they may
have listened to Paroh and yes- killed the children rather than let them be born into a
terrible life. But the women were so optimistic and filled with belief that Hashem would
save them, that they took these encouraging names and helped the new babies to live and
see the coming redemption. As the Chazal have said: "In the merit of righteous women
were the Jews redeemed from Egypt".
The women also guarded themselves from illicit behavior and did not marry or consort
with Egyptians, which was part of the merit the Jews had to be redeemed.
We find that many times in our history Jewish women have shown their holiness and
tremendous emunah in Hashem- from Egypt to Chanukah to the Spanish Inquisition to the
Holocaust and every time in between- for this is a part of our very fiber and being,
inherited from our glorious ancestors.
There is a famous story about a woman who had given birth in the concentration camp.
She was begging the guard for a knife. The Rebbe tried in vain to deter her from
committing suicide. The guard gave her the knife and looked on eagerly. She unwrapped her
precious 8 day old newborn and, reciting the blessing on circumcision, gave him a bris
milah. She wanted to fulfill this mitzva even in the deep valley of despair and return her
child perfect and holy to Hashem who gave him to her. This is but one small example of the
greatness of the Jewish woman.
Next page / Previous page