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Shemot

  
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 1:15
 1:16
1:15 The king of Egypt spoke to the [chief] Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah.
Vayomer melech Mitsrayim lameyaldot ha'Ivriot asher shem ha'achat Shifrah veshem hashenit Puah.
1:16 He said, 'When you deliver Hebrew women, you must look carefully at the birthstool. If [the infant] is a boy, kill it; but if it is a girl, let it live.'
Vayomer beyaledchen et-ha'Ivriot ur'iten al-ha'ovnayim im-ben hu vahamiten oto ve'im-bat hi vachayah.



Commentary:

chief
  (Ibn Ezra; cf. Sforno). Some say that these midwives were Israelites (Rashbam), and Talmudic tradition associates them with Yokhebed and Miriam or Elisheva (Sotah 11b). Others say that the midwives were Egyptian (Malbim; Josephus, Antiquities 2:9:2) hence, the verse would be translated 'the midwives in charge of the Hebrews.' One source states that the midwives were proselytes (Midrash Tadshe 21; Yalkut Shimoni, Yehoshua 9).

birthstool
  Avnayim in Hebrew, literally, 'twin stones.' In those days, women gave birth sitting up, so that when the baby was delivered between the 'twin stones' of the birthstool, it would be held by the midwife. Others translate the verse 'you must look between their rigid (stone-like) legs' (Sotah 11b; Sh'moth Rabbah 1:14, 18); or, 'you will see them in heavy labor' (Hirsch).





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