Wednesday, June 04, 2008


The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 11b) cites a braisa: “Shifrah” is Yocheved; and why was her name called Shifrah? It was because she straightened the limbs of the baby. Another explanation of Shifrah is that the Jewish people were fruitful and multiplied in her days. “Pu’ah” is Miriam; and why was her name called Pu’ah? It was because she would coo to the child. Another explanation of Pu’ah is that she used to cry out through the Divine Spirit and say, “My mother will bear a son who will be the savior of Israel.”

The Maharal (Gur Aryeh) asks: Why does the Torah refer to Yocheved and Miriam as Shifra and Pu’ah, rather than referring to them by their actual names? He explains that prior to the birth of Moshe, the Torah did not want to give any recognition to his family members, especially his parents, because that would indicate that Moshe’s parents were responsible for who he was. Although normally the merits and contributions of the parents form the child, and without these specific parents, the child will not exist; by Moshe, this was not the case. Moshe’s existence was not dependent on Amram and Yocheved as his parents. Moshe was already set and destined from the six days of creation to lead the Jews out of Egypt. That is why the Torah doesn’t even mention Amram and Yocheved when describing Moshe’s birth.

The Chasam Sofer (Torah Moshe), with Reb Avi Lebowitz’s (Heoros – Insights on the Daf) elucidation explains that Pharaoh specifically requested of the Jewish women to murder the children, rather than asking the non-Jewish midwives, because he realized that the Jewish woman do not receive capital punishment for performing an abortion, whereas the non-Jewish woman do. Pharaoh wanted them to use the sign of “stones” to determine when the labor will begin, so that they can be present, and then use the dependable sign of which way the child is facing to determine if it is a boy or a girl, and to abort all the boys before the head comes out while it still has a status of a fetus. Pharaoh’s applied the following logic: Normally one is not allowed to commit murder to save their own life because “who says that your blood is redder than the other one?”, but this would only apply to a murder of a “life.” For an idolater, even the fetus has the status of “life,” since they receive capital punishment for performing an abortion, and the logic of “who says etc.” would apply equally to murder and abortion. But for the Jewish women, the fetus was not considered a full “life,” since they are not liable for abortion, and therefore they should be able to determine that their lives are more precious than that of the child. They would therefore abort the fetus to fulfill the command of the king and save their own lives. However, when confronted by Pharaoh for not following through with this partial birth abortion, their claim was that by the time they arrived, the fetus was fully born, and they were not allowed to kill a born child, even if it would cost them their own lives.


Adam said...

I have one question. Why would a non jew get the death penalty for this. Isn't it true we don't have stricter punsihment for non jews or jews.

Avromi said...

Look here: Stricter than a Jew for a discussion on your question.