Paving the Path to Redemption

Yael Eckstein  |  December 22, 2021

yom kippur goats

The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. — Exodus 1:17

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shemot, which means which means “names,” from Exodus 1:1–6:1.

We all know the old adage that “behind every great man is a great woman.” The idea is that behind the success of the great men who dominate history, there are great women whose contributions are largely forgotten in the sands of time. The list of such women is too long to mention here.

But I’d like to add to this well-known adage. Not only do great women stand behind the great men of history, but almost every major step in God’s plan in the Bible was driven by the courage and initiative of great women. For example: Sarah’s decision to expel Ishmael; Rebekah’s plan for Jacob to secure the blessings of Isaac; Ruth’s kindness and care for Naomi; Esther’s decision to risk her own life to save the Jewish people. The list goes on and on.

When we think of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the first name that comes to mind as the hero of the story is Moses. And Moses is certainly deserving of this recognition. It was Moses who heeded God’s call to confront Pharaoh. The Bible itself testifies to Moses’ status as the greatest of all the prophets of Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Paving the Path to Redemption

But as we see from this week’s Torah portion, during the darkest period of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt, it was the courageous women of Israel who paved the path to redemption.

First, we see the Hebrew midwives who were commanded by Pharaoh to murder all the boys born to Israel. They defied Pharaoh, risking their lives in the process, thus allowing the children of Israel to survive and flourish.

Then we see Moses’ mother hiding her newborn son from the Egyptian authorities for three months. When she could not hide him any longer, she put him in the river to save his life.

Moses’ sister Miriam, another courageous woman, stood guard so that she could intervene at the right moment. Finally, we see Pharaoh’s daughter defying her father’s royal orders by saving this Israelite child who would become the redeemer of Israel.

While the rest of the story of the Exodus from Egypt is led by Moses and Aaron, it is the courage of these great women that set the stage for Israel’s liberation from Egypt and eventual birth as a nation.

Your Turn:

Which biblical woman inspires you? Share that inspiration with others today as a way of honoring these courageous women.

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