At the end of this week's Parsha, Emor, the Torah relates the story of the
Blasphemer. He is called, "the son of the Jewish woman, who was also the
son of the Egyptian man... his mothers name was Shelomith daughter of
Divri, of the tribe of Dan". (24:10-11) Who was this "Blasphemer"? What's
the story with the "Egyptian father"? Why did he utter a curse and deny
Sit back, relax, and read while I tell you "the rest of the story".
Our story begins in the year 2388, sixty years before the Exodus. Moshe,
having been raised by Basya the daughter of Pharaoh, knew that he was a
Jew, the son of Amram and Yocheved, and that his brethren were enslaved
beneath the oppressive might of Pharaoh and Egypt. However, following his
adopted mother's instructions, Moshe did not reveal his true identity to
anyone. From his gilded perch within the royal palace, Moshe contemplated
the plight of his birth nation and attempted to lighten their burdens
without compromising his true identity. With that in mind, Moshe postured
himself as the most subservient of Pharaoh's grandchildren winning
Pharaoh's love and trust. As Moshe grew to manhood, Pharaoh gave him
greater and greater administrative responsibilities till he was appointed
as chief administrator in charge of Pharaoh's entire slave labor force.
From his new position, Moshe passed innovative regulations such as,
"allowing the Jews to rest on Shabbos"; rationalizing to Pharaoh that they
would work much better with a day off to rest their weary and beaten bodies.
The slave labor was supervised by both Egyptians and Jews. Each Nogesh-
Egyptian overseer was in charge of ten Shotrim- Jewish captains, who were
in turn responsible for ten Jewish slaves. Moshe, wishing to maintain his
secret identity, restricted himself from having direct contact with the
Jewish captains or the slaves. However, desiring to know as much as
possible about the plight of the Jews, he spent time "hanging out" with the
overseers and listening to their "bragging" accounts at embittering the
lives of their Jewish captains and slaves.
The Medresh tells us that the Jewish captains would often take the beatings
intended for the slaves on their own shoulders and backs by assuming blame
for whatever the overseers might have contrived against their slaves. In
reward for this courage and self-sacrifice, the 70 elders, the Sanhedrin,
were eventually chosen from among the Jewish captains.
For the most part, Pharaoh gave his overseers free reign to abuse and
misuse the Jews. However, wanting to retain a pure Egyptian genetic
superiority (sound familiar?) he forbade, under the penalty of death, any
sexual contact between Egyptian and Jew. This was a source of continuous
complaining and frustration by the overseers against their jobs. Because
Moshe spent so much time with the overseers, they learned to trust him and
speak openly in his presence.
One day, while hanging out around the Aloe Vera Juice dispenser in the
overseer lounge, Moshe heard one Nogesh complaining that if he attempted to
start up with a Jewish woman, she immediately threatened to tell Pharaoh
and have him killed. The friend to whom he was complaining told him that he
knew of one woman, the wife of a Jewish captain, who flirted with everyone,
chatting and greeting all the other slaves and overseers. She was so
friendly that she was called "Shlomit". He felt that she was one Jewish
woman that would welcome an overseer's attention and favors. The overseer
resolved to follow up on his friend's information.
Moshe recognized the overseer's intentions and was concerned for the Jewish
nation. Moshe understood that the Jews had a delicate relationship with
Hashem and that the courage and purity of the Jewish women was a major
contributor in maintaining that relationship. He therefore resolved to pay
closer attention to the Egyptian overseer, even if it meant that he would
have to mingle with his Jewish brethren and possibly be recognized as a
Jew. As the verse says, "Moshe matured and he went out to his brethren."
The daily routine involved the overseers waking up their ten Jewish
captains at the crack of dawn, who in turn would wake up their ten charges
for the day's assignment. The overseer who was resolved to seduce Shlomit
woke up her husband, and when he had left the house to assemble his slave
force, the overseer seduced and impregnated Shlomit. Shlomit's husband,
sensing something wrong, returned to his home just as the overseer was
leaving. The overseer saw that the husband had seen him and hurried away.
The husband confronted Shlomit, who admitted to having had relations with
the overseer, but claimed that in the darkness of the early morning she
mistook the overseer for her husband. The overseer, threatened by the
husband's knowledge, demoted the husband from captain to slave laborer and
began to beat him with the intent of killing him. It just happened to be
the same day that Moshe decided to "go out to his brethren", where the
Pasuk [verse] tells us, "and he saw an Egyptian man hitting a Jewish man."
Moshe checked to make sure that there were no witnesses, and as Rashi
explains, he also saw that nothing positive would come from the Egyptian,
and he killed the Egyptian overseer burying his body in the sand. The
husband who Moshe had saved was Dattan, brother of Aviram, of the tribe of
Moshe assumed that Dattan, one of the Shotrim and true heros of the Exodus,
would be grateful for having being saved; but in truth, Dattan perceived
the entire incident from a totally different perspective. Keep in mind that
Dattan, as a Jewish captain, was totally committed to protecting the Bnai
Yisroel, and if necessary, willing to sacrifice his own life. Dattan had
serious reservations regarding Moshe. "What will be when the dead overseer
is discovered missing or dead? The authorities will embark on a reign of
terror until the murderer is apprehended, or until some courageous soul
admits guilt in order to save the rest! It would have been far better if
Moshe had allowed the Egyptian to kill me! At least the others would have
been safe from their vicious revenge! Instead, this do-gooder Moshe, who's
been raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, finally awakens to discover
that he has a conscience. Despite his good intentions, he is a loose cannon
- and he will continue to put all of us in danger!"
Dattan shared his fears with Aviram his brother, who agreed with Dattan.
However, before concluding about Moshe's potential danger, they decide to
test him. The next day they staged a mock fight between the two of them in
order to see how Moshe would react. As the Torah tells us (Shemos:
2:13-14), Moshe fell right into their trap by attempting to stop the fight.
Dattan then said to Moshe, "Who made you our prince and judge! Are you
going to endanger all of us through your impulsiveness and lack of judgment,
in the same way that you did when you killed the Egyptian and saved me?!"
Concluding that Moshe was a mortal danger, Dattan and Aviram turned Moshe
in to Pharaoh, thereby staying any need for additional punishment. As we
all know, Hashem saved Moshe who then fled to Midyan for the next 60 years.
Back at the Dattan residence, Dattan dealt with Shlomit with dignity and
righteousness. Accepting his wife's assertions that the entire "seduction"
had been a case of mistaken identity, Dattan maintained her as his wife,
raised her son as his own; however, because she was technically an
adulteress, he did not engage in marital relations with her. Over time he
married a second wife and had sons of his own. As things returned to
normal, Dattan and Aviram's enmity toward Moshe grew greater and greater
with every passing year and every instance of oppression.
After 60 years of exile, in the year 2448, Moshe was sent back to Egypt to
redeem the Bnai Yisroel. Approaching the Jewish captains who were
considered the elders of the nation, Moshe gained their support - except
for Dattan and Aviram. They forewarned the others that Moshe had not
changed, and he was destined to make it worse rather than better!
Moshe had his first confrontation with Pharaoh, and so it was! He made it
worse for the Jews, not better! Upon leaving Pharaoh's presence, Dattan and
Aviram were waiting to hurl their proven accusations at Moshe and Aharon.
(Shemos: 5:20-21) "All you've done by going to Pharaoh is give him a sword
with which to kill us!"
The ensuing year of plagues and miracles proved to the masses of Jews and
Egyptians that Moshe was the Redeemer, and soon enough Moshe lead them out
of Egypt. However, in spite of the seemingly divine proof of Moshe's
mission, Dattan and Aviram continued to distrust and hate Moshe. However,
neither Hashem nor Moshe judged Dattan and Aviram harshly. It was clear
that their enmity had been kept private and had been founded upon their
concern and love for the Bnai Yisroel.
In the second year of the desert, the rebellion of Korach and his cohorts
occurred. Korach challenged Moshe and Aharon's claim to leadership and
Moshe devised a test to prove their divine appointment. All of a sudden
Dattan and Aviram joined with Korach against Moshe and Aharon! Moshe
attempted to reason with Dattan and Aviram showing them that their concerns
were not the concerns of Korach, (Bamidbar: 16:12) but they refused his
overture of conciliation and remained a part of Korach's rebellion. The
next morning, in an awesome display of divine support for Moshe and Aharon,
the earth swallowed up the entire families of Korach, Dattan and Aviram.
Everyone died, except for Dattan's adopted son, the son born to Shlomit
from the Egyptian overseer! Once this occurred everyone began to wonder
about his background, and his personal history came to the surface. The one
fact that he wasn't told was that Moshe had been the one who killed his
After the shock wore off, the man (he was at least 61) attempted to pitch
his tent on the site of Dattan's former dwelling, among the tribe of
Reuven. However, the elders of Reuven told him that he wasn't from Reuven
and couldn't live in their camp. He then turned to his mother's tribe, Dan,
who told him that "tribehood" was determined by fatherhood not motherhood
and he couldn't live within their camp either. He then went to Moshe for a
Halachik ruling, and Moshe ruled in favor of Dan, forcing the man to pitch
his tent outside of the Jewish encampment among the "mixed multitude" of
Egyptians who had attached themselves to the Bnai Yisroel at the time of
Among the mixed multitude were members of this man's family from his
father's side. Hearing the bitter and angry tale of Moshe's ruling
regarding his "non-tribal" affiliation they said to him, "What?! You went to
Moshe for a ruling about your situation? Don't you know that it was Moshe
himself who killed your father? You couldn't get a fair judgment from
Moshe, he's too involved!" Immediately, the man, in anger and frustration,
cursed and denied G-d, for which he was punished with the death penalty. Now
you know "the rest of the story".