Parshat Shemot

Parshas Shemos begins with the horrible decrees put on the Jewish people, one of which being having the Hebrew midwives, Yocheved and Miriam, kill all the baby boys. Oddly enough, we find that Yocheved and Miriam are referred to as Shifrah and Puah. According to Rashi, the reason they were called by different names was because of the little acts of kindness they each did. Yocheved was given the name Puah due to the fact that she soothed the babies with her calm voice and Miriam was given the name Shifrah on account of her helping the babies feel more comfortable which she did by changing them. Yocheved and Miriam truly personify the concept of being commemorated as people who are remarkable without doing what we might consider nowadays to be heroic actions. Instead, the two midwives focused on devoting their time to their small jobs that internally defined who they were and helped the Jewish nation. There is a Mishna in Pirkeh Avos that states, “Emor me’at, ve’aseh harbeh”; say a little and do a lot. Essentially meaning: actions speak louder than words. In our society, a heroic figure is perceived as a strong person who can save a burning house or rescue peoples lives. In reality, true heroes are the ones who do small things and unknowingly immensely impact others. These people who do a little are actually doing above and beyond.

Furthermore, a very crucial lesson can be derived and implemented into our own lives when we look at the precedent actions of Shifra and Puah, or more commonly as we know them from Yocheved and Miriam. Yocheved and Miriam stood against a society in which the atrocity of murdering children was condoned, accepted, and allowed. They took great risk on themselves by saving these children and risking their own lives in a society where morals and ethics had eroded. As Jews we have seen atrocities committed to us numerous times throughout history whether during the Spanish Inquisition, the crusades, or from Hitlers Nazis. We see that even the most civilized of nation’s morality can be eroded to allow atrocities to occur. Our jobs, if we learn from Yocheved and Miriam, is to stand up for these morals and ethics and to be the ones to rebuild them. Based on all the recent happenings in our own communities, this certainly holds true that while certain parts of our own society demand for debasement of Am Yisroel, now is the time to rebuild the moral fiber within our people and to create an Am Yisroel in which we can be united, as the pasuk says: “K’ish Echod B’Lev Echod” and ultimately bring the Geulah. That is the lesson of Yoched and Miriam, create the change you want to see in the world.

Girl Studying in Midreshet Yeud