Parashat Sh'mot

Our Burmese Sisters

The brave women of Exodus remind us of the brave women leading pro-democracy movements in Burma.

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Exodus binds us to these women. Just as Miriam could not save the Hebrew infant on her own and needed the partnership with Pharaoh's daughter, the women of Burma need partners in the rest of the world. 

The text of the Torah (Exodus 1:15) is perhaps purposely unclear as to whether Shifrah and Puah were "Hebrew midwives" or Egyptian "midwives of the Hebrews." This ambiguity could be the Torah's way of saying that when one is resisting oppression, nationality doesn't matter. Our moral responsibility is clear. The Talmud says:

"Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of his own family and does not do so is held responsible for the sins of his family. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community and does not do so is held responsible for the sins of his community. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not do so is held responsible for the sins of the entire world (Shabbat 59b)."

Here's how to help: Educate yourself on the situation in Burma and participate in the movement to keep its story alive. Urge the United Nations to continue its efforts to demand justice for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the women of Burma. Contribute to organizations working for democracy in Burma.

We are able to respond. And we must. 

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Carol Towarnicky

Carol Towarnicky is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.