Israel Repairing the World – Parshat Shemot

Baby Moses in Basket. Andrew Doane. Creative Common License

What is the connection between Miriam (Moses’ older sister) and Nanox (a $2bn Nasdaq floated technology company)?

Nanox, an Israeli headquartered biotech company, produces low cost CT scanners. CT scanners provide a three dimensional image of the human body allowing doctors to identify the location and severity of cancers and other dangerous growths inside the body. Until now CT scanners, that cost up to $3 million a piece, have only been available to around one third of the world’s population and usually have a waiting time of months for a scan. Nanox’s technology, which replaces the expensive X-ray emitters with a modern chip, cuts the cost of a CT scanner to well under $100,000. Coupled with their business model that offers clinics a free machine (pay per scan), Nanox will be increasing availability of scans to the world’s population, even in some of the poorest countries on the globe, cutting the time to scan and allowing doctors to save more lives by operating faster on sick patients.

At a time like this, when so many in the world are suffering lockdowns, unemployment and illness, Nanox is one of the Israeli companies that is providing a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. International Health Systems, drained from Corona spending, will be able to improve quality of service, with reduced budgets, to millions of patients using Nanox’s technology in the coming years.

But where does this Israeli ability to look forward, even in a time of darkness, come from?

In this week’s parsha, Pharaoh commands the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah to kill all the Jewish male babies at birth. The Torah teaches us that they refused and were rewarded with the dynasties (of the priesthood, Levites and royalty – according to Rashi). So who were Shifra and Puah? One answer in the Talmud explains that they were Yocheved (Moses’ mother) and Miriam (Moses’ older sister).

Following Pharaoh’s decree, Jewish parents separated from one another in order not to have children when half of them would be  murdered by the state. The Midrash recounts that it was Miriam, again, who approached her parents and told them, “You are worse than Pharaoh! He only decreed against the Jewish baby boys, but you have decided to withhold both boys and girls!.” On the basis of that argument, Jewish parents returned to one another and that was how Moses was ultimately born, despite the evil decree.

Miriam teaches us that even in the darkest of times one must plan for a brighter future and it was thanks to her, according to our Sages, that Moses was born and ultimately able to lead us out of slavery to the land flowing with milk and honey.

This ability to look optimistically towards the future has become a Jewish, and Israeli, trait. Nanox is just one example of a group of Israelis who are building a brighter future for the world during this challenging period in world history. In this series – “Israel repairing the world” – I hope to bring more examples of how Israel is actively engaged in building a better planet. Shabbat Shalom. 

About the Author
The writer is the emeritus Rabbi of Radlett United Synagogue with a Masters degree in Public Health from Hebrew University and a lifelong career in finance.
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