It’s finally happening, New York State’s Department of Health recently granted approval for an all female Hasidic EMT group: Ezras Nashim, which means “assistance for women” in Hebrew, became official on February 15, 2013.
This is great news, but excuse me for wondering: what took so long?
Going back to biblical times, women were always there to help other women along with the pregnancy process, serving both as midwives, nurses and shoulders to lean on in difficult times such as delivering a still-born or going through a miscarriage.
Righteous midwives of the era were well acclaimed for their skills, and included Miriam, Serach bat Asher, and Moses’ wife Tziporah. All strong figures within the story of Shemot, the Book of Names and the book of the Exodus.
And remember Shifra and Puah, the midwives who defied Pharaoh’s authority and proceeded to deliver and keep alive Hebrew baby boys in Egypt? For the time, the Egyptian birthing was considering a developed birth practice, and the midwives were a respected class, with the Pharaoh himself often speaking with them directly.
On a side note, when the king of Egypt called in the two mid-wives to inquire about why they didn’t followed his orders, and chose instead to let the male children live, they responded in saying: “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” Pretty spunky for biblical times me some biblical chutzpah when I spot it.
Anyway, according to the Talmud, it was in reward for the women of that generation that Israel was redeemed from Egypt. It was their commitment to preserving human life and their skills as midwives that provided the safe and secret delivery of Hebrew children. So what happened, and why did it take so long in this progressive day and age to recognize this basic right and reinstate it? After all, the bible allows for women to be midwives, so what was the holdup?
Currently, Ezras Nashim currently has forty certified EMTs, and another twelve women are currently training to become certified. Freier herself has received EMT certification after taking the classes together with her mother this past summer.
One EMT who recently joined Ezras Nashim told a news publication recently that we’re going back to the way God wanted it to be, to a way that’s modest and conforms to the standards of the community. It’s about time.
According to Chabad.org, childbirth should be regarded as an experience that demands a strong dose of faith and surrender, more than any other life event. A midwife’s role was to encourage a birthing mother to “let go” and “allow herself to become a conduit for this great Force to flow through.” It does not appear from the Talmud that men were ever called in to assist a woman in her delivery, so… And following that in that ellipsis lies my two cents of “constructive” criticism for whoever came up with the idea that midwifing should be a male-run business in the first place.