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.5 comments
6 Yosef died, and all his brothers, and all that generation.
ו וַיָּמָת יוֹסֵף וְכָל־אֶחָיו וְכֹל הַדּוֹר הַהוּא׃
7 But the Israelites were fertile and prolific; they multiplied and increased very greatly, so that the land was filled with them.
ז וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל פָּרוּ וַיִּשְׁרְצוּ וַיִּרְבּוּ וַיַּעַצְמוּ בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ אֹתָם׃
9 And he said to his people, “Look, B’nei Yisrael are much too numerous for us.
ט וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־עַמּוֹ הִנֵּה עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל רַב וְעָצוּם מִמֶּנּוּ׃
10 Let 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.”
י הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּה וְהָיָה כִּי־תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם־הוּא עַל־שֹׂנְאֵינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּנוּ וְעָלָה מִן־הָאָרֶץ׃
11 So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor; and they built garrison cities for Pharaoh: Pithom and Raamses.
יא וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלָיו שָׂרֵי מִסִּים לְמַעַן עַנֹּתוֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיִּבֶן עָרֵי מִסְכְּנוֹת לְפַרְעֹה אֶת־פִּתֹם וְאֶת־רַעַמְסֵס׃
12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they increased and spread out, so that the [Egyptians] came to dread the Israelites.
יב וְכַאֲשֶׁר יְעַנּוּ אֹתוֹ כֵּן יִרְבֶּה וְכֵן יִפְרֹץ וַיָּקֻצוּ מִפְּנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
13 The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites
יג וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ׃
14 the 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.
יד וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים וּבְכָל־עֲבֹדָה בַּשָּׂדֶה אֵת כָּל־עֲבֹדָתָם אֲשֶׁר־עָבְדוּ בָהֶם בְּפָרֶךְ׃
15 The 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
1:15 The Hebrew midwives
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.”Comment
16 saying, “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.”
טז וַיֹּאמֶר בְּיַלֶּדְכֶן אֶת־הָעִבְרִיּוֹת וּרְאִיתֶן עַל־הָאָבְנָיִם אִם־בֵּן הוּא וַהֲמִתֶּן אֹתוֹ וְאִם־בַּת הִיא וָחָיָה׃
17 The midwives, fearing Hashem, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live.
יז וַתִּירֶאןָ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים וְלֹא עָשׂוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶן מֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם וַתְּחַיֶּיןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִים׃
18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?”
יח וַיִּקְרָא מֶלֶךְ־מִצְרַיִם לַמְיַלְּדֹת וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶן מַדּוּעַ עֲשִׂיתֶן הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה וַתְּחַיֶּיןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִים׃
19 The 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.”
יט וַתֹּאמַרְןָ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶל־פַּרְעֹה כִּי לֹא כַנָּשִׁים הַמִּצְרִיֹּת הָעִבְרִיֹּת כִּי־חָיוֹת הֵנָּה בְּטֶרֶם תָּבוֹא אֲלֵהֶן הַמְיַלֶּדֶת וְיָלָדוּ׃
20 And Hashem dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and increased greatly.
כ וַיֵּיטֶב אֱלֹהִים לַמְיַלְּדֹת וַיִּרֶב הָעָם וַיַּעַצְמוּ מְאֹד׃
21 And because the midwives feared Hashem, He established households for them.
כא וַיְהִי כִּי־יָרְאוּ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִים וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים׃