imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

a blog that reclines to the left


You beast, you

13 January 2004

When Pharoah asked the midwives why they were letting the Jewish boys live, they claimed that “the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, because they are lively [chayot]” (Exodus 1:19). The Talmud (Sotah 11b) explains: “They are being compared to wild animals [chayyot],” which, as Rashi (s.v.) observes, don’t need midwives.

The Talmud goes on to list verses where children of Israel are compared to animals, such as “Judah is a lion’s cub” (Genesis 49:9). I think one could read the same pun on a different level. The midwives are appealing to Pharoah’s ethnic prejudice: “You know those Hebrews. Just like animals, they are.”