Click Here to Sponsor Daily Halacha
"Delivered to Over 6000 Registered Recipients Each Day"

Download print

Parashat Shemot: The Greatest Praise of All

The Torah in Parashat Shemot tells of the heroism of the midwives of Beneh Yisrael, who defied Pharaoh’s edict ordering them to kill all newborn boys among the nation. These midwives are identified by the names "Shifra" and "Pu’a," but the Gemara teaches that in truth, these women were none other than Yochebed and Miriam – the mother and sister of Moshe Rabbenu. They were given these names, the Rabbis explain, in commemoration of their efforts on behalf of the babies they delivered. Not only did they refuse to kill the infants as Pharaoh had ordered, but they did just the opposite – they helped the newborns in any way they could. The name "Shifra," which means "beautiful," alludes to the midwives’ work to make the infants healthy and good-looking, and the name "Pu’a" refers to the cooing sound which the midwives made in order to calm the babies and make them happy.

It might seem strange, at first glance, that the Torah chose to refer to Yochebed and Miriam by these names. After all, according to tradition, these women were great spiritual figures, who reached the level of prophecy. A person is eligible for prophecy only after achieving outstanding spiritual heights. If Yochebed and Miriam experienced prophecy, then by definition, they were exceptional spiritual giants. Why, then, would the Torah give them names that commemorated their efforts on behalf of Beneh Yisrael’s newborn babies? The name Shifra and Pu’a allude to things like administering medicine, changing diapers, rocking babies to sleep, and playing with them to keep them relaxed and happy. Why does the Torah choose to refer to Shifra and Pu’a specifically by pointing to these menial tasks, if they were outstanding spiritual figures? Is this not demeaning to women of such stature?

The answer, quite simply, is that no, this is not demeaning at all. The greatest praise that can be given is that somebody cared for and raised children. Whereas modern society belittles the value and importance of motherhood, of devoting oneself to raising and educating children, Judaism regards it as the greatest of all undertakings. The Torah specifically refers to Yochebed and Miriam by these names because their efforts on behalf of the infants of Beneh Yisrael are even more precious than their great achievements as prophets.

We must never find it demeaning to devote time and energy to the sacred task of caring for children. Tasks which contemporary society finds demeaning, such as preparing food, dressing and bathing children, playing with them, changing diapers, and everything else that goes into raising happy, healthy and confident children, are all great achievements. For Jews, the greatest praise is that they succeeded in this role – in the role of raising and caring for their children and preparing the next generation of Torah Jews.

Related Parasha
Parashat Shemot- The Egyptian “Furnace” - 2023 Year
Parashat Shemot: The Spoils of Egypt - 2021 Year
Parashat Shemot- Doing the Right Thing, No Matter What - 2021 Year
Parashat Shemot- Did Beneh Yisrael “Borrow” the Egyptians’ Utensils? - 2021 Year
Parashat Shemot: Never Give Up Your Name - 2020 Year
Parashat Shemot- Our Fear of Contemplation - 2018 Year
Parashat Shemot: Repentance and Community - 2017 Year
Parashat Shemot- Gratitude for Our First Grade Teacher - 2016 Year
Parashat Shemot: Fulfilling All 613 Misvot - 2015 Year
Parashat Shemot: We Cannot Outsmart G-d - 2013 Year
Parashat Shemot: Don’t Give Up Before You Start - 2013 Year
Parashat Shemot: Consistency – The Greatest Achievement of All - 2012 Year
Parashat Shemot- “And the Land Became Filled With Them” - 2010 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Shemot - 2010 Year
Parashat Pekudeh- Counting the Things That Matter
Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
Purim and the Sale of Yosef
Parashat Terumah- The Torah’s “Footsteps”
Parashat Mishpatim: Our Religious Resume
Parashat Yitro- Partnering With Hashem
Parashat BeShalah- A New Understanding of the Splitting of the Sea
Parashat Bo- Pharaoh and His Advisors
Parashat Vaera- Moshe Was Human
Parashat Shemot- The Egyptian “Furnace”
Parashat Vayehi- Yaakob’s Blessing to His Grandchildren
Parashat Vayigash- The Antidote to Adversity
Hanukah- When Building a Foundation
Parashat Vayeshev- The Precious Value of Silence
Parashat Vayishlah- The Dangers of the Gentle Touch
Page of 67
991 Parashot found