Jewish Personalities

Shifra – Yocheved

1. Shifra and Puah were the two midwives who kept the Jewish babies alive, contrary to Pharaoh’s orders to kill the male babies.

2. According to Rashi, their names hint to how they treated the infants that they saved: Shifra — because she beautified (l’shaper) the babies, and Puah — because she cooed (pa’ah) and talked to the babies.

3. The Sages reveal that Shifra and Puah were none other than Yocheved, the mother of Moses, and his sister Miriam.

4. The Bible states that Yocheved was born in Egypt, but since she is included in the list of those who came with Jacob to Egypt, she must have been conceived in the Land of Israel.

5. According to the Midrash, Yocheved gave birth to Moses at the age of 130.

6. Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra brings a piyyut recited on Simchat Torah which says: “I was consoled for my mother Yocheved when she was 250.” This means that Yocheved was 250 years old either when she gave birth to Moses or when she died.

7. The Talmud states that her husband Amram divorced her after Pharaoh sentenced the male babies of the Israelites to death. But Miriam convinced her father to remarry his wife by telling him: “Pharaoh’s decree was only on the males but your decree is both on the males and the females!” He married Yocheved again, and she gave birth to Moses.

8. Moses was born in the sixth month of pregnancy. Thanks to Yocheved's decision to hide him in a box and place him in the Nile River, Moses survived Pharaoh's order to destroy all the male Israelite babies. Pharaoh's daughter came to the river and found him in the box.

9. After Pharaoh’s daughter decided to save him, Miriam, Moses’s sister, offers to call a Hebrew nurse to feed the baby, and she called Yocheved to be the nursemaid.

10. According to tradition, Yocheved is buried in the 'Tomb of the Mothers' in Tiberias, along with Zipporah, Moses' wife; Elisheva the daughter of Amminadab, the wife of Aaron; Bilhah and Zilpah, the wives of Jacob; and Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiva.


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