A Script without Credits
"And these are the names of the Children of Israel..." (1:1)
The name given to both the new Sefer and Parsha is "Shemos" - "The Book of
Names". Aside form the introductory verse which recalls the names of the
twelve tribes, one is struck by the lack of names in this week's parsha; the
midwives are not identified by their real names, Amram is referred to as "a
man from the house of Levi",1 Yocheved is referred to as the daughter of
Levi, Moshe is referred to as the "boy" or "youth", Miriam as "his
sister" and Bisya as the daughter of Pharaoh. Why does there appear to
be a concerted effort to conceal the identities of the characters in this
Rashi cites the Talmud as saying that Yocheved was one hundred thirty years
old when giving birth to Moshe. The Ibn Ezra is perplexed as to why the
Torah should highlight the miraculous nature of Sarah giving birth to
Yitzchak at the age of ninety, yet make no mention of Yocheved giving birth
to Moshe at the age of one hundred thirty. When she descended to the
river to bathe, Bisya, the daughter of Pharaoh saw the basket containing
Moshe floating among the reeds of the Nile. According to the Talmud, she
extended her arm toward the basket which lay far out of her reach. Bisya's
arm miraculously became elongated so that she was able to reach the
basket. If the basket was far from her reach, what could have motivated
Bisya to stretch forth her arm? Surely she could not have expected her arm
to extend miraculously.
There is a fundamental difference between Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos;
Bereishis focuses upon the character development and the actualization of
potential of the individuals who supply the genetic basis for the Jewish
people, while Shemos focuses upon the formation and development of the
national Jewish entity. Consequently, Bereishis highlights the lives and
accomplishments of individuals. In contradistinction, because of the
miraculous nature of the events which transpired to create the Jewish
corporate entity, Shemos downplays individual accomplishments within the
formation of the nation. The formation of the nation follows the blueprint
set by Hashem to bring the Jewish corporate entity into existence. Each and
every move made by the individuals involved has been carefully and
miraculously choreographed by the Almighty. Emphasizing an individual's
accomplishments diminishes Divine involvement in the unfolding events.
Therefore, the names of individuals are rarely mentioned in this parsha, to
create the sense that their actions are preordained by a higher authority.
Since Sefer Shemos follows Hashem's miraculous script, extraordinary events
are treated as commonplace. Therefore, no mention is made of Yocheved's
ability to bear a child at the age of one hundred thirty. In Sefer Bereishis
the accomplishments of the individual are emphasized resulting in the
highlighting of Sarah's ability to bear Yitzchak. Just as the actions of
other individuals mentioned in this parsha were prompted by Hashem,
Pharaoh's daughter stretched out her hand because it was the will of Hashem
that Moshe be saved. She too was a tool in the formation of the Jewish nation.
7.2:1, Sotah 12b
"Reuvein, Shimon, Levi, and Yehudah" (1:2), "Yissachar, Zevulun, and
Binyamin" (1:3), "Dan and Naftali; Gad and Asher" (1:4)
In Parshas Vayishlach the Torah lists the twelve sons of Yaakov. Reuvein,
Shimon, Levi, Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun are listed together in one
verse, Yosef and Binyamin are grouped together, and Gad and Asher are listed
together, as are Dan and Naftali. The divisions of the groups are based
upon the mother; the first verse includes the children of Leah, the second
the children of Rachel, and the third and fourth the children of the
maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah respectively.
The beginning of Sefer Shemos also lists the names of Yaakov's sons who came
down to Mitzrayim. The divisions of the names in these verses differ from
those in Parshas Vayishlach. Reuvein, Shimon, Levi and Yehudah are grouped
together in the first verse, Yissachar, Zevulun and Binyamin in the second,
and Dan, Naftali, Gad and Asher in the third. Leah's first four children are
recorded together, as are the children of the concubines Bilhah and Zilpah.
Why are Yissachar and Zevulun, Leah's last two children grouped with
Binyamin, Rachel's child? In Parshas Vayeitzei the Torah records the births
of Leah's first four children, then stating "vata'amod miledes" - "she
stopped giving birth". Why is it necessary for the Torah to emphasize
that she stopped giving birth? The children of Nachor, Avraham's brother are
enumerated at the end of Parshas Vayeira. Nachor has a total of twelve
children, eight from his wife, Milcah and four from his concubine, Re'umah.
Rashi comments that Nachor's children are analogous to the twelve tribes
descending from Avraham, eight from Yaakov's wives and four from Yaakov's
concubines. If the comparison is to be understood literally, it appears
that each wife was destined to bear twice as many children as each
concubine, as was true in the case of Nachor; his wife bore eight children,
while his concubine bore four.
This would account for the word used in the Torah for concubine, "pilegesh",
which is translated literally as "pelag" - "half" and "isha" - "wife"; a
concubine is "half a wife", giving birth to half the number of children as
the wife. If so, the configuration of the tribes should have been four to
Leah, two to Zilpah, four to Rachel and two to Bilhah. Why did Leah bear six
children and Rachel two? When Reuvein came from the field with "duda'im" -
"mandrakes" for his mother Leah, Rachel asked Leah to give them to her, for
mandrakes were believed to contain properties which improve fertility.
Rashi comments that Yissachar was born to Leah subsequent to this episode as
a reward to her for giving the duda'im to Rachel; "Yissachar" means "yeish
sachar" - "there is reward". The Seforno explains that Zevulun, Leah's
sixth son was also born as a reward for her actions concerning the duda'im;
"Zevulun" stems from the words "zevadani Elokim" - "Hashem has endowed me".
What emerges is that Yissachar and Zevulun should have been Rachel's
children, giving each wife twice as many children as each pilegesh.
Thirty-two of the seventy souls descending to Mitzrayim were comprised of
Leah's sons and their families, twice the number of the sixteen souls which
emerged from Zilpah, her maidservant. A total of fourteen souls descended
from Rachel, twice the number which emerged from Bilhah, her maidservant.
The discrepancy between Leah's thirty-two descendants and Rachel's fourteen
can be accounted for in the following manner: Yissachar, Zevulun and their
families numbered nine souls. If this number had been added to Rachel's
descendants, both Rachel and Leah would have had twenty-three descendants
each, in the configuration of the seventy. After Leah's fourth son was born
the Torah stresses that she stopped giving birth, for this was to be her
last child. Only after she gave the duda'im to Rachel did she merit to bear
two more children. The division of the verses in the beginning of Shemos can
now be clarified.
The first verse records the names of the four children of Leah who were
destined to be hers. The second verse, comprised of Yissachar, Zevulun and
Binyamin records the children who were destined to be Rachel's (Yosef is not
listed in the descent to Egypt for he was already there). The third verse
records the children of the pilagshim..