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To be Shifra and Puah

אמא ותינוק

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Ever since I read the following thought, written by Moshe Shimon Ofen, I have noticed a change in my behavior on a number of occasions.

"In the Torah portion of Shemot, we learn about two midwives, Shifra and Puah. Pharaoh issues a command to kill all the Jewish babies, but the midwives refuse to comply. The commentator Rashi draws our attention to the meanings of their names.

"Shifrah (beauty) - because she beautified the newborn infant; Puah (crying) -- because she would cry and talk and coo to the newborn in the manner of women who soothe a crying infant."

In other words, they were not just midwives. They were also comforting, smiling, embracing caregivers who knew how to talk to and calm a baby. In the midst of horrific enslavement, warm and reassuring women suddenly appeared who not only facilitated the birthing process, but caressed and sang songs to the newborn infants.

They were great women not only because they refused to carry out the murderous instructions of Pharaoh, but because they added a smile and a gentle word amidst the hell of Egyptian slavery.

Life is not only about what we do, but how we do it. It's possible to do what is right in a frenzied and unpleasant manner. In contrast to this mode of action, Shifra and Puah inspire us -- whether at home, at work, on the road, or anywhere else -- to add gentleness and smiles to whatever we do and to adopt an embracing attitude towards everyone around us.


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