The first Perek of Parshat Shemot speaks about the suffering of Bnai Yisrael under the power of the Egyptians. Paroh, king of the Egyptians, decreed that all baby boys born to the Jews were to be killed. However, the Meyaldot, the Jewish midwives Shifra and Puah, ignored the decree of Paroh and saved the babies. In Shemot 1:20-21 the Torah writes, “And Hashem did good to the midwives and the people [of Israel] increased and became very strong. And it was because the midwives feared God that He made houses for them.”
If the Meyaldot did such a great thing by saving all those Jewish baby boys, what does it mean that Hashem is rewarding them with houses? Does this not seem like a very insignificant reward for the deed they performed?
Rashi, when the Meyaldot were first introduced in the Parsha, comments that Shifra and Puah were really Yocheved, Moshe’s mother, and Miriam, his sister. In this Pasuk, Rashi brings down a Gemara in Sotah, which says that these “houses” refer to the houses of the Kohanim and Leviim, and the house of Malchut, kingship. The Kohanim and Leviim would come from Yocheved and the kings of Israel would come from Miriam.
A second question can now be raised. Why does the phrase “and the people [of Israel] increased and became very strong” interrupt the description of the reward of the Meyaldot?
Rav Moshe Feinstein answers the following. The real reward of the Meyaldot was not that they got “houses,” but rather that the Jewish people grew and strengthened. But why were the Meyaldot rewarded in the first place, after all, a person must die to not kill another person, so why was the deed of the Meyaldot so great? This is answered by the fact that if someone is happy due to the fact that he is no longer obligated to fulfill a difficult Mitzva, he is not punished because of this. But the two Meyaldot had so much faith in Hashem, that they would have been upset if a baby had died even beyond their control because they did not want to be suspected of being relieved that they did not have to disobey the order of Paroh for that particular child. Because of this great faith in Hashem, He rewarded them by keeping all the Jewish babies alive, as it says “Vayirev Haam Vayaatzmu Meod.”