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What did the Midwives do and Why?

Source Sheet by Rachel Buckman
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Created December 10, 2018 · 1238 Views נוצר 10 December, 2018 · 1238 צפיות

Student source sheet for studying Shemot 1:17-21 in depth. May be used in conjunction with the lesson, "Moral Courage in the Torah and Today".
The lesson was written for grades 5-6 but could be adapted for other grades, learning environments, and skill levels.

    In this lesson you will:

    • Read and understand the narrative in Shemot 1:17-21.
    • Define the phrase יראת אלקים by looking at two texts.
    • Consider a definition of יראת אלקים and investigate whether the midwives' actions qualify.
    • Watch an interview with a person who was designated "righteous among the nations."
    • Ask your parents for an example of someone who demonstrated moral courage.
    • Share your parents' examples on the source sheet "Modern Examples of Moral Courage".


    In order to complete the source sheet, click "Save" in the top right-hand corner of the sheet and enter the highlighting mode by selecting "Highlight Mode" from the "File" menu.

  1. (יז) וַתִּירֶ֤אןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹקִ֔ים וְלֹ֣א עָשׂ֔וּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ן מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃ (יח) וַיִּקְרָ֤א מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֔ת וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֔ן מַדּ֥וּעַ עֲשִׂיתֶ֖ן הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃ (יט) וַתֹּאמַ֤רְןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה כִּ֣י לֹ֧א כַנָּשִׁ֛ים הַמִּצְרִיֹּ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת כִּֽי־חָי֣וֹת הֵ֔נָּה בְּטֶ֨רֶם תָּב֧וֹא אֲלֵהֶ֛ן הַמְיַלֶּ֖דֶת וְיָלָֽדוּ׃ (כ) וַיֵּ֥יטֶב אֱלֹקִ֖ים לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֑ת וַיִּ֧רֶב הָעָ֛ם וַיַּֽעַצְמ֖וּ מְאֹֽד׃ (כא) וַיְהִ֕י כִּֽי־יָֽרְא֥וּ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת אֶת־הָאֱלֹקִ֑ים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם בָּתִּֽים׃

    (17) The midwives, fearing God, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them; they let the boys live. (18) So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?” (19) The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth.” (20) And God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and increased greatly. (21) And because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.
  2. 1. Highlight the shoresh י.ר.א. in purple.

    2. Highlight what the midwives say in green.

    3. Highlight what Pharaoh says in yellow.

    Answer each question below:

    1. Do the midwives do as Pharaoh commanded?

    2. What excuse do the midwives give to Pharaoh?

    3. According to the text, why don't the midwives do it? (hint: Use the words from the text to answer)

    4. What does יראת אלקים mean? Double click on the word ירא in the text above to open the dictionary. Look at various definitions and choose what works best.


    For another clue as to what the phrase "יראת אלקים" means, let's look at an example where the Torah says that a group of people don't have יראת אלקים.


  3. (יז) זָכ֕וֹר אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֲמָלֵ֑ק בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶ֥ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ (יח) אֲשֶׁ֨ר קָֽרְךָ֜ בַּדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּ֤ב בְּךָ֙ כָּל־הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִ֣ים אַֽחַרֶ֔יךָ וְאַתָּ֖ה עָיֵ֣ף וְיָגֵ֑עַ וְלֹ֥א יָרֵ֖א אֱלֹקִֽים׃ (יט) וְהָיָ֡ה בְּהָנִ֣יחַ ה' אֱלֹקֶ֣יךָ ׀ לְ֠ךָ מִכָּל־אֹ֨יְבֶ֜יךָ מִסָּבִ֗יב בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יְהוָֽה־אֱ֠לֹקֶיךָ נֹתֵ֨ן לְךָ֤ נַחֲלָה֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח׃ (פ)
    (17) Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— (18) how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. (19) Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!
  4. Highlight the shoresh י.ר.א. in purple.

    1. Who does not have יראת ה׳ in this text?

    2. What did they do?

    Considering the actions of people who had יראת אלקים and the actions of those who didn't, explain what יראת אלקים is.

    If we follow Shadal's interpretation, the midwives and Amalek have something in common. What does this say about the characteristic of יראת אלקים?

    One way of translating יראת אלקים is "moral courage", the ability to know right from wrong and to act on it even in difficult circumstances. 

    יראת ה׳ requires the following four elements

    1. Do the right thing.

    2. Do the right thing even when it is difficult or dangerous.

    3. Do what is important to God.

    4. Do what is right without expecting a reward.


    Do the midwives fulfill all of the criteria? Explain.

    Watch the interview of Czeslawa Zak. Does she fit the definition of having moral courage? Write examples from her story that demonstrate יראת אלקים.

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  6. Homework for your parents!

    Ask your parents if they know an example of moral courage from their own experience. Write down their response and share with the class during the next session.

    Add your parents' examples to the source sheet "Modern Examples of Moral Courage." Make sure to give your parents credit for their story by writing their names next to their story.

    Read other parents' stories and give feedback by adding comments.

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