Posts Tagged ‘miracle’


Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Shmot - Miracles

Art by Maggidah Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D.
Visit her gallery
Contact her at – originals from this series are available.

"And the more they degraded [Israel], the more it increased, and the more it expanded…" (Parasha Sh’mot; Exodus 1:12)

According to Rabbi Akiba, Israel was redeemed from Egypt on account of its righteous women. What did they do? Read this sweetly fantastic tale:

When the women went to draw water, God deposited small fishes in their pitchers, with the result that they found them half filled with water and half with fishes. These they brought to their husbands, and then put on two pots, one for hot water and one for fish, and they used to feed them, wash them, anoint them and give them to drink, and cohabited with them between the mounds in the field. And as soon as they became pregnant, they went back to their homes; and when the time of their giving birth was due, they went into the field and gave birth under the apple tree. God then sent an angel from on high to cleanse and beautify the newborns like a midwife. As soon as the Egyptians perceived them, they sought to slay them, but a miracle occurred and they were swallowed into the ground. They then brought oxen and plowed upon their backs. But after the Egyptians departed, they burst forth and came out of the ground as the grass of the field. And as soon as they grew up, they came in herds to their respective homes.

Midrash Rabbah – Exodus I:12

What is the dilemma that drives this midrash? It lies deep beneath the surface, based on the faulty assumption that if something bad happens, it is a punishment for something we did wrong. Following this logic, if we were in Egypt for something we did wrong, how did we merit redemption – release from bondage?

The sages – in this case, Rabbi Akiva – take a deceptively radical position: it was the merit of the women that redeemed us. How so? By standing up to Pharaoh’s genocidal decrees, despite the apparent impossibility of individual women overcoming the force of Egypt.

Once they embarked on their course, filled with holy chutzpah and determination, then the miracles began: fish created to feed the men; angels as midwives, babies popping from beneath the earth in a mystical fecundity.

Did they pray to G!d for these miracles? No, they acted first, and then G!d intervened. This was the promise we made at Sinai: na-aseh v’nishma – we will do, and we will hear (Exodus 24:7).

Keep the sweetly fantastic images of this midrash in your mind as you face the challenges the world places before you. In so doing, remember that G!d will bless us with strength when we rise up to greet those challenges. And some of that strength may manifest itself in the most unlikely ways!