December 13, 2018 ~ Shabbat VAYIGASH. Maqam BAYAT.

Shabbat Shemot - שבת שמות

The New King

ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים - The plot of Egypt's "New King" represents an ongoing problem that continues to face humanity today. Pharaoh is introduced as "not knowing Joseph;" the hero who saves Egypt from the famine. Pharaoh, unprovoked, convinces others that the Israelites are a demographic threat and uses his pulpit to dehumanize them. He subtly uses divisive rhetoric to persuade his people; saying to "his nation" (ויאמר אל עמו) that "the nation of the Children of Israel (עם בני ישראל) are becoming bigger and stronger than us" (Exodus 1:9). Upon hearing these suggestions (הבה), the Egyptians, with the exception of the Hebrew midwives, are immediately complicit and do not protest his radical agenda (ויעבדו מצרים). What starts off as a debate about a demographic problem quickly turns into the brutal massacre of all male infants, because the Egyptians do not have the courage to do what is right and defend their innocent neighbors. Beth Torah Bulletin, January 6, 2018.

The Hebrew Midwives

ותיראן המילדת את האלהים - In a new era for Egypt, the king suddenly views the Children of Israel as a demographic threat, and secretly commands the chief midwives, Shifra and Puah, to engage in infanticide against all Hebrew males. Ignoring this decree, we read that the midwives had a "fear of God" and deliberately decide to disobey the orders. These brave women, who themselves were probably not Hebrews (as per Abarbanel), have completely risked their lives for the sake of following their consciences and doing what was right. The Torah informs us that this "fear of God" did not go unnoticed, and that these midwives, whose vocation was to build families for others, would now be rewarded with "homes" of their own. This interesting story, a rare spark of light in a world filled with darkness, is a stark reminder that God rewards people every day for making righteous and courageous decisions (Beth Torah, 1/21/17).