Exodus 1:15
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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.”
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Exodus 1:15

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