I dedicate these divrei Torah b’zechut Yitzchak Levi haCohen ben Chana, for a blessed and speedy refuah sheleima.


Last Tuesday, I had the good fortune of being able to participate in a little Sichos class led by Mrs. Laber.  Over the course of our study, we learned many Chiddushim (novel insights) from two of the Rebbe’s talks.  The latter was studied directly from the text, while the former was given over orally by Mrs. Laber, who used the Gutnick Chumash as a reference.  I am honored to relay to you what I learned (focusing on the first Sicha) as I draw from my many notes.


In this week’s parsha, we recount the narrative of Paroh’s heinous gezeirah (decree) to eliminate all Hebrew baby boys by drowning in the Nile, in order to preserve his Hebrew workforce from the man predicted to rise as savior of the Jewish People from Egypt’s crucible.  He directed this tragic command to his own men, and in addition, to the two Hebrew yaldos (midwives) by the names of Shifra and Puah.  Rashi brings down from our Sages that the true identity of these two special women was indeed Yocheved and Miriam, mother and sister of Moshe Rabbeinu!

“Vatirena ham’yaldos es-ha’Elokim v’lo asu ka’asher diber aleyhen melech Mitzrayim vat’chayeyna es-hay’ladim – The midwives, however, feared G-d, and they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live.” {Shemos 1:17}

Shifra/Yocheved and Puah/Miriam rebelled against the wicked plan, and caused no children to die; they negated Paroh’s decree even at the risk of their own lives.  To quote my classmate and friend Chaya Donat, “They feared Hashem more than they feared Paroh.”  For their integrity…:

“Vayeitev Elokim lam’yaldos vayeirev ha’am vaya’atzmu m’od. Vayihi ki-yaru ham’yaldos es-ha’Elokim vaya’as lahem batim. – G-d was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very strong.  And it came to pass when the midwives feared G-d, that He made houses for them.” {Shemos 1:20-21}

Rashi comments on “vaya’as lahem batim – and He made them houses,” and interprets these words to mean houses of honor – dynasties.  They were the Kehuna (priesthood) and Leviyah (Levitic family), offspring of Yocheved, and the Malchus (royalty) which has its roots in Miriam, a forerunner of Moshiach.

What a legacy…  Yet still, some of the greatest Jewish minds in our history find room for further inquiries.  The Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory posed the question of why couldn’t Rashi make peace with a literal understanding of the verses (i.e. Shifra and Puah’s alternative identities, and “batim” as figurative houses)?  Rashi himself is puzzled by two difficulties:  1.) How could only two midwives care for a nation who “paru vayish’rtzu vayirbu – were fruitful and swarmed and increased,” and bore sextuplets at once?  2.) The strong and skillful Jewish women didn’t require assistance giving birth, as the yaldos reported to Paroh.  Was this truthful?  If so, why, then, were midwives necessary at all?  And why exactly did they deserve to receive such tremendous reward as Hashem granted them?

The answer is stunning.  Although it was physically impossible for Yocheved and Miriam to be present at every single birth, they were key in raising the entire nation of women’s spirits by their mere presence and appointment as leaders!  All the new mothers were assured that they could call out to Yocheved and Miriam for any of their needs, whether in ruchniyus (spiritual) or gashmiyus (material), wise counsel or hope for the future.  This sense of security and knowledge alone – simply that they were there for them – was of profound strength and inspiration.  It was an incredible psychological, emotional and spiritual support.  They sacrificed everything in their duty to caring for the others, and prepared to even lay their life on the line to do so.

As for Rashi’s dissatisfaction with the plain meaning of “houses…”  The nuances of the language of the verse suggest otherwise, for:  a.) It states “…Elokim vaya’as lahem batim. – …G-d, that He made houses for them.”  Hashem established these for them, and clearly not Paroh, for in that case they’d surely be physical;  b.)  “…Elokim vaya’as lahem batim. – …G-d, that He made houses for them.”  “Made,” but not “built” in the conventional sense; and c.)Vayeitev Elokim lam’yaldos… – And G-d was good to the midwives…”

This hints to something Divinely gratifying:  Shifra/Yocheved and Puah/Miriam were not mainstays exclusive to the walls of their own home and immediate family; rather, on account of their dedication to, special way of, and success in preserving the spark and existence of Jewish homes, and readying future leaders of the Jewish People for all generations to come with Hashem’s help, they are eternally regarded and praised as “mothers” of them all!!!


Now, one of the primary climaxes and greatest values of learning Torah, is when we can truly apply its wisdom.  Torah is forever, and always has an awe-inspiring message relevant for every generation, age, and event.

Learning about the unique manner of support Yocheved and Miriam provided for their soul-sisters, I remembered an unprecedented teaching, one which is especially exemplified by Chabad Chassidus.  The neshama is comprised of ten strengths; the first three of which are intellectual (Chochma/Wisdom, Bina/Understanding, Da’as/Knowledge – ChaBaD in short), and the last seven which are emotive.  The intellect is superior to the emotions, and therefore we explain, our thoughts give birth to our emotions. 

Each and every one of us can reflect Yocheved and Miriam today!  We all have the ability to encourage and guide this new life to come into existence, by evoking and sustaining positive thought – even simply by assuring others that we are here for them for whatever encouragement and fellowship they need – which will in turn lead to positive action, and ultimately, something new and great – a future of redemption!

Whom will you make this love and support of yours known to?  How can we encourage positive thought, emotion, spirit and action in the world around us, and break free from our own “Egypts” today?  What metaphorical “house” do you yearn to build?  You never know the full reach and impact of your deeds…

–The Messenger Bird