Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Parshas Shemos 5776

Did Joseph Have More Children?

The Torah writes (Exodus 1:5):
And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls; and Joseph was in Egypt already
Earlier, the Torah writes (Genesis 46:27):
And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.
Midrash Lekakh Tov (Genesis 48:6) explains:
We do not find that Joseph had other sons except for Menashe and Ephraim
Ralbag (Chronicles I 7:22) disagrees:
You should know that Joseph had more children besides Menashe and Ephraim
(see also Rashbam and Ramban, and Sefer Mayim Rabim)

(I have also heard in the same of Rabbi Simcha Baer that this explains the sudden shift in numbers for the two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe during the travels in the desert. The shift happened because of the other sons of Joseph who shifted from one of their brother's tribes to another.)

What was Pharaoh's daughter's name?

The Torah writes (Exodus 2:10):
And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the river; and her maidens walked along by the river-side; and she saw the ark among the flags, and sent her handmaid to fetch it.
Later on she is identified as Bithiah (Chronicles I 4:18):
and his wife Hajehudijah bore Jered the father of Gedor, and Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah—and these are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh whom Mered took.
The Talmud explains this verse referring to same person (Sanhedrin 19b):
But did Bithiah give birth to him? Yocheved did, only Yocheved gave birth to him but Bithiah raised him which is why he is called by her name
Similar connection is cited in the Talmud (Megillah 13a):
Why is she called "Hajehudijah"? Because she threw off idol worship as it says "and the daughter of Pharaoh went down to bathe in the river" and Rabbi Yochanan said: to wash herself from the idols of her father's house
The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:3) explains that her Hebrew name means "the daughter of G-d":
The Holy One Blessed is He said to Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh: Moses was not your son and you called him your son, so you are not my daughter but I will call you my daughter as it says "these were the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh" - daughter of G-d
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in the Living Torah (ibid) cites other opinions regarding her Egyptian name

However, Targum Rav Yosef (Chronicles II 8:11) identifies the wife of King Solomon also as Bithiah, daughter of Pharaoh

Similar, so does the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 12:5):
Rabbi Adin said: All the seven years that Solomon was building the Temple, he did not drink wine. Once he built it and married Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, that night he drank wine...
(It is perhaps possible that the name "Bithiah" is translation of the meaning of the original Egyptian name, meaning the "daughter of god" with Pharaoh being considered the god in question)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Parshas Vayechi 5776

Who is the Emorite that Jacob Conquered?

The Torah writes (Genesis 48:22):
Moreover I have given to thee one aportion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.’
Rashi (ibid) explains:
From Esau who behaved like an Emorite or who entrapped Issac with the sayings of his mouth
Sefer leMakesei Atik cites an opinion that this was Shechem son of Hamor

Radak (ibid) explains this referring to the future:
as if the Torah had written this in the future tense, i.e. “which I am going to take from the Emorite.” It is quite common for the past tense to be employed instead of the future tense. When reporting prophecies, Scripture very frequently resorts to describing something in the future as if it had already taken place.
Ramban (ibid) explains more specifically:
For the Jews will take the land first from the Emorites for Sihon and Og, the two kings, were Emorites and the first great war when conquering the land was the sons of Joseph with the Emorites

When did Esau Die?

The Torah (Genesis 50:13) writes:
For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field, for a possession of a burying-place, of Ephron the Hittite, in front of Mamre.
The Talmud (Sotah 13a) writes that Esau was killed by Chushim son of Dan, on the day of Jacob's burial

Midrash Shocher Tov (18:132) says that Esau died on the day of Isaac's burial and was killed by Judah:
Judah followed Esau [into the cave by Isaac's funeral] in order to protect his father [Jacob] let Esau tries to kill him. He came in and saw Esau attacking his father and he immediately killed him from the back. Why did he not kill him from the front? Because the facial appearance of Esau was similar to Jacob
Sefer Mayim Rabim cites a third opinion, that Esau died during a war against Jacob and his sons the year Leah passed away

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Parshas Vayigash 5776

Who Told Jacob That Joseph Was Alive?

The Torah writes (Genesis 45:26):
And they told him, saying: ‘Joseph is yet alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ And his heart fainted, for he believed them not.
Targum Jonathan (Genesis 46:17) learns this was Serah:
And Serah their sister was mentioned for good because she told Jacob that Joseph was still alive
However, Targum Jonathan later on (Genesis 49:21) says this was Naphtali:
Naphtali is a quick deer ... bringing good news for he brought the news that Joseph was still alive ... and he then ran back and returned to Egypt ...
(It is possible that these two opinions do not argue, for Naphtali brought the news back to Jacob's house, but Serah was the one that actually told Jacob)

Who Was the Father of Serah?

The Torah writes (Genesis 46:17):
And the sons of Asher: Imnah, and Ishvah, and Ishvi, and Beriah, and Serah their sister; and the sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel.
Simple reading of the verse states the Asher was her father

Vayikra Rabbah (14:9) seems to imply also that Serah was Asher's biological daughter

Onkelos (Numbers 26:46, as cited by the Ramban but not in our versions) says:
And the name of the daughter of Asher's wife was Serah
The Daas Zekeinim (Numbers 26:46) explains further:
...Asher apparently had raised her after her mother had died when she was a baby. This is why the Torah describes her as being Asher’s daughter. This would also account for the letter ו at the beginning of this verse, as if to hint that she did not become his daughter already at her birth...
The Ramban (Numbers 26:46) explains:
... for she stood to inherit the land and therefore she is mentioned in the verse here just like the daughters of Tzelofhad ... for she was the daughter of Asher from another man who did not have a son and his inheritance went to the daughter and that is why is says earlier (Genesis 46:17) "and Serah their sister" for she was the sister of his sons but not his daughter...
However, Daas Zekeinim (Numbers 26:46) does not like this explanation:
...The difficulty with this interpretation is that if she had been born to one of the other tribes why did the Torah not mention this? If she was not born to any of the members of the 12 tribes, why is she listed as such in the count of the people Yaakov brought with him to Egypt? Perhaps she was indeed the biological daughter of Asher, and because already before the family descended to Egypt she had acquired a reputation of being especially pious, the Torah decided to mention her name...
(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim for further discussion including an answer from Chasam Sofer to these questions)

Sefer haYashar learns that Serah from a descendent of Shem (which would not agree with Ramban's explanation):
... and it was after the death of Adon [Asher's wife], that Asher went to the other side of the river and took for a wife Hadurah the daughter of Abimael, the son of Eber, the son of Shem. And the young woman was of a comely appearance, and a woman of sense, and she had been the wife of Malkiel the son of Elam, the son of Shem. And Hadurah bare a daughter unto Malkiel, and he called her name Serach, and Malkiel died after this, and Hadurah went and remained in her father's house. And after the death of the wife of Asher he went and took Hadurah for a wife, and brought her to the land of Canaan, and Serach her daughter he also brought with them, and she was three years old, and the damsel was brought up in Jacob's house

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Parshas Mkeitz 5776

What was Potiphar's Job?

The Torah writes (Genesis 41:10):
Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in the ward of the house of the captain of the guard, me and the chief baker.
Midrash Sechel Tov (Genesis 38:21) writes:
"captain of the guards" - this is Potiphar who was appointed to oversee those to be executed and those to be imprisoned
Rashbam writes (Genesis 39:1):
he would execute the people sentenced as murderers and would generally be in charge of imprisoned criminals. 
Shadal (Genesis 40:3) writes in a similar fashion:
"captain of the guards" - this is the prison which was under the authority of Potiphar, and under Potiphar there was a warden over the prison
Radak (Genesis 37:36) writes similarly:
As per Onkelos, he was Pharaoh's chief executioner
Rashi (ibid) explains otherwise:
"chief of the butchers" - those who kill the king's animals
Ibn Ezra (ibid) explains the disagreement:
This language ["butchers"] can be applied to killing and to cooking
Bereishit Rabbah (86:3) explains that he was also in charge of preparing animals for idol sacrifices:
Potiphar is the same person as Potiphera - Potiphar because he prepared calves for idols, Potiphera - because he made himself free for idol worship
The Torah  (Genesis 41:45) also calls him a priest. However, Targum Onkelos [ibid] identifies Potiphera as an governor of On, not a priest.

The Ramban (Genesis 41:45) explains that he had all of these jobs:
And I say that according to the words of our Sages Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh. When he became an eunuch and they realized that, they started to call him Potiphera and he was embarrassed and resigned his post. He went and put himself into a house of idol worship, and became a priest to idols for this was the custom among the nobility. And perhaps, "On", is the name of his idol...
(see also Sefer Mayim Rabim for discussion of Potiphar becoming an eunuch)

Who was Asenath, the wife of Joseph?

The Torah writes (Genesis 41:45):
And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.
Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer (chapter 38) and Targum Jonathan (ibid) write that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah, from Shechem, exiled by Jacob to Egypt

(see also Bereishis Rabbah [80:11], that Dinah had another child, Zimri, who was a son of Simeon; see our earlier post; see also the Jewish Encyclopedia citing a Midrash, which identifies Zimri as the son of Shechem and Dinah)

Yalkut Shemoni (Nach 9) writes that she was a convert, implying that she was not Dinah's daughter (unless patrilineal descent applied before the Giving of the Torah):
There are some righteous women who converted: Hagar, Asenath, Tzeporah, Shifra, Puah, daughter of Pharoh, Rahab, Ruth, and Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenanite.
Midrash Rabbah (Bamidbar Rabbah 8) also writes that she was a convert:
When the Gibeonites came to ask for help, Joshua said: "And for converts we should trouble the public? G-d told him: Joshua! If you push away the ones that are further away, in the end you will push away the ones close to you as well. From where did you come from, wasn't it from converts? For it is written (Genesis 46): "And they were born to Joseph in the land of Egypt", and it states earlier that Joshua was from Ephraim.
(see Sefer Mayim Rabbim for a further discussion)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Parshas Vayeshev 5776

Who Was the Man that Joseph Met in the Field?

The Torah writes (Genesis 37:15-17):
And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying: ‘What seekest thou?’ And he said: ‘I seek my brethren. Tell me, I pray thee, where they are feeding the flock.’ And the man said: ‘They are departed hence; for I heard them say: Let us go to Dothan.’ And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Rashi (ibid) based on Midrash Tanchuma says this was angel Gabriel:
This was the angel Gabriel as it says: "And the man, Gabriel" (Daniel 9:21)
Tosfos haShalem (ibid) says this was the angel Raphael:
"And a certain man found him" - I have heard that "Raphael" is the numerical value of "man"
Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis Rabbah 84:14) says there were three angels:
Rabbi Yanai says: three angels were summoned for him as it says "and a man found him", "and a man asked him", "and the man said".
(Similar explanation can be found in Rashi earlier [16:9], regarding multiple angels talking to Hagar)

Ibn Ezra (ibid) learns this was a regular person:
Simplest explanation that this was one of the travellers on the road

Who Was Tamar?

The Torah writes (Genesis 38:6):
And Judah took a wife for Er his first-born, and her name was Tamar
Ha-emek Davar (ibid) explains:
She so important that her name was mentioned [by the Torah]
Rashi (Genesis 38:24) explains that she was the daughter of Shem (based on Genesis Rabbah 85:10):
She was the daugther of Shem, who was a priest, therefore they judged her to be burned
(see also the Ramban [ibid] who asks that a daughter of a priest that violates Yibum does not get judged for death, and that Judah was similar to a king and his family was judged differently because of potential embarrassment)

Sefer haYashar learns that she was the grand-daughter of Shem:
And Yehuda went to the house of Shem, and took Tamar, the daughter of Elam son of Shem, for Er, his firstborn, as a wife
Midrash Bereishis Rabbasi (here and here) learns she was originally from Aram Naharaim:
She was the daugther of Shem. And our Rabbis says that she was from daughters of Aram Naharyim, and Yehuda took her, her father, mother and three brothers with her and would not let them come back to Aram Naharyim. Instead, he gave them a city for them to live in.