Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Who are Shifra and Puah?

Parshat Sh’mot 
23 Tevet 5773 / Jan. 5 – 6, 2013
Sh’mot 1:1-6:1

Who are Shifra and Puah?
By Emly Oren, MH Portland Alumni

In Parshat Shemot, the first book in the beginning of Exodus, Moses’ life is introduced. The parsha discusses Pharaoh's orders of all male first-born Israelites to be cast off and killed in the Nile River. Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter, finds Moses in the river and raises him as her own, having him become the Prince of Egypt. Later in life, when Moses sees injustice in his own society, he kills an Egyptian, thus forcing him to flee from his home and become a shepard. It is here that God begins to challenge Moses’ leadership to free the Israelites from slavery.  
The story of Moses is one of the more well know Parshiot. However, this week I wanted to focus on the two heroines that have not always been recognized. When Pharaoh decides to eliminate the Israelites, he orders the Hebrew midwives, Shifra and Puah, to kill all first-born males in the Nile River. Shifra and Puah committed an act of true civil disobedience by protesting against Pharaoh’s veil decision. Knowing the consequences of their actions, they followed their moral compass and saved Moses’ life when they decided not to kill him. It may have been Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter, who took Moses out of the river, but it was ultimately Shifra and Puah who saved Moses, thus saving the Israelites from ultimate extinction.

As we begin the journey of Exodus, I think it is important to ask ourselves: In what ways can civil disobedience play an active role in our life? How can our daily actions align more with our moral compass? How can we learn from Shifra and Puah about risking our lives to do the right thing? This week’s portion is teaching us about the challenges we may face when making the right choices. May we live this week and this New Year with the intention of listening to our hearts and following the path of walking in our strong intuition.


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