Saturday, January 28, 2023

The opening of Sefer Shemot references the 70 offspring of Yaakov that descended to Mitzrayim. Yet, the actual names specifically mentioned are limited to the 11 sons of Ya’akov (Yosef was already situated in Mitzrayim). Rather than rename all of the individuals as appears in Parshat Vayechi, the Torah uses the phrase וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה אֵת יַעֲקֹב אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ, “And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; with Ya’akov, each man and his household came.”

The emphasis at this juncture is twofold. One, on the “family” unit. Each of the tribes arrived in Egypt with their respective children (households). Second, each tribe had their own family but the common denominator was that they were tied to Ya’akov, not only physically, but in the spiritual arena as well.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch explains the significance of the family at this time. As we embark on the second book of the Torah, referred to by the Ramban as “sefer hagalut v’hageula, the book of the exile and exodus, the book that relays the story of the creation of the Jewish nation, we must understand that a nation is comprised of not only individuals, but of families. Tradition is transmitted from parent to child. In order for a nation to survive, family must serve as its foundation. As the tribes entered galut, they took with them what they learned from their father Yaakov and transmitted it to their children. Only by combining the strength of each family are we able to build an everlasting nation.

We not only descended to Egypt as families, there is an emphasis on families when we exited as well. The korban Pesach which was sacrificed on the eve of Yetziat Mitzrayim, had to be eaten together with one’s family. The salvation was not merely on an individual level, but for it to be eternal, it had to encompass the family.

It is no coincidence that we refer to a family structure as a “family tree” rather than a family map or chart. A family tree consists of many branches—each representing another family unit, yet they are all connected to the same trunk or roots. Essentially, they receive their “nourishment” from the same source, even though they are independent from each other. Each child builds their home based on the masoret, the morals and principles received from their parents.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach explains why we compare a chatan and kallah to “invey hagefen,” the vines of grapes in a similar manner. Vines, unlike trees, cannot stand on their own. They require something upon which to lean. Both the bride and groom should lean on each other and use the lessons they learned from their parents as a foundation upon which to build their bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael, a faithful home among the Jewish people. We may add that families are referred to as mateh, a stick, perhaps to highlight that they serve as that backbone.

As we begin our journey through Sefer Shemot, let us utilize this time to fortify our household. To appreciate the unique attributes of each child, while maintaining a cohesive family unit. To avoid the sibling rivalry that permeates the parshiyot in sefer Bereishit. To be able to properly convey the beauty of the Torah and our excitement when engaging in the performance of mitzvot to our children. By transmitting the masoret to the next generation, we are ensuring the eternal blossoming of the Jewish nation.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner is a rebbe at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and rabbi of the Nofei HaShemesh community. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau (www.mizrachi.org/speakers).

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