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Chapter 1

Translation and Transliteration of 

1These are the names of the sons of Yisrael who came to Egypt with Yaakov, each coming with his household:

v'-AY-leh sh'-MOT b'-NAY yis-ra-AYL ha-ba-EEM mitz-RA-y'-mah AYT ya-a-KOV EESH u'-vay-TO BA-u

אבְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

 1:1   These are the names

Sefer Shemot starts with the letter vav (ו), which signifies the conjunction ‘and,’ thus connecting it to the end of Sefer Bereishit. In fact, the passages beginning with Shemot 1:1 and Bereishit 46:8 are practically identical, each containing a list of Yaakov’s descendants who accompanied him to Egypt. The end of Sefer Bereishit describes the children of Yaakov leaving their homeland and descending to Egypt. Sefer Shemot continues the story of the exile and the subsequent miraculous redemption, and is therefore a direct continuation of Sefer Bereishit. However, the story does not end with the conclusion of Sefer Shemot. While the slavery itself comes to an end with the exodus from Egypt, the ultimate redemption comes only with the reunification of the Children of Israel and their homeland, as described in Sefer Yehoshua.

2Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda;

v'-ha-A-retz ha-YE-tah to-HU va-VO-hu v'-KHO-shekh al-pe-NAY te-HOM v'-RU-akh e-lo-HEEM m'-ra-KHE-fet al-pe-NAY ha-MA-yim

בוְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

3Yissachar, Zevulun, and Binyamin;

va-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM, y'-HEE oR, va-y'-HEE oR.

גוַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י א֑וֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר׃

4Dan and Naftali, Gad and Asher.

vai-YAR e-lo-HIM et ha-OHR kee-TOV, vai-VA-del e-lo-HIM BEYN ha-OHR u-VEYN ha-KHO-shekh

דוַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃

5The total number of persons that were of Yaakov's issue came to seventy, Yosef being already in Egypt.

vai-YIK-ra e-lo-HEEM la-OR YOM v'-la-KHO-shekh ka-RA la-y'-LAH, va-Y'-hee E-rev va-Y'-hee-vo-KER YOM e-KHAD.

הוַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לָאוֹר֙ י֔וֹם וְלַחֹ֖שֶׁךְ קָ֣רָא לָ֑יְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם אֶחָֽד׃

6Yosef died, and all his brothers, and all that generation.

vai-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM, y'-HI ra-KEE-a b'-TO-kh ha-ma-YIM, vi-y'-HI mav-DEEL bein ma-YIM la-ma-YIM

ווַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃

7But the Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them.

vai-YA-as e-lo-HEEM et ha-ra-KEE-a, va-yav-DAYL BAYN ha-MA-yim a-SHER mit-KHA-at la-ra-KEE-a, u-VAYN ha-MA-yim a-SHER may-AL la-ra-KEE-a, vai-YA-hee-KHEN

זוַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִ֒יעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֙יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

8A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Yosef.

vai-YIK-ra e-lo-HEEM la-ra-KEE-a sha-MA-yim, va-Y'-hee-ER-ev va-Y'-hee-vo-KER yom she-NEE.

חוַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שֵׁנִֽי׃

9And he said to his people, “Look, B'nei Yisrael are much too numerous for us.

vai-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM yi-KA-vu ha-MA-yim mit-TA-khat ha-sha-MA-yim el ma-KOM e-KHAD v'-te-RA-e ha-ya-BA-sha va-Y'-hee-KHEN

טוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ אֶל־מָק֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

10Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.”

vai-YIK-ra e-lo-HIM la-ya-BA-sha E-retz u-l'-mik-VEH ha-MA-yim ka-RA ya-MEEM vai-YAR e-lo-HIM kee-TOV

יוַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

11So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor; and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.

vai-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM, tad-SHAY ha-A-retz, DE-shay, E-sev maz-REE-a ze-RA, ETZ pe-REE o-SEH pe-REE l'-mi-NO, a-SHER zar-o-VO-bo al ha-A-retz, vai-Y'-hee-KHEN

יאוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ דֶּ֗שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

12But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites.

va-tot-SE ha-A-retz DE-shE a-SEV maz-REE-a ze-RA l'-mi-NE-hu v'-ETZ o-SEH p'-REE a-SHER zar-o-VO l'-mi-NE-hu va-YAR e-lo-HEEM kee-TOV

יבוַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

13The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites

vai-YA-hee-E-rev vai-YA-hee-vo-KER yom sh'-lee-SHEE.

יגוַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שְׁלִישִֽׁי׃

14the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly* they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field.

vai-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM, y'-HEE me-o-ROT bi-ri-KI-a ha-sha-MA-yim, l'-hav-DEEL BAYN ha-YOM u-BAYN ha-la-Y'-la, v'-ha-YU l'-o-TOT u-l'-mo-a-DEEM, u-l'-ya-MEEM v'-sha-NEEM

ידוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃

15The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,

va-YO-mer ME-lekh mitz-RA-yim lam-ya-l'-DOT ha-iv-ri-YOT a-SHER SHAYM ha-a-KHAT shif-RAH v'-SHAYM ha-shay-NEET pu-AH

טווְהָי֤וּ לִמְאוֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

1:15 The Hebrew midwives 

Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997)

The identity of these ‘Hebrew midwives,’,’ meyaldot haivriyot (מילדות העבריות), is debated by Rabbinic commentators. Many have assumed, as the literal reading implies, that they were Jewish women. But other commentators, such as the Abrabanel, suggest that the midwives Shiphrah and Puah were Egyptians This interpretation is primarily based on the use of the phrase “fear of God”, a phrase often used to describe the behavior of exceptional gentiles, in reference to their heroic actions. According to these interpreters, the phrase meyaldot haivriyot‘Hebrew midwives,’ is deliberately ambiguous, and it actually refers to the “midwives for the Hebrew women.” If so, Shiphrah and Puah were the first gentiles in history to risk their lives in order to rescue a Jew. Israeli Bible scholar and teacher par excellence, Nechama Leibowitz, remarked about this passage, “If we accept that the midwives were Egyptian, a…very vital message becomes apparent. The Torah indicates how the individual can resist evil. He need not shirk his moral responsibility under cover of ‘superior orders’ … Neither moral courage nor sheer wickedness are ethnically or nationally determined qualities. Moab and Ammon produced a Ruth and Naamah respectively; Egypt two righteous midwives.”

16saying, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, look at the birthstool: if it is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”

vai-YA-as e-lo-HEEM et sh'-NAY ha-m'-o-ROT ha-g'-DO-leem et ha-ma-OR ha-ga-DOL l'-m'-she-LET ha-YOM v'-et ha-ma-OR ha-ka-TON l'-m'-she-LET ha-la-YE-la v'-ET ha-ko-KHA-veem

טזוַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃

17The midwives, fearing Hashem, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.

vai-YI-ten o-TAM e-lo-HEEM bir-KI-a ha-sha-MA-yim l'-ha-EER al ha-A-retz

יזוַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?”

v'-lim-SHOL ba-YOM u-va-la-YE-la u-l'-hav-DEEL bein ha-OR u-vein ha-KHO-shekh va-YAR e-lo-HIM kee-TOV

יחוְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה וּֽלְהַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֣ין הַחֹ֑שֶׁךְ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth.”

vai-YA-hee-ER-ev vai-YA-hee-BO-ker YOM r'-vee-EE.

יטוַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם רְבִיעִֽי׃

20And Hashem dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and increased greatly.

vai-YO-mer e-lo-HEEM yish-r'-TZU ha-MA-yim, SHE-retz NE-fesh ha-YAH, v'-OF ye-o-FEF al ha-A-retz, al p'-NAY r'-KEE-a ha-sha-MA-yim

כוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה וְעוֹף֙ יְעוֹפֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ עַל־פְּנֵ֖י רְקִ֥יעַ הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

21And because the midwives feared Hashem, He established households for them.

vai-YIV-ra e-lo-HIM et ha-ta-nee-NEEM ha-ge-do-LEEM v'-ET kol-ne-FESH ha-cha-YAH ha-RO-m'-SET a-SHER sha-r'-TZU ha-MA-yim l'-mi-NE-hem v'-ET kol-oF ka-NAF l'-mi-NE-hu vai-YAR e-lo-HIM kee-TOV

כאוַיִּבְרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־הַתַּנִּינִ֖ם הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים וְאֵ֣ת כׇּל־נֶ֣פֶשׁ הַֽחַיָּ֣ה ׀ הָֽרֹמֶ֡שֶׂת אֲשֶׁר֩ שָׁרְצ֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם לְמִֽינֵהֶ֗ם וְאֵ֨ת כׇּל־ע֤וֹף כָּנָף֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־טֽוֹב׃

22Then Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, “Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

va-y'-va-REKH o-TAM e-lo-HEEM lay-MOR: pe-ROO u-re-VU u-mi-LU et ha-MA-yim ba-ya-MEEM v'-ha-oF y'-REV ba-A-retz

כבוַיְבָ֧רֶךְ אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים לֵאמֹ֑ר פְּר֣וּ וּרְב֗וּ וּמִלְא֤וּ אֶת־הַמַּ֙יִם֙ בַּיַּמִּ֔ים וְהָע֖וֹף יִ֥רֶב בָּאָֽרֶץ׃