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Lessons from Yocheved, Miriam, Bat-Paroah, Shifra and Puah

By: Zoey Glaubach

In the parsha we read this past Shabbat, Shemot, there are five heroic female characters, more than in any other parsha. They are Yocheved, Miriam, Bat-Pharoah, Shifra, and Puah. Each of these women exhibited extraordinary qualities that I see in my great-grandmother, Pauline Feldman who passed away 19 years ago on Chaf Bet Tevet.

Perek Bet begins with Yocheved giving birth to the future leader of the Jewish people, Moshe. Though having baby boy was a dangerous thing at that time due to Pharaoh’s decrees, Yocheved was determined to save him. She managed to hide him for 3 months and when she was no longer able to, she lovingly built Moshe a basket. It must have been extremely difficult for Yocheved to send her son Moshe off first to the river and then to Pharaoh’s palace, but she did it because she knew it was the only way to save him.

Similarly my great-grandmother, Pauline, was very devoted to her family and she absorbed this from her own parents. She was born in Poland, and was one of 7 children in her family. Between the 1920’s and 1930’s, though it was not easy to say goodbye, her father did whatever he could to get his children to leave Poland because he sensed that it was the only way to save them. In 1928 Pauline had the chance to leave so she moved to Canada at the age of 23. There, she was set up with her husband, Abraham, and together they moved to New York and started their lives. They had three kids and Pauline worked in a bakery near their house.

Another aspect of Yocheved that reminds me of my great-grandmother is that when she constructed the basket to save Moshe, she took her time and made sure it was safe enough for her little baby. She was extremely careful and thoughtful and she even put the material with a bad stench on the outside so Moshe would not smell it. She made the basket specifically for her son.

This reminds me of how my great-grandmother loved to knit. She made sweaters, vests and jackets. If she ever heard one of her granddaughters say that they liked a specific type of sweater, she would be out the next day buying yarn to make it for them. She worked very hard and always made sure that everything she knit was made specifically to fit that person. She was very compassionate and was constantly thinking about others, especially her family. Just as Yocheved nurtured and protected her beloved son Moshe, my great-grandmother nurtured and protected her family.

After Moshe is set afloat in his carefully crafted basket, another heroine, his sister Miriam, watched over him from afar. She was very protective of him, wanted to find out what would happen to him, and had the courage to approach Pharaoh’s daughter after she discovered Moshe in his basket. This is also symbolic of the way my great-grandmother always watched out for her family, looking on and always ready to courageously step in and help out.

Another of the heroines in Parshat Shemot is Bat Pharaoh. Though she is the daughter of the cruel Pharoah, she herself is an extremely compassionate human being, and she decides to save the Jewish baby she discovers hidden in the basket.

My great-grandmother Pauline was also an extremely compassionate woman. She was very much a people person and was always warm and caring to everyone she met.
Similar to Bat Pharoah, Shifra and Puah exhibited great bravery. They risked their lives to keep the Jewish baby boys alive. Because of the heroic courage of the two midwives, Moshe was able to stay alive. For this, Shifra and Pooah got a great reward. The Pasuk states that Hashem built for them houses. Many interpret this to mean that they would have big families and many generations to come after them.

If Pauline had stayed in Poland she would have been killed with the rest of her family in the Holocaust. Fortunately, she moved away when she could and as a result now has many great-grandchildren.

A few last things about my great-grandmother that really inspire me are that she always realized the power of education. While taking care of her three children she managed to go to night school and get her high school diploma at the age of 58. She was always very curious and loved to travel. She was always willing to go places even when she was older and not well.

Although I never met her, I have the privilege of carrying Pauline’s name and I aspire to be like my great-grandmother who behaved in a matter resembling some of the most prominent women figures in our Jewish history.