This week we start reading a new book of the Torah: Shmot (Exodus).
At the end of last week’s parsha, Yaakov (Jacob) our forefather dies, and now suddenly the entire Jewish people are in Egypt and a new king takes the throne in Egypt, and he does not know Joseph.
We are told near the beginning of the parsha that as soon as he took the throne he said to his people “Behold
! The people, the Children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us act wisely to it lest it become numerous and it may be that if a war will occur, it, too, may join our enemies, and wage war against us and go up from the land.” (Shmot 1:10). And before they knew what was happening, the Jewish people were oppressed.
This “wise” act that the king decided upon to deal with the ‘Jewish problem’ was to kill all the Jewish new born males. He appointed two midwives, who were actually Jewish themselves, to do this. Their names were Yocheved and Miriam, nicknamed Shifra and Puah respectively. These two woman are none other than Moshe’s mother and sister. Of course, these are no ordinary women and when commanded to carry out murder they responded with bravery, and kept the newborn baby boys alive.
When Pharaoh saw what was happening he called them and said “Why have you done this thing, that you have kept the boys alive!” and the midwives responded “Because the Hebrew women are unlike the Egyptian women, for they are midwives; before the midwife comes to them, they have given birth.”
And in doing this, Yocheved and Miriam enabled the Jewish people to survive. The parsha then goes on to say an interesting thing…
“And it was because the midwives feared God that He made houses for them.” (Shmot 1:21)
This is the reward that Yocheved and Miriam received for their bravery. What does it mean? Did Hashem literally build a house for them? Not such a great reward from an All-Powerful God. If you had one wish…. you would wish for a house?
No. Rashi tells us that these ‘houses’ are the house of the kehuna, the priesthood, and leviya, the levites, as well as the house of malchut, royalty, which would be given to the descendants of Yocheved and Miriam as reward for their bravery and risk.
We can see here something amazing…
In every situation, there is always a right and a wrong response, and we have to choose which of those two options – the right or the wrong – we are going to go with. It’s sometimes a hard choice. The wrong choice is always very tempting, even when we realise it is clearly the wrong thing to do. Our Sages in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) give some advice on how we can make the right choice in this battle: Know that all your actions are written in a book. Meaning, your actions don’t finish when you complete them. The effects of your acts, as well as the rewards of every good deed you acheive, echo throughout history. They affect the rest of your life, your reward in the World To Come, your childrens lives and their childrens lives…. and the list goes on. Never underestimate the power of even the smallest act. Every good deed we do counts, and is recorded in Hashem’s notebook. And even though we have a short memory, and often give ourselves a hard time and forget even the best things we do, Hashem doesn’t. And one day, a long time after you’ve forgotten what you did,
He brings you your reward. And even though sometimes it’s very hard to do what is right, when that day comes, you’ll be very glad you made the right decision. Shabbat Shalom!