Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Author of
Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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A man went from the house of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi. (Bereishis 2:1)

Commenting on this posuk, Rashi writes that due to the hardship of the shibud, Amram divorced his wife. Amram assessed that in all likelihood children born at this time would perish and were therefore better off not being born. Miriam, his daughter, convinced him that he was mistaken. She argued that Pharaoh had only decreed that male children be put to death, whereas his divorce prevented the birth of female children as well. In addition, it was uncertain if Pharaoh’s decree would endure, whereas his behavior would certainly prevent the birth of any children. Amram was convinced and the next perek begins with us being told that a man from the house of Levi took a daughter of Levi. Chazal inform us that this refers to the remarriage of Amram and Yocheved. The Torah then relates that Moshe was subsequently born from this union. A short while later we are told that Moshe’s family was no longer able to hide him and he was cast into the Nile. Rashi explains that Moshe’s family was able to hide him for three months because he was born three months prematurely. For these three months the Egyptians did not suspect the birth of a child because they only counted nine months from the time that Amram remarried Yocheved.

We may ask, why does the Torah tell us that Amram remarried Yocheved? The simple understanding is that the Torah wishes to relate the story of Moshe’s roots, who his parents were, and the precise time he was conceived.

It is noteworthy that the Gemara (Sotah 12a) has a different understanding of these events. According to the Gemara, Moshe was not born prematurely. Moshe was born full term. The reason why his parents were able to hide him for three months was because Yocheved, Moshe’s mother was already three months pregnant at the time when Amram remarried her, and was already pregnant with Moshe at the time that Amram divorced her. The Egyptians who were unaware of this counted nine months from the time that Amram took her back, not from the time that Moshe was actually conceived. Moshe’s family thus had three months to hide him before the Egyptians came for inspection.

With this new understanding of the events we may ask again, why was it necessary for the Torah to tell us that Amram remarried Yocheved? According to the Gemara, Moshe was already conceived and would have been born even if Amram had not remarried Yocheved. Why then did the Torah relate this fact? We are forced to say that that only reason that the Torah related this fact is to tell us why they were able to hide Moshe for three months. This is because the Egyptians only counted from the time that Amram took back his wife and not from the time Moshe was actually conceived.

Let us suggest a homiletic approach to answer this question.

In the realm of halacha we find differences between a person who is born to a Jewish mother and one who converts to Judaism. For example, one who is born to a Jewish mother is halachikly related to his mother and his mother’s other children, whereas one who converts is not halachikly related to his blood relatives. A complicated question arises with regard to a non-Jewish pregnant woman who converts to Judaism. What status does the child have? On one hand, the child is born to a Jewish woman.On the other hand, the child was conceived when the mother was a non-Jew. The core of the question focuses on the precise moment that determines the status of the child. Do we follow the moment of birth or do we follow the moment of conception? The commentators explain with regard to different aspects of halacha we follow both.

Although the details of this halacha are beyond the scope of this article, what is important to note is the concept that there are two defining periods in the creation a person. The first is the time of conception and the second, the time of birth.

The first perek of sefer Shemos describes the generation that actually descended to Egypt. The first perek lists in detail the names of the people who descended to Egypt. Later in this perek we are told of the beginning of the exile and how Pharaoh tried his best to destroy the Jewish people. Indeed, from Rashi (Shemos 2:1) it appears that the first perek ends with the lowest point of the exile. This is where Amram the leader of the Jewish people divorced his wife. His action conveyed a sentiment of despair and hopelessness.

The first posuk of the next perek begins with the story of a man remarrying a woman. Rashi tells us that it was Miriam, who convinced her father to persevere. Miriam represented the new generation. Although this generation did not witness the full spiritual glory of Yaakov and his children, they did not give up hope of redemption. They believed that they would survive against all odds. Miriam’s behavior was contagious. She succeeded in convincing her father who in turn set an example for all of the Jewish people.

Thus, the first perek describes the old generation, a generation that actually descended to Egypt. This generation witnessed first hand the spiritual glory of Yaakov and his children. They suffered greatly, and as seen from the conduct of Amram were affected by the hardships of the Egyptian servitude. The second perek begins with the influence of the new modern generation. Although they had not witnessed firsthand the greatness of the founders of the Jewish nation, yet due to their youth they expressed a contagious freshness of faith that influenced the old generation. Miriam who was influential in convincing Amram to take back Yocheved personified this.

We find in history many times where a succeeding generation attempts to sidestep the ideals and values of the older generation. The new generation generally feels that their elders are antiquated. They seek reform and innovative ideas to correct their errors. This is not the way of the Torah. Succeeding generations should make use of their new ideas only to enhance and expand the ideals and cherished values of the old generation. When new movements are in conflict with traditional values they should be disbanded.

According to the Gemara, Moshe our leader was conceived in the first perek of Shemos but was born in the second perek of Shemos. In other words, Moshe was conceived in the old generation but born in the new generation. Thus Moshe was a product of both generations. The symbolic significance is that Moshe would be the one who would bridge the generation gap. One the one hand, Moshe had the fresh outlook of the new generation since he was born in that generation, yet, also had the connection to the spiritual greatness of the past because he was conceived in the past generation.

The commentators tell us that the leader of every generation has a spark of our first spiritual leader, Moshe rabbainu. In order for a spiritual leader to succeed he must be sensitive to the spirit of times, the values and ideals of the current generation. However his agenda should be to elevate and connect his people to the spiritual greatness of their past.