בְּפָרֶךְ רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אָמַר בְּפֶה רַךְ רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר בִּפְרִיכָה with rigor [befarekh]” (Exodus 1:13). Rabbi Elazar says: The word befarekh is a conjugation of the words: With a soft mouth [bifeh rakh], as the Egyptians enticed the Jewish people into slavery, gradually subjugating them until they had lost their freedom completely. Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says: The word befarekh should be understood as: With crushing [bifrikha], as the Egyptians subjugated Israel with backbreaking labor.
וַיְמָרְרוּ אֶת חַיֵּיהֶם בַּעֲבֹדָה קָשָׁה בְּחֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים וְגוֹ׳ אָמַר רָבָא בַּתְּחִילָּה בְּחוֹמֶר וּבִלְבֵנִים וּלְבַסּוֹף וּבְכׇל עֲבוֹדָה בַּשָּׂדֶה The next verse states: “And they made their lives bitter through hard service, with mortar and brick, and with every laborious service in the field” (Exodus 1:14). Rava says: The verse mentions specifically mortar and brick and then all forms of labor, as initially the Egyptians had them work with mortar and bricks, and ultimately they subjugated them “and with every laborious service in the field.”
אֵת כׇּל עֲבֹדָתָם אֲשֶׁר עָבְדוּ בָהֶם בְּפָרֶךְ אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן שֶׁהָיוּ מַחְלִיפִין מְלֶאכֶת אֲנָשִׁים לְנָשִׁים וּמְלֶאכֶת נָשִׁים לַאֲנָשִׁים וּלְמַאן דְּאָמַר נָמֵי הָתָם בְּפֶה רַךְ הָכָא וַדַּאי בִּפְרִיכָה The verse concludes: “In all their service, wherein they made them serve with rigor” (Exodus 1:14). Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says that Rabbi Yonatan says: The meaning of befarekh is that the Egyptians would exchange the responsibilities of men and women, giving men’s work to women and women’s work to men, requiring everyone to do work to which they were unaccustomed. And even according to the one who says that there, in the previous verse, bifarekh indicates that the Egyptians enslaved the Jews with a soft mouth, here, in this verse, which describes the physical hardship of the labor, the word befarekh certainly means with crushing labor.
דָּרֵשׁ רַב עַוִּירָא בִּשְׂכַר נָשִׁים צִדְקָנִיּוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר נִגְאֲלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהוֹלְכוֹת לִשְׁאוֹב מַיִם הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְזַמֵּן לָהֶם דָּגִים קְטַנִּים בְּכַדֵּיהֶן וְשׁוֹאֲבוֹת מֶחֱצָה מַיִם וּמֶחֱצָה דָּגִים וּבָאוֹת וְשׁוֹפְתוֹת שְׁתֵּי קְדֵירוֹת אַחַת שֶׁל חַמִּין וְאַחַת שֶׁל דָּגִים § Rav Avira taught: In the merit of the righteous women that were in that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt. He tells of their righteous actions: At the time when these women would go to the river to draw water, the Holy One, Blessed be He, would materialize for them small fish that would enter into their pitchers, and they would therefore draw pitchers that were half filled with water and half filled with fish. And they would then come and place two pots on the fire, one pot of hot water for washing their husbands and one pot of fish with which to feed them.
וּמוֹלִיכוֹת אֵצֶל בַּעְלֵיהֶן לַשָּׂדֶה וּמַרְחִיצוֹת אוֹתָן וְסָכוֹת אוֹתָן וּמַאֲכִילוֹת אוֹתָן וּמַשְׁקוֹת אוֹתָן וְנִזְקָקוֹת לָהֶן בֵּין שְׁפַתַּיִם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר אִם תִּשְׁכְּבוּן בֵּין שְׁפַתָּיִם וְגוֹ׳ בִּשְׂכַר תִּשְׁכְּבוּן בֵּין שְׁפַתָּיִם זָכוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבִיזַּת מִצְרַיִם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כַּנְפֵי יוֹנָה נֶחְפָּה בַכֶּסֶף וְאֶבְרוֹתֶיהָ בִּירַקְרַק חָרוּץ And they would then take what they prepared to their husbands, to the field, and would bathe their husbands and anoint them with oil and feed them the fish and give them to drink and bond with them in sexual intercourse between the sheepfolds, i.e., between the borders and fences of the fields, as it is stated: “When you lie among the sheepfolds, the wings of the dove are covered with silver, and her pinions with the shimmer of gold” (Psalms 68:14), which is interpreted to mean that as a reward for “when you lie among the sheepfolds,” the Jewish people merited to receive the plunder of Egypt, as it is stated in the continuation of the verse, as a reference to the Jewish people: “The wings of the dove are covered with silver, and her pinions with the shimmer of gold” (Psalms 68:14).
וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמִּתְעַבְּרוֹת בָּאוֹת לְבָתֵּיהֶם וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמַּגִּיעַ זְמַן מוֹלְדֵיהֶן הוֹלְכוֹת וְיוֹלְדוֹת בַּשָּׂדֶה תַּחַת הַתַּפּוּחַ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר תַּחַת הַתַּפּוּחַ עוֹרַרְתִּיךָ וְגוֹ׳ And when these women would become pregnant, they would come back to their homes, and when the time for them to give birth would arrive they would go and give birth in the field under the apple tree, as it is stated: “Under the apple tree I awakened you; there your mother was in travail with you; there was she in travail and brought you forth” (Song of Songs 8:5).
וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שׁוֹלֵחַ מִשְּׁמֵי מָרוֹם מִי שֶׁמְּנַקֵּיר וּמְשַׁפֵּיר אוֹתָן כְּחַיָּה זוֹ שֶׁמְּשַׁפֶּרֶת אֶת הַוָּלָד שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וּמוֹלְדוֹתַיִךְ בְּיוֹם הוּלֶּדֶת אוֹתָךְ לֹא כׇרַּת שׇׁרֵּךְ וּבְמַיִם לֹא רֻחַצְתְּ לְמִשְׁעִי וְגוֹ׳ וּמְלַקֵּט לָהֶן שְׁנֵי עִגּוּלִין אֶחָד שֶׁל שֶׁמֶן וְאֶחָד שֶׁל דְּבַשׁ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיֵּנִקֵהוּ דְבַשׁ מִסֶּלַע וְשֶׁמֶן וְגוֹ׳ And the Holy One, Blessed be He, would send from the heavens above an angel who would clean and prepare the newborns, just as a midwife prepares the newborn, as it is stated: “And as for your birth, on the day you were born, your navel was not cut nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all” (Ezekiel 16:4). This indicates that there were no midwives to take care of the Jews born in Egypt. And then, the angel would gather for them two round stones from the field and the babies would nurse from that which would flow out of them. One of the stones flowed with oil and one of the stones flowed with honey, as it is stated: “And He would suckle them with honey from a crag and oil from a flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:13).
וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמַּכִּירִין בָּהֶן מִצְרִים בָּאִין לְהוֹרְגָן וְנַעֲשָׂה לָהֶם נֵס וְנִבְלָעִין בַּקַּרְקַע וּמְבִיאִין שְׁווֹרִים וְחוֹרְשִׁין עַל גַּבָּן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר עַל גַּבִּי חָרְשׁוּ חֹרְשִׁים וְגוֹ׳ לְאַחַר שֶׁהוֹלְכִין הָיוּ מְבַצְבְּצִין וְיוֹצְאִין כְּעֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר רְבָבָה כְּצֶמַח הַשָּׂדֶה נְתַתִּיךְ And once the Egyptians would notice them, realizing that they were Jewish babies, they would come to kill them. But a miracle would occur for them and they would be absorbed by the earth. And the Egyptians would then bring oxen and would plow upon them, as it is stated: “The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows” (Psalms 129:3). After the Egyptians would leave, the babies would emerge and exit the ground like grass of the field, as it is stated: “I caused you to increase even as the growth of the field” (Ezekiel 16:7).
וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמִּתְגַּדְּלִין בָּאִין עֲדָרִים עֲדָרִים לְבָתֵּיהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַתִּרְבִּי וַתִּגְדְּלִי וַתָּבֹאִי בַּעֲדִי עֲדָיִים אַל תִּקְרֵי בַּעֲדִי עֲדָיִים אֶלָּא בְּעֶדְרֵי עֲדָרִים And once the babies would grow, they would come like many flocks of sheep to their homes, as it is stated in the continuation of the verse: “And you did increase and grow up and you came with excellent beauty [ba’adi adayim]” (Ezekiel 16:7). Do not read the verse as: “Ba’adi adayim,” “with excellent beauty.” Rather, read it as: Be’edrei adarim, meaning: As many flocks.
וּכְשֶׁנִּגְלָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל הַיָּם הֵם הִכִּירוּהוּ תְּחִלָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ And when the Holy One, Blessed be He, revealed Himself at the Red Sea, these children recognized Him first, as it is stated: “This is my God, and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2). They recognized Him from the previous time that He revealed Himself to them in their infancy, enabling them to say: “This is my God.”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם לַמְיַלְּדוֹת הָעִבְרִיּוֹת וְגוֹ׳ רַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל חַד אָמַר אִשָּׁה וּבִתָּהּ וְחַד אָמַר כַּלָּה וַחֲמוֹתָהּ מַאן דְּאָמַר אִשָּׁה וּבִתָּהּ יוֹכֶבֶד וּמִרְיָם וּמַאן דְּאָמַר כַּלָּה וַחֲמוֹתָהּ יוֹכֶבֶד וֶאֱלִישֶׁבַע § The verse states: “And the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah” (Exodus 1:15). Rav and Shmuel disagree as to the proper interpretation of this verse. One says that these midwives were a woman and her daughter, and one says that they were a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law. According to the one who says that they were a woman and her daughter, the women were Jochebed, the mother of Moses and Aaron, and her daughter, Miriam. And according to the one who says that they were a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law, the verse is referring to Jochebed and her daughter-in-law Elisheba, the wife of Aaron.
תַּנְיָא כְּמַאן דְּאָמַר אִשָּׁה וּבִתָּהּ דְּתַנְיָא שִׁפְרָה זוֹ יוֹכֶבֶד וְלָמָּה נִקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׁפְרָה שֶׁמְּשַׁפֶּרֶת אֶת הַוָּלָד דָּבָר אַחֵר שִׁפְרָה שֶׁפָּרוּ וְרָבוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָמֶיהָ It is taught in a baraita according to the one who says that they were a woman and her daughter, because it is taught in a baraita: With regard to Shiphrah, who is referred to in the verse, this is really a reference to Jochebed. And why was she called Shiphrah? Because she would prepare [mishapperet] the newborn. Alternatively, she is referred to as Shiphrah because the Jewish people increased and multiplied [shepparu verabbu] in her days, due to her assistance.
פּוּעָה זוֹ מִרְיָם וְלָמָּה נִקְרָא שְׁמָהּ פּוּעָה שֶׁהָיְתָה פּוֹעָה וּמוֹצִיאָה אֶת הַוָּלָד דָּבָר אַחֵר פּוּעָה שֶׁהָיְתָה פּוֹעָה בְּרוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ וְאוֹמֶרֶת עֲתִידָה אִמִּי שֶׁתֵּלֵד בֵּן שֶׁמּוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל The baraita continues: With regard to Puah, who is referred to in the verse, this is really a reference to Miriam. And why was she called Puah? Because she would make a comforting sound [po’a] as she would remove the child from the womb of the mother. Alternatively, the word Puah is related to one of the verbs that describe speaking, as she would speak [po’a] through divine inspiration and say: In the future, my mother will give birth to a son who will save the Jewish people.
וַיֹּאמֶר בְּיַלֶּדְכֶן אֶת הָעִבְרִיּוֹת וְגוֹ׳ מַאי אׇבְנָיִם אָמַר רַבִּי חָנָן סִימָן גָּדוֹל מָסַר לָהֶן אָמַר לָהֶן בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁכּוֹרַעַת לֵילֵד יַרְכוֹתֶיהָ מִצְטַנְּנוֹת כַּאֲבָנִים The next verse relates the instructions of Pharaoh to the midwives: “And he said: When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you look upon the stones [ovnayim], if it be a son, then you shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live” (Exodus 1:16). The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of “stones”? Rabbi Ḥanan says: Pharaoh transmitted a great sign to them. He said to them: At the time when a woman crouches to give birth, her thighs become as cold as stones, and, therefore, this shall be for you a sign that the woman is about to give birth.
וְאִית דְּאָמַר כְּדִכְתִיב וָאֵרֵד בֵּית הַיּוֹצֵר וְהִנֵּה הוּא עוֹשֶׂה מְלָאכָה עַל הָאׇבְנָיִם מָה יוֹצֵר זֶה יָרֵךְ מִכָּאן וְיָרֵךְ מִכָּאן וְסַדָּן בָּאֶמְצַע אַף אִשָּׁה יָרֵךְ מִכָּאן וְיָרֵךְ מִכָּאן וְהַוָּלָד בָּאֶמְצַע And there are those who say an alternative explanation for ovnayim: As it is written: “So I went down to the potter’s shop, and behold, he was at his work on the wheels [ovnayim]” (Jeremiah 18:3). Just as this potter sits so that one thigh is here and one thigh is there and the block upon which he works is in the middle, so too, a woman giving birth also has one thigh here and one thigh there and the newborn is in the middle.
אִם בֵּן הוּא וַהֲמִתֶּן אוֹתוֹ אָמַר רַבִּי חֲנִינָא סִימָן גָּדוֹל מָסַר לָהֶן בֵּן פָּנָיו לְמַטָּה בַּת פָּנֶיהָ לְמַעְלָה The verse continues: “If it be a son, then you shall kill him; but if it be a daughter, then she shall live” (Exodus 1:16). Rabbi Ḥanina says: Pharaoh transmitted to them a great sign to enable them to know the gender of the infant from the beginning of the birth process: A boy is born with his face downward; a girl is born with her face upward. Pharaoh provided them with this sign so that they could kill the boys secretly even before the mother realized what was happening.
וַתִּירֶאןָ הַמְיַלְּדוֹת אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים וְלֹא עָשׂוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶן וְגוֹ׳ לָהֶן מִיבְּעֵי לֵיהּ אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא מְלַמֵּד שֶׁתְּבָעָן לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה וְלֹא נִתְבְּעוּ The next verse states: “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt spoke about them [aleihen], but they kept the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17). The Gemara comments: It should have stated: “Spoke to them [lahen].” Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, says: This teaches that Pharaoh proposed to them to engage in a sinful act, i.e., sexual intercourse, with him, but they did not accept his overtures. The word aleihen is often used in reference to sexual intercourse, for example: “And brought her to him; and he consorted with her [eileha]” (Genesis 29:23), and that is its connotation here as well.
וַתְּחַיֶּיןָ אֶת הַיְּלָדִים תָּנָא לֹא דַּיָּין שֶׁלֹּא הֵמִיתוּ אוֹתָן אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיוּ מַסְפִּיקוֹת לָהֶם מַיִם וּמָזוֹן The verse concludes: “But they kept the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17). A Sage teaches: It is not only that they did not kill the children as Pharaoh had commanded them, but that they would even provide for them water and food, as the phrase “But they kept the male children alive” indicates.
וַתֹּאמַרְןָ הַמְיַלְּדוֹת אֶל פַּרְעֹה כִּי לֹא כַנָּשִׁים וְגוֹ׳ מַאי חָיוֹת אִילֵימָא חַיּוֹת מַמָּשׁ אַטּוּ חַיָּה מִי לָא צְרִיכָה חַיָּה אַחֲרִיתִי לְאוֹלוֹדַהּ After being questioned by Pharaoh concerning their failure to obey his command, the midwives responded, as it is written: “And the midwives said to Pharaoh: Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women, for they are lively [ḥayot], and are delivered before the midwife comes to them” (Exodus 1:19). The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of “ḥayot”? If we say that the Hebrew women are like ḥayot, meaning actual midwives for themselves, and therefore they do not need assistance from others, is that to say that a midwife does not need the assistance of another midwife in order to help her give birth?
אֶלָּא אָמְרוּ לוֹ אוּמָּה זוֹ כְּחַיָּה נִמְשְׁלָה יְהוּדָה גּוּר אַרְיֵה דָּן יְהִי דָן נָחָשׁ נַפְתָּלִי אַיָּלָה שְׁלֻחָה יִשָּׂשכָר חֲמוֹר גָּרֶם יוֹסֵף בְּכוֹר שׁוֹר בִּנְיָמִין זְאֵב יִטְרָף Rather, the midwives said to Pharaoh: This nation is compared to an animal [ḥayya], and animals give birth without a midwife. For example, with regard to Judah it is written: “Judah is a lion’s whelp” (Genesis 49:9); with regard to Dan it is written: “Dan shall be a serpent in the way” (Genesis 49:17); with regard to Naphtali it is written: “A hind let loose” (Genesis 49:21); with regard to Issachar it is written: “A large-boned donkey” (Genesis 49:14); with regard to Joseph it is written: “His first bullock” (Deuteronomy 33:17); with regard to Benjamin it is written: “A ravenous wolf” (Genesis 49:27).
דִּכְתִיב בֵּיהּ כְּתִיב בֵּיהּ וּדְלָא כְּתִיב בֵּיהּ כְּתִיב בֵּיהּ מַה אִמְּךָ לְבִיָּא בֵּין אֲרָיוֹת רָבָצָה וְגוֹ׳ The Gemara comments: Concerning those individuals where a comparison to an animal is written with regard to him, it is already written with regard to him. And concerning those where no specific metaphor comparing them to an animal is written with regard to him explicitly, in any case a general comparison is written about the Jewish people: “How your mother was a lioness; among lions she crouched, in the midst of the young lions she reared her whelps” (Ezekiel 19:2), indicating that all the Jewish people are compared to animals.
וַיְהִי כִּי יָרְאוּ הַמְיַלְּדוֹת אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם בָּתִּים רַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל חַד אָמַר בָּתֵּי כְהוּנָּה וּלְוִיָּה וְחַד אָמַר בָּתֵּי מַלְכוּת מַאן דְּאָמַר בָּתֵּי כְהוּנָּה וּלְוִיָּה אַהֲרֹן וּמֹשֶׁה וּמַאן דְּאָמַר בָּתֵּי מַלְכוּת דָּוִד נָמֵי מִמִּרְיָם קָאָתֵי דִּכְתִיב וַתָּמׇת עֲזוּבָה אֵשֶׁת כָּלֵב וַיִּקַּח לוֹ כָלֵב אֶת אֶפְרָת וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ אֶת חוּר וּכְתִיב וְדָוִד בֶּן אִישׁ אֶפְרָתִי וְגוֹ׳ The verse relates the midwives’ reward: “And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses” (Exodus 1:21). Rav and Shmuel disagree as to the precise interpretation of these houses: One says that God made the houses of the priesthood and the Levites descend from the midwives, and one says that God made the houses of royalty descend from them. The one who says that it is referring to the houses of the priesthood and the Levites is referring to Aaron and Moses, who were sons of Jochebed. And the one who says that it is referring to houses of royalty is referring to David, who also comes from Miriam, as it is written: “And Azubah,” the wife of Caleb, “died, and Caleb took to him Ephrath, who bore him Hur” (I Chronicles 2:19) and, as will be explained further, Ephrath is Miriam. And it is written: “David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah” (I Samuel 17:12). Therefore, he was a descendant of Miriam.
וְכָלֵב בֶּן חֶצְרוֹן הוֹלִיד אֶת עֲזוּבָה אִשָּׁה וְאֶת יְרִיעוֹת וְאֵלֶּה בָנֶיהָ יֵשֶׁר וְשׁוֹבָב וְאַרְדּוֹן בֶּן חֶצְרוֹן בֶּן יְפֻנֶּה הוּא בֵּן שֶׁפָּנָה מֵעֲצַת מְרַגְּלִים The Gemara discusses the family of Caleb: In Chronicles it says: “And Caleb, the son of Hezron, begot children of Azubah his wife, and of Jerioth, and these were her sons: Jesher, and Shobab, and Ardon” (I Chronicles 2:18). The Gemara asks: Was Caleb actually the son of Hezron? Wasn’t he the son of Jephunneh, as the verse states in Numbers 13:6? The Gemara answers: He was the son of Hezron, but he is called “son of Jephunneh” as an appellation indicating that he was a son who turned away [sheppana] from the counsel of the spies.
וְאַכַּתִּי בֶּן קְנַז הוּא דִּכְתִיב וַיִּלְכְּדָהּ עׇתְנִיאֵל בֶּן קְנַז אֲחִי כָלֵב אָמַר רָבָא חוֹרְגוֹ דִּקְנַז הֲוָה The Gemara asks: But it is still difficult. Hezron could not be his father, as Caleb was the son of Kenaz, as it is written: “And Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it” (Judges 1:13). This would mean that Caleb was also a son of Kenaz. Rava said: Caleb was the stepson of Kenaz, as he and Othniel shared a mother but had different fathers.