Yocheved and Amram; Parenting  greatness

Insights into People in the Torah Series.The Torah Portion of Shmot; Exodus 1:1–6:1

Moshe Kempinski,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

After the great deliverance that Joseph wrought to the people and land of Egypt we begin to see a set of events that will regrettably become the typology of Jewish existence throughout history.

"A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know about Joseph.      He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous and stronger than we are. Get ready, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase, and a war befall us, and they join our enemies and wage war against us and depart from the land."So they appointed over them tax collectors to afflict them with their burdens, and they built store cities for Pharaoh, namely Pithom and Raamses" ( Exodus 1:8-11) 

 

This process of oppression takes a fatal turn as the Pharaoh decrees death for all newborn male infant’s. At first he attempts to elicit the aid of two of the chief midwives of the Israelites, Shifra and Puah. He commands them to do the following;

When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall put him to death, but if it is a daughter, she may live." ( ibid:16)

The two , courageous and faithful women do the opposite and ensure the survival of these children.” The midwives, however, feared God; so they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live..( ibid :17)

As a result the Pharaoh is pushed  deeper into his hate filled pursuit and thereby decrees;

"And Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son who is born you shall cast into the Nile, and every daughter you shall allow to live." ( ibid:22)

The Torah text then immediately tells us the following:

A man of the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. ( ibid 2:1)

What occurred between these two events?

Who are the “man of the house of Levi and the daughter of Levi”?

We subsequently learn that Amram is that man. Amram was the "chief of his generation" (Soṭah. 12a). Amram was the  son of Kohath, and grandson of Levi. When the time came to bury Jacob in the tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron , Amram was part of the entourage and the time spent in Hebron impacted him dramatically. His name Amram describes his calling; Amram- a nation (Am) that is to strive to be elevated ( Ram).

When Pharaoh declares his fears “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more numerous ( Rav) and stronger than we are”. It is Amram that instructs his people that the issue of their survival is not about being many( Rav) but rather about being elevated(Ram). Furthermore when the torah text describes how the Pharaoh attempted to embitter ( Mar)  their lives, it was Amram that reminded his people that the focus should not be about the bitter (Mar) but rather on  the power to be elevated ( Ram) in all situations.

  

Amram then marries his aunt, Yocheved ,“A man of the house of Levy marries the daughter of Levi.”

We soon discover that Amram and Yocheved already have two children,  Miriam and Aaron. When the wicked decree of Pharaoh was revealed, Amram and Yocheved decided that they needed to separate from each other. They were concerned about the potential of birthing a child into what was clearly mortal danger. The rest of the people of Israel follow suit after their leaders

It was their young daughter Miriam who declared to them according to the midrash", your decree is more severe than Pharaoh’s. Pharaoh decreed only against the males; you have decreed against the males and females. ". It is then that the couple courageously and faithfully decide to remarry and subsequently give birth to their third child.

Yocheved whose name means "Honor to G-d" understands that she needs to overcome her maternal instincts of fear for the child and strive forward. She deeply understood the spiritual significance of having more children and of faith in the future.

The Midrash states that the two Midwives who Pharaoh enlisted to murder the male children, Shifra and Puah ,were none other than Yocheved and her daughter Miriam. They deeply understood the spiritual importance of bringing children into the world . They also intuitively accepted the need to even risk their lives to make that happen."The midwives, however, feared God; so they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live..( ibid :17)

After giving birth to Moshe ( Moses)  prematurely, Yocheved attempts to hide the new infant, but begins to realize that the baby will easily be discovered .The midrash explains that it had become common knowledge that the astrologers of Egypt had warned Pharaoh that the redeemer of the Jewish people was about to be born .As a result Pharaoh then decreed that all male children would be put into the Nile to drown . Amram and Yocheved put Mosheinto the Nile and the astrologers then informed Pharaoh that the Redeemer had been born and that he had been “put” into the Nile. (Ber.Rab. 1:21).

The decree was rescinded.

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One needs to explore the spiritual courage that made up   Amram and Yocheved  . They deeply understood the spiritual implications of the birth of every child. They deeply understood the importance of “elevating” one’s purpose in this world to the Higher calling. They also needed to draw from within themselves the courage and faith in their future and their destiny.

It is that spiritual strength and awareness that was passed on to their son. Yocheved continues to raise Moshe in the courts of Egypt and Amram could not have been that far away. Moshe was clearly given the awareness of his roots and his people and as a result never strayed too far from his brothers.

"Now it came to pass in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers."

  

It was those two elements that were transferred to Moshe and subsequently to all his people. The importance of elevating one’s purpose and of never losing faith in one’s future and destiny.

In spite of some of the darkest hours experienced by the people of Israel in the coldest corners of exile or in the midst of the death camps of Europe, those two elements were never forgotten.

As the “dry Bones” straggled out of the ovens of Auschwitz they were filled with flesh , sinew and spirit and they started anew .They raised themselves and started new families and  had more children. They stubbornly believed in their destiny and their future.

That is the essence of greatness.

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther



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