Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Midrash doesn't work--Pesach edition

Recently, Thing 1 asked me to read her the Artscroll story of Pesach.  (Side note: how many frum Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?  One, but the light bulb has to be made my Artscroll.)  In the story, it mentioned the Midrash of the Hebrew slave women giving birth to six babies at a time.  Then I read about Moshe's birth and said--wait a minute...
If Yocheved had been like the other Hebrew women, then Moshe would have been one of six.  It's much harder to hide six kids than one.  Also, assuming the others had been girls, don't you think someone would have noticed that Yocheved only had five kids this time?  Moreover, the only siblings we hear about are Miriam and Aaron.  Neither of them were twinned with Moshe Rabbenu or each other!  (Miriam was three years older than Aaron, who was three years older than Moshe.)  So, if Yocheved had fifteen other kids (assuming that each of the children was one of sextuplets) where are they?


  1. Okay so first of all, the Torah doesn't mention every single kid born, only those that are significant. For example the Torah tells us Yaakov Avinu had daughters but all we know of is Dina. Yet it's also possible he had other girls but the only one mentioned is Dina because of what happened to her.
    Similarly the midrash tells us Kayin and Hevel were born with twin sisters but the Torah never mentions them. Makes sense they existed because otherwise where did Kayin find a wife to have kids with?
    You could say that Yocheved did not have sextuplets because each child she did have was so important as to merit an individual pregnancy
    Finally, and most importantly, don't take every midrash literally. That's the most important answer.

  2. I think I've heard a serious answer to that - that the Levite families did not have 6 kids in each birth, because they weren't doing the real slave work, or something like that.

    In other words, your question has been asked, and someone came up with an answer that conveniently doesn't negate the midrash.

  3. Garnel:
    I don't take midrash literally. I do, however, have a strong objection to midrash casually being reported as fact in a storybook written for children who don't have the thinking skills to distinguish Torah from Midrash!

  4. It's a sticky point. Children's storybooks report pigs talking with wolves about house construction and other wolves talking with girls wearing red cloaks alone in the woods. The problem isn't kids being taught these midrashim as "facts" but that we don't transition them when they become adults into understanding them as metaphor.

  5. My kids know that The Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood are complete fiction, despite the existence of both wolves and pigs. Since I'm raising them to be Torah-observant, I'm teaching them the Pesach story as fact. Putting fiction in does not add to its credibility.


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