Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Did Rashi Kill Yaakov’s Daughter’s!?

As I was listening to layning this week in shul, a question popped up in my mind related to a Rashi I had learned during my weekly Shnaim Mikrah v’Echad Targum.

In the end of the 5th aliyah the posuk (47:26) says “All the souls belonging to Jacob that came into Egypt, that came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were sixty and six.” Then the Torah adds on Yosef and his sons, creating a total of 70, which Rashi explains in his commentary on that posuk that Yocheved was born between the walls entering Egypt, increasing the total from 69 to 70.

However, Rashi makes another comment that bothered me. He remarks that according to the view which holds that a twin girl was born with each of his sons, we are forced to say that they all must have died before the trip to Egypt, hence they aren’t counted here as part of Yaakov’s offspring.

When I reread this along with the ba’al koreh in shul, the thought occurred to me that Rashi doesn’t fit the pshat of the posuk. Why do these twin daughters, who are also said to have married the brothers (not the one they were born with, and presumably, brothers not from the same mother, but that’s just my conjecture) have to be dead at this point in time? The posuk explicitly says that the familial headcount here is “besides Jacob’s sons’ wives[!]” Namely, they weren’t going to be counted anyway. Therfore, they really could be alive and well, but the mere fact that they married to the Yaakov’s sons negates their inclusion in the counting.

Further, the posuk in 46:7 says “his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed he brought with him into Egypt.” Note that it says “his daughters” in plural. The “his sons’ daughters” includes Serach bas Asher (who is named) and Yocheved bas Levi (who is midrashically included as previously mentioned). However, the only daughter of Yaakov explicitly mentioned is Dina. So if she was the only living daughter, with the twin daughters having mysteriously died off, why does the posuk overtly make reference to multiple daughters?

One thing that kind of messes up my question on Rashi is Rashi’s understanding of who “Shaul ben HaCanaanis” is from 46:10. Rashi comments there that this is Dina’s child from Shechem when he raped and impregnated her. After the daring rescue undertaken by Shimon and Levi, she refused to leave until Shimon agreed to marry her. Not to say that I really understand the psychology behind that (and Artscroll’s commentary jumps through hoops saying that although the Avos and Shevatim kept the Torah, they made special exceptions such as in this case where Dina needed extra sensitivity). So Dina would be a daughter who married a son, yet is still counted. However Ramban infers from the pashut pshat that this means (at least) Shimon had a Canaanite wife (and perhaps the other brothers as well), and Dina didn’t really marry him, but simply lived under his protection in his household – though that could be mixing apples and oranges, since my question is on Rashi.

At any rate, I was without an answer for this until I happened pick up a copy of the English Darash Moshe at ASoG’s great uncle and aunt’s house at lunch on Shabbos and saw that Rav Moshe Feinstein asks the same question! On page 75 (I think), Rav Moshe wonders why Rashi says all the twin daughters were dead and gives two reasons for his question. First because the posuk explicitly says that the count didn’t include the wives of the shevatim (exactly what was bothering me, baruch shekivanti). Second, he finds it hard to believe that Yaakov could suffer the unimaginable grief of losing 12 daughters without the Torah mentioning such a tragedy.

Therefore, Rav Moshe wants to postulate that the twin daughters actually were alive, healthy, and still married to the shevatim. He explains that though these daughters were indeed spiritually worthy women (they did marry the shevatim after all), they were not on the same high level of spirituality as more significant women mentioned in Tanach, such as Miriam. Serach and Yocheved were also of great spiritual status and also merited mention by name here and later on in Chumash because of their individual greatness. The twin sisters, by contrast, received their greater spiritual level because they were married to the shevatim. Since their higher spiritual identity was intrinsically tied to their husbands and not their own, they didn’t merit direct mention or counting here.

While I am happy that I am not the only one bothered by this conundrum, and with all due respect to Rav Moshe, I’m not entirely satisfied with the answer, which is less source based in nature. Though it was interesting that the Darash Moshe didn’t try to say Rashi really meant something else, even if I can’t be totally trusting of the translation vs. the original (sounds like I need to make a trip to the YU library and do some research).

So before anyone pulls a R’ Natan Slifkin on me because I’m respectfully disagreeing with the gadol hador of the previous generation and the greatest commentator ever known, has anyone else heard other ideas to explain this?


  1. Rabbi Reisman spoke about this past Thursday on this topic. If you want, I'll forward you the shiur.

  2. Please do! Is it on If so, I'll post a link here.


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