The Iron Lady: Pinhas 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Does (or did) your family have a matriarch? If so, how does (or did) this woman impact subsequent generations?

The Hebrew Bible’s matriarchal characters are sometimes mentioned in passing, and this week, we find an all-too-brief reference to Serach, whose impact goes far beyond the Torah text:

The Pitch: “The name of Asher’s daughter was Serach.” – Numbers 26:46

Swing #1: “Serach not only lived a long life on earth, she never died. She is one of several righteous people who are said to have entered the Garden of Eden alive.” – Targum Yonatan

Swing #2: “Moses went to [Serach] and said to her: ‘Do you know anything about where Joseph is buried?’ She said to him: ‘The Egyptians fashioned a metal casket for him and set it in the Nile River so that its water would be blessed. …’” – BT Sotah 13a

Swing #3: “[Serach] had a large family which was called her name and which was included in the tally of the families of Asher’s descendants.” – Nachmanides

Late-Inning Questions: How many of our commentators’ stories about Serach were familiar to you before today? Does it make you curious to learn more about her? Why are seemingly minor literary characters the inspiration for creative storytelling?

On Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: I’m grateful to be a part of this warm and welcoming synagogue in Buffalo, NY, and I’m glad to promote its activities. Let’s start with this: Be sure to wish loved ones a happy new year by sending them honey — contact Marcia Goldstein at by July 20th. In a year with so many challenges, we could all do with a little more sweetness.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of people mentioned briefly, it’s fascinating that a man with a scanty entry in The Baseball Encyclopedia — Archibald “Moonlight” Graham — turns into a pivotal character in W. P. Kinsella’s novel Shoeless Joe, which was the basis for the film Field of Dreams. Baseball, like the Torah, is the basis of remarkable midrash.

Shabbat Shalom, and stay safe!