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Defying Evil

Friday, 9 January, 2015 - 3:39 pm

Mommy and MeImagine a tyrannical dictator instructs you do a terrible act or you will pay with your life. How would you react? Would you cave or would you stand strong? Would you oppose? How is one meant to even deal with such evil?

For two characters in this week's Torah Portion, this was the exact reality of what they faced. Shifra and Puah otherwise known as Yocheved and Miriam, were the lead Jewish midwives during Biblical times in Egypt and they were faced with this exact dilemma. Pharaoh the king in Egypt, woke up one morning and decided on a campaign of hate and violence against the Jews. He was actually a very smart person and the Midrash tell us that he knew that if he embarked on a wholesale massacre of the Jews, even his own people wouldn’t allow this to happen. Instead he plans a slow process of delegitimatization of the Jewish people, which included spreading fear mongering about the impending takeover by the Jews, forcing them into hard labor, initiating many harsh decrees and eventually summoning the midwives to carry out his decree of killing every firstborn male.

Yocheved and Miriam were now faced with the decision of their lives, to kill or be killed, to stand against evil or to cooperate with evil!

What do they do?

The verse tells us that not only did they not listen to Pharoah, instead they went the extra mile and did everything they could to make sure that every Jewish baby boy born would be able to survive. They went beyond the birthing process itself and made sure that they supplied food and nutrition to the babies and their mothers to make sure that not a single baby would be lost and no one would even think for a moment that they were abandoning even one child.

Pharaoh got angry at them and then asked the Egyptian midwives to do the dirty work, but in the interim and even over the long term many Jewish babies were saved thanks to the bravery of these two women.

Yocheved and Miriam didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize or any other Human Rights Award, yet between them in addition to saving the thousands of lives, they also set the tone for what the Jewish response to evil is. We don’t cooperate, we don’t cave, we fight and we do our best to see that life and goodness thrives, even if at times the odds seem against us.

For every child they saved there may have been others who were being killed and the child born would end up in a life of slavery, but if a life was being saved and if the potential to overcome the evil and provide some light was there, they acted!

Today’s events in France, are a reminder of the evil face of terror and the agenda of the forces of darkness. Yocheved and Miriam are a reminder that evil will be overcome although it may take time, yet in the interim, we must fight back one good deed at a time and one life touched at a time.

Good Shabbos

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