The First Family: Vaera 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we determine whether someone comes from “good stock”? To what extent do our parents, grandparents, and earlier ancestors define who we are as individuals?

As this week’s Torah portion, Vaera, opens, we find a rundown of Moses and Aaron’s family tree, even though we had met these characters several chapters before.

The Pitch: “It is the same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, ‘Bring forth the Israelites from the land of Egypt, troop by troop.’ It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt to free the Israelites from the Egyptians; these are the same Moses and Aaron.” – Exodus 6:26-27

Swing #1: “Moses and Aaron were found worthy of attaining the highest level of holiness and of receiving the Divine gift of prophetic vision. And they remained on this high level (‘the same Aaron and Moses’) even after contact with so unclean a being as the heathen Pharaoh. Their holiness was so great that they could not be contaminated even by the corrupt atmosphere prevailing at the court of the King of Egypt.” – Be’er Mayim Hayyim

Swing #2: “About the lineage of Jacob’s family descendants … we generally know only about those married to important male leaders. Even Miriam, Levi’s granddaughter on one side and great-granddaughter on the other, is excluded from this chapter’s genealogy and has no descendants mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.” – Ellen Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam

Swing #3: “By placing Moses and Aaron in their genealogical order the author offers their true historical significance, which means that for him ‘history’ is determined in terms of the ongoing life of the established institutions and offices of the covenant people.” – Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, what essential facts are included in Moses and Aaron’s family tree? What information is missing? Do you detect a particular agenda by the narrator of this story? Why does it matter to us whether Moses and Aaron descended from great individuals? Shouldn’t they be evaluated solely in terms of their respective merits and flaws? Or, is it impossible to understand any person fully without knowing his/her family background?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: The safety of all people is a priority in Judaism. I hope you will join me next tonight as our Friday night services will take place at KKBE. There, we will participate in “Stand-Up Shabbat”, in which we partner with GunSense SC to advocate for reasonable and appropriate laws to make our community safer. Services will begin at 8PM.

The Big Inning at the End: A recent article tells us that the New York Yankees have spent millions of dollars to create “what owner Hal Steinbrenner described as more ‘family friendly’ and ‘socially oriented’ spaces at Yankee Stadium. Those spaces include play areas for young children and different vantage points for ticket holders to mingle and, most important, take pictures, videos and selfies they can share on social media.” Is this an overreaction to our short-attention-span culture, or a sensible nod to our new reality?

Shabbat Shalom!