"Let them come in," Pharaoh called. In came an old Hebrew woman leading a small child by her hand.

"What is your name?" Pharaoh asked, addressing the old woman. "Jocheved. My brethren also call me Shifrah."

"And is this your grandchild?"

"No, Your Majesty, she is my daughter, Miriam, five years old.

The king eyed them sternly for a while, then continued:

"You are a wise woman, Jocheved, and your brethren esteem you. I have a task for you. Though it may not seem very pleasant to you, you could still be of service to your Hebrew brethren, and of great service to your king. If you fulfill your duties well, you shall be richly rewarded."

"I am always ready to be of service to my unfortunate, enslaved brethren," Jocheved answered with dignity.

"Your task will be to turn over all Hebrew baby boys to the king's officers to be put to death," Pharaoh said, slowly emphasizing each word as he spoke.

Jocheved grew pale, and shrank back in great horror. Suddenly, little Miriam stepped forward. She raised her little chin, and pulled a horrible face at the king. Waving her tiny little finger in the king's face, she cried: "You wicked king! Wait till our mighty G‑d comes to punish you! I hate you!"

For a moment, Pharaoh sat back in his throne abashed. The little girl's outburst took him quite by surprise Then Pharaoh clapped his hands, and immediately the guard seized her.

Jocheved threw herself at the king's feet:

"Have mercy, your Majesty! She is only a child . . . she does not know what she is saying . . . please forgive her . . . surely the mighty king will not take offense at the outburst of a little girl . . . ."

The king hesitated for a moment, then motioned to the guard to release the child. Miriam, still eyeing the king as fiercely as she could, stepped back, and stood by the side of her mother.

"Well," Pharaoh cried impatiently to Jocheved "will you agree, or shall I have my officers do the job themselves? They will not stand on ceremonies, and any opposition or violence will be

You could make the task much more painless. Jocheved stood there crushed and overwhelmed, and finally uttered feebly: "We will see what we can do, Your Majesty . . . ."

As Jocheved and Miriam were escorted through the fierce beasts and armed warriors that guarded the palace,

Miriam said:

"Mother! We are not going to let them kill little babies, are we?"

"Hush!" Jocheved whispered cautiously,

But when they were alone, Jocheved reassured her little daughter: "Of course we will not let them do anything of the kind. We will warn all the mothers to hide their babies, and save them . . . ."

For some time, Jocheved and Miriam made the rounds through the Jewish settlements, warning the Jewish mothers to hide their baby?boys. Before long, however, mother and daughter were again called before Pharaoh:

"You have not turned in a single baby!" Pharaoh roared. "I shall have you thrown to the lions!"

"Your Majesty!" calmly answered Jocheved, "there are no more babies in the homes of my brethren; no weddings are celebrated, and no babies are born. Where a rare baby is born, he does not require his mother's nursing, and like a little animal, runs immediately away into the field, before we get to the house, the baby is gone ."

Pharaoh looked enquiringly at his counselors. "What say you, my wise men? Is there any truth in what this woman says, and if so, what is to be done about it?"

"It is true, Your Majesty," one of them replied. "I think, it would be wiser for the king to relent his harsh decrees against the Hebrews, for the more they are oppressed, the greater become their powers of resistance . . . ."

"You are too cautious, Jethro," the king said with displeasure. "What say you, Iyov?"

"The mighty G‑d has not revealed His counsel to me," Iyov said.

"You have been in disfavor with the gods for quite a while," Pharaoh grunted. "Of what use are you to me now?

But, ah, let's hear what our truly wise Balaam has to say?" Balaam cleared his throat, and after pausing for a little while, said triumphantly:

"While it may be true what this woman says, it must also be true that some mothers would rather hide their children, than let them run away into the fields. I suggest, therefore, that the king send out some officers with little Egyptian babies in their arms. When they get to a Hebrew home, let them pinch the little Egyptian baby until it cries for all it's worth. It is in the nature of one baby to join in the weeping of another, and thus the hiding places of the Hebrew babies will be revealed!"

"Wisely spoken!" Pharaoh exclaimed enthusiastically. "You will be richly rewarded, Balaam, for your wisdom is truly of the gods . . . ."

Balaam's advice worked very well and many Jewish babies were discovered that day. Summoning his advisers immediately, the elated Pharaoh asked his counselors how the babies were to be killed. Iyov was silent, and Jethro cried to disuade the king from the cruel deed. But Balaam came out with his advice to have them thrown into the Nile. Balaam thought G‑d would not be able to retaliate by drowning the Egyptians, since G‑d had sworn never to make a flood again.

At that very minute, when the Jewish babies were thrown into the river, G‑d said to His angels: "Hasten quickly down to earth, and save my dear children, the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

The angels of G‑d hastened down and stood in the water, catching all the baby boys thrown into it. They carried them to the fields and placed them upon rocks. Then G‑d made the rocks cleave, and streams of warm milk flowed from the rocks to feed the babies. When the Egyptians went in search of the babies, the rocks would split open and hide the children in caves, until the Egyptians passed.

Later, Jocheved and Miriam would come to the fields, bringing additional food and clothing for the babies. They played with them, and fed them, telling them they were Jewish children, and how G‑d had taken care of them all the time.

When G‑d finally led the children of Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea, revealing Himself in all his power and mercy, the little children were the first to recognize G‑d, crying: "This is my G‑d, I will glorify him!"