Kenneth Cohen

Jewish Heroines

The story of the exodus from Egypt, had many instances of מסירות נפש. These were the individuals who risked their lives in order to save Jews.

The Torah gives the example of the two midwives, named Shifra and Puah. The Baal Haturim figured out that the Gematria of the word, “ המילדת,” the midwife, is equal to, יוכבד בת לוי. It is understood that Puah was Miriam and Shifra was Yocheved.

There is an explanation that “Puah” represents the sound of “poo poo” that one would say to comfort an infant.

The name Shifra implies that she is משפרת, or improving the newborn. The Baal Haturim says that the name implies a שפופרת, or tube. Often the babies needed to have oxygen blown into them so that they would wake up and breath on their own.

Shifra and Puah risked their lives by saving Jewish babies, and defying the decree of Pharoah. They were among many Jewish heroes that would emerge who would do anything necessary to strengthen the Jewish people.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at