Parsha Shemot

The Role of Women


We read about Shifra and Pua the two midwives who defied Pharaoh’s instructions to kill the Israelite male children. Their reward was establishing dynasties within the Children of Israel. Think of the times. Kings, Pharaohs had the power to kill at a whim. To try to eliminate a whole nation. It must have taken amazing fortitude and huge risk to find ways of circumventing the orders of an absolute ruler. All the more so, given that there were plenty of men who were unwilling or incapable of such heroism and just looked for an easy way out. They were brave in the face interrogation and fearless.

And Pharaoh’s daughter herself who also refused to accept and actually defied her father’s command. She takes responsibility for saving the Israelite child whom she names Moses.

Next week we will read about Yochebed and Miriam and their part in defying Pharaoh’s instructions too. Then we have Zipppora, Moshe’s wife who on the way back down to Egypt save Moses and her son because Moses had neglected to circumcise him.

It is no accident that the Torah and indeed the Midrash all praise the role of women in saving, sustaining and exhorting the Israelites under the most difficult of circumstances. For those who have chosen to stand in the way of female progress, they are both underestimating and failing to make use of fifty percent of our talent pool. It cannot make sense.

We learn not just about the role of women in providing the moral strength to stand up to their and the crucial role of women in preserving family life which is at the core of Jewish survival.

We also learn that although the rule of law must be obeyed wherever we may be living, if that law is morally wrong, we have a duty to stand up against it.