At the begining of parashat Shemot, Par'o ordered to the midwives to kill male newborns of Benei Yisrael: Exodus 1, 17:

וַתִּירֶ֤אןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶת-הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְלֹ֣א עָשׂ֔וּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ן מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת-הַיְלָדִֽים: ‏
But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men-children alive.

The midwives got a huge reward, the greatest possible, that their children would be the kings, leviim and kohanim. Exodus 1, 21 and Rashi:

וַיְהִ֕י כִּֽי-יָֽרְא֥וּ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת אֶת-הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם בָּתִּֽים: ‏
And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that He made them houses.
ויעש להם בתים. ‏ בתי כהונה ולויה ומלכות ‏ שקרויין בתים, ויבן את בית ה' ואת בית המלך, כהונה ולויה מיוכבד, ומלכות ממרים, כדאיתא במסכת סוטה : ‏

What exactly did they do to deserve this. They didnt kill the children, most likely pharaoh threatened them with death, but even so one has to be moser nefesh (Yehareg Veal Yaavor, Sanhedrin 74a: " one must rather be slain than commit murder ", see Rambam in English) not to kill others and here we are talking about many thousands not just one man.

  • Just so you know, the interpretation of houses as the kingship is not universally accepted. That's Rashi's interpretation, however Rashbam thinks that pasuk means Pharoah jailed the midwives. Daat Zekenim interprets it as a form of oversight that Pharoah established. Commented May 2, 2016 at 15:38
  • Yes but that is also my question Rashi always goes for pshat, why doesnt he here @Bachrach44
    – newcomer
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 19:14
  • "Rashi always goes for pshat". I would respectfully disagree. I know Rashi is labelled as a pshat guy "officially", (by which I mean that's what everyone's elementary school teacher said), but I have no idea how that came to be. If you spend time to read his comments, you'll see a great deal of midrashic interpretations. Commented May 3, 2016 at 2:47
  • Perhaps you can give some examples where rashi veers from the simple pshat (meaning also translation) like in this case @Bachrach44.
    – newcomer
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 5:26

3 Answers 3


You assume that Bene Noach are concerned by Yehareg Veal Yaavor; I seems also that you think that Benei Yisrael before matan Tora are not bene Noach concerning prohibition of fetus killing[1]. See Gemara Sota[2] 11b May be, if we can find that the Bney Israel before Matan Torah was not considered as Bene Noach, that killing the fetus (before complete birth) is not prohibited[3] by "one must rather be slain than commit murder" (Yehareg veal yaavor). But Bney Noach are explicitly prohibited to kill fetus as newborn. See here note [01] 1.2.
Before Matan Tora, I am not sure but everybody is Ben Noach.
So, for me the true answer is that Yreat Elokim is to have a right conduct even if the Elokim only see you. It is not little (See how Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai bless the scholars before his death in massechet Berachot[4].). To make just what we have to do is not a little thing.

[1] See Parshat Derachim
[2] R`Hanina said: He entrusted them with an important sign, viz. , if it is a son, his face is turned downward and if a daughter, her face is turned upward. {They could kill the child before the exit of the head.}
[3] Masechet Sanhedrin 57b: R'Jacob B'Aha found it written in the scholars' Book of Aggada: A heathen is executed ...etc... On the authority of R'Ishmael it was said: even for the murder of an embryo.

[4] Berachot 28b: They said to him: "Master, bless us!". He said to them,: "May it be [God's] will that the fear of heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood!". His disciples said to him: "Is that all?". He said to them: "If only [you can attain this]! You can see [how important this is], for when a man wants to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me!".

  • It also has to be a talmid hogun like yourself not just anyone who doesnt understand simple questions @kouty and therefore downvotes them
    – newcomer
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 6:17
  • "So, for me the true answer is that Yreat Elokim is to have a right conduct even if the Elokim only see you. It is not little " is enough to answer this question. The rest is superfluous at best. +1 for that one line though.
    – user6591
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 13:25
  • @user6591 I agree to you. See also 2 mishnayot, Vehatsnuym manichim et hamaot (Maasser sheni, 5), Vehatsnuot in Nidda.
    – kouty
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 13:40

My first answer was this. We know that moshe rabainu killed an Egyptian man. It seems this man's action didnt yet deserve death but he looked here and there and decided no good would come out of him and therefore killed him. שמות ב יב ויפן כה וכה וירא כי אין איש ויך את המצרי ויטמנהו בחול

I imagine his mother and sister could also know this sort of thing. Pharaoh most likely didnt really expect or want them to kill all the boys, this would have made people suspicious. So the midwives could have (legally!) killed at least some of them, those who no good could come out of them (4/5th did perish), and there were many to choose from. and even then they didnt. That is why they deserve such a reward.


Moshav Zikeinim asks the question that it's obvius they let them live since its yaharog vial yavor. He answers the chiddush is that they converted. One can say they put themselves in this situation so they would get rewarded for it.

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