Sunday, April 24, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 2: Shifra and Puah


Day 2: Gevurah in Chesed, Strength/Power in Kindness/Mercy
"The midwives, fearing God, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live...And because the midwives feared God, He established households for them." (Exodus 1:17-21)
The beginning of the Book of Exodus is replete with active, strong, compassionate women. The first two women we meet are Shifra and Puah, midwives whom Pharaoh instructed to kill all the Israelite boys immediately after delivering them. In defiance of Pharaoh, Shifra and Puah showed mercy to the Israelites and let their children live. The Hebrew for "they let the boys live" implies that this was an active role, more like "they ensured that the boys lived" by not only delivering them, but taking steps to make them healthy and strong. Because of the midwives' mercy and kindness, the Israelites continued to grow stronger and as a reward for their bravery, God strengthened and increased the households of Shifra and Puah too.

Shifra and Puah show us that we have power and agency. When we act kindly and mercifully toward each other in spite of pressures to be cruel and uncaring, we take power away from those who would do evil and strengthen the ranks of the good.