Today is the first day of Passover and I can think of no better way to birth this Jewish Doula website and blog than to talk about birth and the Exodus story. At Passover we tell and retell this story; it serves as the central narrative of the Jews and a cornerstone of Jewish cultural and ritual practice.
The story is of Jewish redemption; moving from slavery to freedom. And it begins with the birth of Moses. Moses is the hero of the Exodus story, but the story begins with heroines: the midwives, Shifrah and Puah, and Moses' mother Yocheved.
These courageous women refuse to follow the decree ordering first born Israelite sons be killed. They protect Moses, keep him safe. There is no saving the Jews without these women saving Moses.
Scholars liken the whole story of Exodus to a birth story. There are gestational pains as Moses finds his voice and leadership. There is the labour of fighting for freedom and escape. The imagery of crossing the Red Sea reminds us of birth's watery passage. And the Jews are born and reborn in the story and through its annual retelling.
I love Passover. It is a rich, sensory, beautiful holiday. And it's made all the richer for me, a birthworker and feminist, by its connection to midwives and mothers as heroes.