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    Taking a good look – Sh’mot

    Life was tough in Egypt for baby boys. Girls were allowed to live but boys were to be thrown into the Nile. To confirm whether a baby was male or female the midwives looked at the ovnayim, literally “the stones” (Ex. 1:16).

    Ovnayim is sometimes translated as “birthstool”, but the word never again appears in this sense in the Tanach. Indeed it only appears once more in the Bible, in Jeremiah 18:4, where it means a potter’s wheel.

    The Midrash regards it as “the place where the baby turns”, i.e. the womb. This seems to indicate that the womb is where the future is not only determined as male or female in the normal way but where every aspect of the child’s development is determined.

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