"We must trust, though we seem alone, there are others walking with us."

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 30: Oh yes, it takes a woman...

Today's Reading: Exodus 1-3

"Oh, yes it takes a woman...to bring you the sweet things in life."
from Hello, Dolly
Jerry Hermann

I have read this story many times.

I've heard the Sunday school lessons.

I've seen the movies.

Usually the story focuses on the main character, Moses. But today, I was struck by the supporting actresses who saved the day! Take a look with me.

Pharaoh is trying to wipe out his enemy with slavery and infanticide. Though the Hebrew adult males seem numerous, it seems they are incapable of addressing this horror.

Who saves the day? Two midwives! They refuse to follow the order of a paranoid king. They refuse to do what we today would call a partial birth abortion. They speak up, citing the strength of their sisters, and God blesses them.

"It takes a woman!"

Two descendants of Levi, [the tribe which later becomes the priestly tribe and the ancestors of John the Baptist] marry and have what we call in my family "a double PK." (Preacher's Kid) While Dad is at the "brick yard," Mom, who is so in love with her child, seeks to save him.

"It takes a woman!"

A little ark made of wicker, tar and pitch is set afloat on the chaotic flooding Nile. And who is the guardian of this little one? His sister.

"It takes a woman!"

Another woman, Pharaoh's daughter, rescues the child. Her handmaidens join in the secret plot to save a baby. They know this is a baby of their enemy, but, what can I say!

"It takes a woman!"

Zipporah and her sisters extend hospitality to a stranger who aided them and helped fight off other shepherds who had a hard time sharing water. Instead of despising this immigrant in their land, they bring him into their community.

"It takes a woman!"

These women--the Hebrew midwives, the baby's mother, the baby's sister, the Pharaoh's daughter, the handmaidens, the daughters of Reuel--find a common bond with "the stranger" which leads to peace.

"It takes a woman!"

These three chapters of Exodus are jammed packed with political and psychological implications.

How is it that the women of this story can move beyond the paranoia and competition which comes with power to the unity and cooperation of compassion? Is it because they have no political power and have learned new ways of pushing the existing injustice cooperatively? Is it because they are seen as non persons and thus share the knowledge that they can work together, unseen, behind the scenes? Is it because they know the mystery and the value of a single life?

The Talmud, the Hebrew collective wisdom on the Torah and community life, states:

"To save one life is as if you have saved the world".

As the men in these chapters sit in fear, make demands, enslave each other, beat up on one another, kill each other and cast each other into the deserts of death, the women seem to find a way to keep the birthing waters flowing. They use raging waters of chaos to hide their precious treasure. They allow mother's milk to be shared. They dip into the community well and water the thirsty lambs. They offer a cup of cool water to a stranger at their table.

And at the end of chapter 3, it is the women who are able to ask their neighboring women for supplies for the long journey into the desert.

If you are a woman who is reading this blog today, I would like to encourage you. As you listen to God and your intuition--your gut--my guess is that you have more power to bring about peace, harmony, charity and hospitality than you realize. You, even with "non-power" status, can bring about change that could save a life!

The themes of the scriptures are still the major political themes of today: over population, slavery, injustice, genocide, abortion, adoption, immigration, conflict, anger, paranoia and fear.

Perhaps God is calling one of us or all of us to work behind the scenes; to choose life, to choose cooperation, to choose hospitality, to choose generosity.

One more thing, Exodus 1:17 is a powerful verse. Egypt in scripture is not only a place, but a symbol of the powers of this world which would seek to enslave us. Note what is said about the midwives:

"But, the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them..."

This is a Word for all of us today, female and male alike.

Whom do we fear most, the norms and pressures of the culture or God?

Or to flip the question, to whom do I pledge allegiance? God or Egypt?


Another thing to ponder.


  1. This story speaks to me on such a deep level as I work with brand new families and see miwives and lactation consultants at work. They are touching lives as much today as 1000's of years ageo!

  2. This story speaks to me on such a deep level. I work with brand new families and see midwives and lactation consultants touch lives just as they did 1000's of years ago.