by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
“The king of Egypt spoke to the chief Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shifra and Puah” (Exodus 1:15).
Rashi explains: “‘Shifra’ -- This is Yocheved, called Shifra because she would put the newborn into good physical condition [meshaperet]. ‘Puah’ -- This is Miriam, called Puah because she would call aloud [po’ah] and speak and croon to the newborn just as women do when soothing a crying baby.”
In other words, Shifra would tend to the newborn’s physician needs, and Puah would tend to the newborn’s spirit, ensuring that it receive warmth and love.
Not just infants need both their physical and spiritual needs to be met. Rather, all people, just because they are human beings, need to watch their health and simultaneously to illuminate their souls and to strengthen their spirits -- a healthy spirit in a healthy body.
Today, not just the individual must strengthen his body and spirit, but the whole Jewish People. It is true that in our generation, with the ingathering of the exiles and national rebirth, the main preoccupation of the generation has been on “rebuilding the national body,” i.e., a state that is economically and militarily strong. Even so, let us not neglect the nation’s spiritual side. Surely it was through that spiritual side that our nation survived for thousands of years, through hard times when there seemed to be no hope, and surely it is through its spiritual side that our nation will survive forever. Thus, education towards Jewish values must be strengthened on both the individual and the national level, so that all can benefit from those timeless axioms of the Torah which were passed down through the generations. Likewise, we are duty-bound to increase love and faith, for these as well are essential to our flourishing.
Through these efforts, we shall merit to see with out own eyes the realization of Ezekiel’s word (36:25-26): “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean.... A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”
Looking forward to complete salvation,