Two Minutes of Torah | Sh’mot | Exodus 1:1–6:1

Pharaoh was, fortunately for the early Hebrews, not a brilliant military strategist. He recognized the threat that a numerous population in his midst might present, “…in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us (Exodus 1:10),” but chose short-term pyrrhic victory over long-term success. “The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shifrah and the other Puah, 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.’” (Exodus 1:15-16)

At first glance, it seems to make sense. Killing the fighting force topples the threat, right? Wrong. The symbolic victory might appeal substantial, but a single male slipping through the cracks could sire an entire generation. A single male, saved by the midwives or floated down the river, could go on to upend Egyptian society. Errant strategic moves, undertaken by even the most powerful forces, can forever alter the course of history. “The people multiplied and greatly increased.” (Exodus 1:20) May it always be so.

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer

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