Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

I’m taking a week off from thinking.  So, these comments are from January 2013, except for additions in italics.

A new year, a new book, and a familiar yet still-exciting story to curl up with on these cold, dark winter mornings.  This week’s portion takes us all the way from a reminder of the names of the brothers who went down to Egypt, through the Hebrews’ entrapment in slavery, to that bricks without straw episode (which always reminds me of those productivity-increase initiatives at work which are NOW ONLY A MEMORY HAHAHAHA!!!  But I digress…). 

In between, Pharaoh tries different schemes to weaken the Hebrews, including ordering the deaths of newborn sons.  Moses is born, hidden, found, and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Primed to fight injustice, Moses kills an abusive taskmaster and flees to Midian, where he meets and rescues the daughters of Jethro (at a well, of course) and marries one (Zipporah). 

After several quiet decades as a shepherd, Moses is shown the burning bush that is not consumed and is given his assignment to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, which he accepts only after he runs out of excuses.  On the way to Egypt, Zipporah saves Moses’ life by circumcising their son, which Moses hadn’t (why is not stated).

When he and big brother Aaron meet with the elders and then head off to Pharaoh, everything looks great.  Then, despite their impressive dog-and-pony (here, snakes and staffs – Biblical PowerPoint) show, Aaron and Moses are exposed to two themes which will recur with depressing frequency: (1) Pharaoh will not simply let the Hebrews go because he’s told their god wants him to and (2) the Hebrews kvetch whenever there’s a setback.  But, at the end (6:1), the Lord provides a reassuring message along the lines of, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

An oft-noted feature of this portion is the major role played by women.  The midwives, Shifrah and Puah (in some commentaries identified as Moses’ mother Jocheved and sister Miriam), save newborn Hebrew boys.  Jocheved saves Moses by hiding him and then placing him in that basket by the river, hopeful he will be rescued.  Pharaoh’s daughter does so [another act of defiance], and Miriam arranges for Jocheved to be his wet nurse.  Rabbinic midrash also has Miriam indirectly responsible for Moses’ birth, by convincing her parents to resume relations, after they had separated lest they have a baby boy who would be killed under the edict. 

Is all this a sign of the innate moral superiority of the women, Hebrew and Egyptian, with the men being abject cowards?  Rather, a key element is the relative invisibility and powerlessness of women.  They are never perceived as a threat, leaving them freer to operate and to act in accord with morality.  Sometimes it can help not to be taken seriously by the powers that be.

Shabbat shalom,



(2013) The world of birth is one of survival at its most basic and grubby.  I’ve been enjoying a series on PBS, “Call the Midwife,” which is based on the memoirs of a nurse midwife in London’s East End slums in the 1950’s. [They’re up to the ‘60’s now.] The midwives and doctors respect each other and understand who steps in when.  Respecting a title instead of skill can bring disaster. For example, it is now thought that Jane Seymour’s death nine days postpartum may have been due to infection caused by incomplete removal of the placenta, probably because Henry VIII was so anxious to have his son (Edward VI) born safely that he insisted on using physicians instead of experienced midwives.  IGP


(excerpt – the full article contains data!)


‘My god, September is terrible!’ one midwife told The Independent

Rachel Hosie  @rachel_hosie  Friday 8 September 2017 10:09 

If you’ve noticed a lot of pregnant women around of late or seem to have a lot of birthday parties in your diary over the next few weeks, you’re probably not alone.

September 26 is the day most babies are born, because what happened nine months earlier? Christmas.

And now a midwife is speaking out to ask people to stop having sex over Christmas. 

33-year-old midwife Mhairi Maharry from London jokingly tweeted:

“How is it only the 5th of September. I can’t take 25 more days of this. If you know or love a midwife, PLEASE STOP SHAGGING AT CHRISTMAS.”

She’s not alone either – one trainee midwife told The Independent that September is notorious for being manic.

And midwife Bethan Jones added: “My god, September is terrible! I’m in the midst of the busiest row of shifts I’ve had in a long time. 

 “Everyone decides this is the year they’ll have a baby, so they start trying right away and end up having a baby nine months later,” she explained to The Independent.

You might think mid November – nine months after Valentine’s Day – would be a busy time in labour wards, but it’s nothing on September.

Thanks to the whole of December being a time for parties, drinking and general frivolity, September is the busiest month of the year for midwives.

And after Maharry’s Twitter appeal, both expectant mothers and mothers of September babies apologised for any extra work they’d given midwives.

Interestingly, December 25 and 26 are actually the days when the fewest babies are born.


tph moses burning bush


Dilbert on PowerPoint Presentations

tph dilbert powerpt


19 #Resistance Quotes For International Women’s Day (selections)

By Samantha Darby  Mar 7 2017

“It’s not a woman’s job to get smaller and smaller until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.” — Glennon Doyle Melton

“A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.” — Malala Yousafzai

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” — Marie Curie

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically . . . no, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” — Rosa Parks


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