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    The women’s houses – Sh’mot

    midwives shifra puahThe first chapter of Sh’mot ends with hope – the birth of Moses, whom God destined to lead the people into freedom.

    The Hebrew midwives receive a special reward from God for their efforts to save the boy babies from destruction: “Because the Midwives feared God, He made them houses” (Ex. 1:21).

    We are tempted to say they were not houses in the literal sense but Rashbam says they were, that the one who “made them houses” was Pharaoh and not God, and the houses were not for the benefit of the Hebrews but the opposite.

    The Rashbam’s idea is that Pharaoh’s policy of destroying the boy babies was not working so the king put the midwives in special buildings to prevent them from assisting the Hebrew women and to cut down the number of babies that were brought to birth.

    The words “the midwives feared God” are not merely an indication of the midwives’ piety but symbolise the defiance which Pharaoh was determined to quash.

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