The taste of Shabbat -Shemot 5777
Rav Mordechai Elon
Our Parsha starts with a description of planned holocaust of the Hebrew people after Yosef and his generation's death. The second parsha describes the bravery of our nation, especially the women. Our rabbis teach us that we left Egypt because of the merit of our righteous women, surprisingly enough, not just Jewish ones, but Egyptians too.
The Egyptian midwives
The Torah tells us about the Hebrew midwives at the end of the first parsha.
Rashi tells us that they are Yocheved, Moshe's mother, and Miriam, his sister.
Shifrah: This was Yocheved, [called Shifrah] because she beautified [מְשַׁפֶּרֶת] the newborn infant. [From Sotah
Puah: This was Miriam, [called Puah] because she cried (פּוֹעָה) and talked and cooed to the newborn infant in the manner of women who soothe a crying infant. .
According to certain commentators, the Sforno, Ibn Ezra and others, the term "Hebrew midwives" may mean the midwives who helped birth the Hebrew babies, meaning that they themselves were perhaps not Jewish. There is an opposition against Pharaoh's decision to enslave our people– the midwives. According to this explanation, they were Egyptian, not Hebrew. This is logical as Pharaoh would have wanted loyal women carrying out his wishes. In addition, it is illogical to assume that the millions of Hebrew babies born in Egypt were aided in birth by only two women! We can assume that Shifrah and Puah were the head of the "midwives' union", and the Egyptian midwives refused to carry out their orders.