Pharaoh’s astrologers informed him that a boy would be born who would redeem the Jewish people from Egyptian slavery. He therefore enacted a new decree that all male newborns would be drowned in the Nile River. At this point in the story, the Torah tells us that ‘A man went from the house of Levi and married a daughter of Levi.’ This man was Amram. The ‘daughter of Levi’ was Jochebed.
The Talmud details the interesting background to this marriage. Amram and Jochebed were previously married. In fact, they already had two children, Miriam and Aaron. When Pharaoh legislated this new barbaric decree of killing every newborn male child, Amram decided that it was not worthwhile to continue having children; after all, if a boy would be born, Pharaoh’s henchmen would find and kill the baby. He therefore divorced his wife. As Amram was the leader of the Jewish people at the time, all the rest of the Jews followed suit and divorced their wives. Miriam, who at the time was a mere six years old, understood the situation and recognized the obvious outcome of her father’s decision: no more Jewish children. Disagreeing with her father, she presented him with the following three arguments as to why he should stay married:
- Pharaoh’s decree affected only the males, but Amram’s decision affected the girls as well.
- Pharaoh’s decree caused the boys to lose out on Olam Hazeh, the physical world, but by preventing their birth, Amram was causing them to also lose out on Olam Habah, the world to come.
- Pharaoh was a king of flesh and blood whose decree might not even last, while Amram was ensuring that the decree would endure.