Serach Bat Asher - The Memory Keeper ​(Yahrtzeit Shiur)
1א

(ו) וַיִּקְח֣וּ אֶת־מִקְנֵיהֶ֗ם וְאֶת־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר רָֽכְשׁוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ מִצְרָ֑יְמָה יַעֲקֹ֖ב וְכָל־זַרְע֥וֹ אִתּֽוֹ׃ (ז) בָּנָ֞יו וּבְנֵ֤י בָנָיו֙ אִתּ֔וֹ בְּנֹתָ֛יו וּבְנ֥וֹת בָּנָ֖יו וְכָל־זַרְע֑וֹ הֵבִ֥יא אִתּ֖וֹ מִצְרָֽיְמָה׃ (ס)

(6) And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him; (7) his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

2ב

(יז) וּבְנֵ֣י אָשֵׁ֗ר יִמְנָ֧ה וְיִשְׁוָ֛ה וְיִשְׁוִ֥י וּבְרִיעָ֖ה וְשֶׂ֣רַח אֲחֹתָ֑ם וּבְנֵ֣י בְרִיעָ֔ה חֶ֖בֶר וּמַלְכִּיאֵֽל׃

(17) And the descendants of Asher: Imnah, and Ishvah, and Ishvi, and Beriah, and Serah their sister; and the sons of Beriah: Heber, and Malchiel.

3ג

(א) וַיְהִ֖י אַחֲרֵ֣י הַמַּגֵּפָ֑ה (פ) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה וְאֶ֧ל אֶלְעָזָ֛ר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹ֥ן הַכֹּהֵ֖ן לֵאמֹֽר׃ (ב) שְׂא֞וּ אֶת־רֹ֣אשׁ ׀ כָּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל מִבֶּ֨ן עֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֛ה וָמַ֖עְלָה לְבֵ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם כָּל־יֹצֵ֥א צָבָ֖א בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(1) And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying: (2) ’Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’houses, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel.’

4ד

מד) בְּנֵ֣י אָשֵׁר֮ לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם֒ לְיִמְנָ֗ה מִשְׁפַּ֙חַת֙ הַיִּמְנָ֔ה לְיִשְׁוִ֕י מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַיִּשְׁוִ֑י לִבְרִיעָ֕ה מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַבְּרִיעִֽי׃ (מה) לִבְנֵ֣י בְרִיעָ֔ה לְחֶ֕בֶר מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַֽחֶבְרִ֑י לְמַ֨לְכִּיאֵ֔ל מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַמַּלְכִּיאֵלִֽי׃ (מו) וְשֵׁ֥ם בַּת־אָשֵׁ֖ר שָֽׂרַח׃ (מז) אֵ֛לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת בְּנֵי־אָשֵׁ֖ר לִפְקֻדֵיהֶ֑ם שְׁלֹשָׁ֧ה וַחֲמִשִּׁ֛ים אֶ֖לֶף וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵאֽוֹת׃

(44) The descendants of Asher according to their families: of Imnah, the family of the Imnites; of Ishvi, the family of the Ishvites; of Beriah, the family of the Beriites. (45) Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites; of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites. (46) And the name of the daughter of Asher was Serah. (47) These are the families of the sons of Asher according to those that were numbered of them, fifty and three thousand and four hundred.

5ה

(כ) וַתֵּ֥לֶד עָדָ֖ה אֶת־יָבָ֑ל ה֣וּא הָיָ֔ה אֲבִ֕י יֹשֵׁ֥ב אֹ֖הֶל וּמִקְנֶֽה׃ (כא) וְשֵׁ֥ם אָחִ֖יו יוּבָ֑ל ה֣וּא הָיָ֔ה אֲבִ֕י כָּל־תֹּפֵ֥שׂ כִּנּ֖וֹר וְעוּגָֽב׃ (כב) וְצִלָּ֣ה גַם־הִ֗וא יָֽלְדָה֙ אֶת־תּ֣וּבַל קַ֔יִן לֹטֵ֕שׁ כָּל־חֹרֵ֥שׁ נְחֹ֖שֶׁת וּבַרְזֶ֑ל וַֽאֲח֥וֹת תּֽוּבַל־קַ֖יִן נַֽעֲמָֽה׃

(20) And Adah bore Yaval; he was the father of that dwell in tents and have cattle. (21) And his brother’s name was Yuval; he was the father of all that handle the harp and pipe. (22) And Zillah, she also bore Tuval-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron; and the sister of Tuval-cain was Naamah.

6ו

The Book of Jasher, p. 167, v. 92-98

A Hebrew midrash (Sefer HaYashar), named after the lost Book of Jasher mentioned in Samuel II 1:18


...they said to each other: "What shall we do in this matter before our father, for if we come suddenly to him and tell him the matter, he will be greatly alarmed at our words and will not believe us...and they found Serach, daughter of Asher, going forth to meet them, and the damsel was very good and subtle and knew how to play upon the harp...they took her and gave her a harp, saying: "Go now before our father, and sit before him and strike upon the harp, and speak these words...and she came and sat near Jacob. And she played well and sang, and uttered in the sweetness of her words, "Joseph my uncle is living, and he rules throughout the land of Egypt, and is not dead". And she continued to repeat and utter these words, and Jacob heard her words and they were agreeable to him. He listened whilst she repeated them twice and thrice, and joy entered the heart of Jacob at the sweetness of her words and the spirit of G-d was upon him, and he knew all her words to be true.

And Jacob blessed Serach when she spoke these words before him, and he said to her, My daughter, may death never prevail over you, for you have revived my spirit..."

7ז

מדרש הגדול, בראשית מ"ה:כ"ו


"ויגדו לו לאמר 'עוד יוסף חי' " רבנן אמרו אם אנו אומרים לו תחלה יוסף קים שמא תפרח נשמתו. מה עשו? אמרו לשרח בת אשר, "אמרי לאבינו יעקב שיוסף קים והוא במצרים. מה עשתה? המתינה לא עד שהוא עומד בתפלה ואמרה בלשון תימה:

- יוסף במצרים

- יולדו לו על ברכים

- מנשה ואפרים

פג לבו כשהוא עומד בתפלה. כיון שהשלים ראה העגלות, מיד "ותחי רוח יעקב אבינו" (שם).

Midrash HaGadol, Genesis 45:26


[The brothers said:]If we tell him right away, "Joseph is alive!" perhaps he will have a stroke [lit., his soul will fly away]. What did they do? They said to Serah, daughter of Asher, "Tell our father Jacob that Joseph is alive, and he is in Egypt." What did she do? She waited till he was standing in prayer, and then said in a tone of wonder, "Joseph is in Egypt/ There have been born on his knees/ Menasseh and Ephraim" [three rhyming lines]. His heart failed, while he was standing in prayer. When he finished his prayer, he saw the wagons: immediately the spirit of Jacob came back to life.(Translated by Avivah Zornberg in Genesis, the Beginning of Desire, p.281).

8ח

אוצר המדרשים (אייזנשטיין) בראשית מ"ו:י"ז


...סרח בת אשר בעבור שאמרה ליעקוב "יוסף חי" אמר לה יעקב "זה הפה שבשרני על יוסף שהוא חי לא יטעם טעם מות."

Otzar HaMidrashim (Eisenstein Gen. 46:17)


Serach Bat Asher: Because she told Yaakov "Yosef is alive", Yaakov said to her: "The mouth that told me about Yosef being alive will not taste the taste of death."

9ט

פרקי דרבי אליעזר (היגר) - "חורב" פרק מז


וכשבאו משה ואהרן אצל זקני ישראל ועשו האותות לעיניהם הלכו אצל סרח בת אשר אמרו לה בא אדם אחד אצלנו ועשה אותות לעינינו כך וכך, אמרה להם אין באותו ממש, אמרו לה והרי אמ' פקוד יפקוד אלהים אתכם, אמרה להם הוא האיש העתיד לגאול את ישראל ממצרים, שכן שמעתי מאבא פ"א פ"א פקוד יפקוד, מיד האמינו העם באלהיהם ובשלוחו,

שנ' ויאמן העם וישמעו כי פקד ה' את עמו (שמות ד,ל"א)


שמות ד, כ"ח-ל"א


(כח) ויגד משה לאהרן את כל דברי ה' אשר שלחו ואת כל האותת אשר צוהו: (כט) וילך משה ואהרן ויאספו את כל זקני בני ישראל: (ל) ויאמן העם וישמעו כי פקד ה' את בני ישראל וכי ראה את ענים ויקדו וישתחוו:

Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer (Higer) - "Horev" Ch. 47


And when Moshe and Aharon came to the Elders of Israel and made the signs before their eyes, they went to Serach bat Asher and said to her: "A man has come before us with these signs"

She said: "There is nothing to that man".
They said: "He said: G-d will remember you"
She said: "He is the the man who will bring Yisrael out of Egypt, for I heard from my father 'Peh Peh' 'Pakod Yifkod' [are the magic words]

They immediately believed in their G-d and His emissary as it says: "The nation believed and listened because G-d remembered His people". (Shmot 4:31)


Shmot 4:28-31


(28) Moshe told Aharon over all the Lord's words with which sent him, and of all the signs that He had instructed him. (29) Moshe and Aharon went and gathered all the elders of the children of Israel. (30) Aharon spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moshe and performed the signs in the presence of the people. (31) The nation believed and listened because G-d remembered His people.

10י

(כד) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יוֹסֵף֙ אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו אָנֹכִ֖י מֵ֑ת וֵֽאלֹהִ֞ים פָּקֹ֧ד יִפְקֹ֣ד אֶתְכֶ֗ם וְהֶעֱלָ֤ה אֶתְכֶם֙ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֛ע לְאַבְרָהָ֥ם לְיִצְחָ֖ק וּֽלְיַעֲקֹֽב׃ (כה) וַיַּשְׁבַּ֣ע יוֹסֵ֔ף אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר פָּקֹ֨ד יִפְקֹ֤ד אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְהַעֲלִתֶ֥ם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַ֖י מִזֶּֽה׃ (כו) וַיָּ֣מָת יוֹסֵ֔ף בֶּן־מֵאָ֥ה וָעֶ֖שֶׂר שָׁנִ֑ים וַיַּחַנְט֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ וַיִּ֥ישֶׂם בָּאָר֖וֹן בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃

(24) And Joseph said unto his brothers: ‘I die; but God will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ (25) And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying: ‘God will surely remember you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ (26) So Joseph died, being a hundred and ten years old. And they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.


11יא

(טז) לֵ֣ךְ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֞ אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֤ אֲלֵהֶם֙ יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֤י אֲבֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ נִרְאָ֣ה אֵלַ֔י אֱלֹהֵ֧י אַבְרָהָ֛ם יִצְחָ֥ק וְיַעֲקֹ֖ב לֵאמֹ֑ר פָּקֹ֤ד פָּקַ֙דְתִּי֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְאֶת־הֶעָשׂ֥וּי לָכֶ֖ם בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃

(16) Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have surely remembered you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt.

12יב

פרקי דרבי אליעזר פרק מח (דפוס)


ר' אליעזר אומר: חמש אותיות שנכפלו בתורה באותיות, כלם בסוד הגאולה. כ"ך, בו נגאל אברהם אבינו מאור כשדים, שנ' "לך לך מארצך" (בר' יב:א). מ"ם, בו נגאל יצחק אבינו מיד פלשתים, שנ' "לך מעמנו כי עצמת ממנו מאד" (בר' כו:טז). נ"ן, בו נגאל יעקב אבינו מיד עשו, שנ' "הצילני נא מיד אחי מיד עשו" (בר' לב:יב). פ"ף, בו נגאלו אבותינו ממצרים שנ' "פקוד פקדתי אתכם" (שמות ג:טז). צ"ץ, בו עתיד הקב"ה לגאול את ישראל [משעבוד ארבע מלכיות בסוף מלכות רביעית ולומר להם 'צמח הצמחתי לכם', שנ' "הנה-איש צמח שמו ומתחתיו יצמח ובנה היכל ה'" (זכריה ו:יב).

ולא נמסרו האותיות אלא לאברהם אבינו, ואברהם אבינו מסרן ליצחק, ויצחק מסרן ליעקב, ויעקב מסרן ליוסף, ויוסף מסרן לאחיו, [ואמר להם "פקוד יפקוד אלהים אתכם" (בר' נ:כד] ואשר בן יעקב מסר סוד הגאולה לסרח בת אשר.

Pirkei d'Rabi Eliezer Ch. 48


Rabbi Eliezer says there are five letters that are doubled in the Torah, and all of them contain the secret of redemption...kaf-kaf...mem-mem...nun-nun...peh-peh…and tzadi-tzadi… through which our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, as it says, "pakod pakadeti etkhem" (I have taken note of you, Ex.3:16)... ….These letters (peh-peh) were delivered solely to our father Abraham. Our father Abraham delivered them to Isaac, and Isaac [delivered them] to Jacob, and Jacob delivered the mystery of the Redemption to Joseph, as it is said, “But God will surely take notice of you (Pakod yiphkod etkhem)” (Gen. 50:24). Joseph his son delivered the secret of the Redemption to his brothers. Asher, the son of Jacob, delivered the mystery of the Redemption to Serah, his daughter.


Note: In this Midrash, all the "redemptive" letters, including "peh", differ in form when at the end of a word (kaf, tzadik, mem, nun, and peh sofi(t), suggesting the telos,the ultimate end they are meant to signify

13יג

(יט) וַיִּקַּ֥ח מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־עַצְמ֥וֹת יוֹסֵ֖ף עִמּ֑וֹ כִּי֩ הַשְׁבֵּ֨עַ הִשְׁבִּ֜יעַ אֶת־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר פָּקֹ֨ד יִפְקֹ֤ד אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְהַעֲלִיתֶ֧ם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַ֛י מִזֶּ֖ה אִתְּכֶֽם׃

(19) And Moses took the bones of Yoseph with him; for he had surely sworn the children of Israel, saying: ‘God will surely remember you; and you shall carry up my bones away from here with you.’

14יד

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוטה דף יג עמוד א


ומנין היה יודע משה רבינו היכן יוסף קבור? אמרו: סרח בת אשר נשתיירה מאותו הדור, הלך משה אצלה, אמר לה: כלום את יודעת היכן יוסף קבור? אמרה לו: ארון של מתכת עשו לו מצרים וקבעוהו בנילוס הנהר, כדי שיתברכו מימיו. הלך משה ועמד על שפת נילוס, אמר לו: יוסף, יוסף, הגיע העת שנשבע הקדוש ברוך הוא שאני גואל אתכם, והגיעה השבועה שהשבעת את ישראל, אם אתה מראה עצמך - מוטב, אם לאו - הרי אנו מנוקין משבועתך, מיד צף ארונו של יוסף.

Talmud Bavli, Sotah, 13a


How did Moshe know where Yosef was buried? They said: “Serach bat Asher remains from that generation.” Moshe went to her and said: “Do you know where Yosef is buried?” She said: “The Egyptians buried him in an iron casket and placed it in the Nile so that its waters become blessed.” Moshe went and stood at the banks of the Nile. He said: “Yosef, Yosef, the time has come that the Holy One, blessed be He, swore that He would redeem them. The time has also come for the oath that Israel swore (to bury Yosef in the land of Israel). If you show yourself, well and good. If not, we are free from your oath.” Immediately, Yosef’s casket floated to the surface.

15טו

R. Soloveitchik in a eulogy for R. Chaim Heller (“Pleitat Sofreihem” in Divrei Hagut ve’Ha’aracha)


Why was it crucial that Serach play a role in the redemption? The generation of the exodus witnessed signs and wonders on an unprecedented scale. Such excitement could easily lead to a sense that their generation represents true religious greatness and that nothing that came beforehand really matters. Yet this conclusion is false. Every generation, irrespective of its accomplishments, needs to turn to its elders for counsel and wisdom. The living example of someone who knew Yaakov Avinu was an invaluable resource for the generation of redemption. For the same reason, the blessing in the Amida refers to “the remnants of the scribes’” (על פליטת סופריהם) rather than simple ‘the scribes.” We want not only wise individuals but also those with memories of previous generations.

16טז

מדרש משלי: ל"א, כ"ו


פיה פתחה בחכמה - זו האשה שדברה אל יואב שהצילה את העיר בחכמתה, וזו סרחבת אשר

Midrash Mishlei, 31:26


She opens her mouth in wisdom - This is the woman who spoke to Yoav (Shmuel II 20) and saved a whole city in her wisdom; this [woman] is Serach bat Asher

17יז

(טז) וַתִּקְרָ֛א אִשָּׁ֥ה חֲכָמָ֖ה מִן־הָעִ֑יר שִׁמְע֤וּ שִׁמְעוּ֙ אִמְרוּ־נָ֣א אֶל־יוֹאָ֔ב קְרַ֣ב עַד־הֵ֔נָּה וַאֲדַבְּרָ֖ה אֵלֶֽיךָ׃ (יז) וַיִּקְרַ֣ב אֵלֶ֔יהָ וַתֹּ֧אמֶר הָאִשָּׁ֛ה הַאַתָּ֥ה יוֹאָ֖ב וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אָ֑נִי וַתֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ שְׁמַע֙ דִּבְרֵ֣י אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר שֹׁמֵ֥עַ אָנֹֽכִי׃ (יח) וַתֹּ֖אמֶר לֵאמֹ֑ר דַּבֵּ֨ר יְדַבְּר֤וּ בָרִֽאשֹׁנָה֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר שָׁאֹ֧ל יְשָׁאֲל֛וּ בְּאָבֵ֖ל וְכֵ֥ן הֵתַֽמּוּ׃ (יט) אָנֹכִ֕י שְׁלֻמֵ֖י אֱמוּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אַתָּ֣ה מְבַקֵּ֗שׁ לְהָמִ֨ית עִ֤יר וְאֵם֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לָ֥מָּה תְבַלַּ֖ע נַחֲלַ֥ת יְהוָֽה׃ (פ)

(16) Then cried a wise woman out of the city: ‘Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Yoav: Come near, that I may speak with you.’ (17) And he came near her; and the woman said: ‘Are you Yoav?’ And he answered: ‘I am.’ Then she said to him: ‘Hear the words of your handmaid.’ And he answered: ‘I do hear.’ (18) She spoke, saying: ‘They were wont to speak in old time, saying: They shall surely ask counsel at Abel; and so they ended the matter. (19) We are of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel; so you seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel? Why will you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?’

18יח

Tamar Kadari: Serach, daughter of Asher: Midrash and Aggadah

(Tamar Kadari teaches Midrash at Bar Ilan University)


The character of Serach, who accompanies the Israelites to Egypt and enters the land of Canaan with them, embodies the history of the people of Israel. Her character is linked with those of the people’s leaders, and she expedites the realization of the Divine plan. This is her role when she convinces Yaakov that Yoseph still lives, thus resulting in his going down to Egypt; she continues in this task when she identifies Moshe as the true redeemer of Israel, thus leading the people to heed him; and thus, when she helps Moshe to find Joseph’s bones, so as not to delay the Exodus from Egypt. Serach’s appearance seemingly confirms that God’s promises will be fulfilled and that the people of Israel will leave Egypt and come to and take possession of the Promised Land.

19יט

רש"ר הירש במדבר פרק כ:א


וַתָּמָת שָׁם מִרְיָם וַתִּקָּבֵר שָׁם. היא סיימה את שליחותה עלי אדמות. קברה בקדש יודיע לדור אחרון שלא הסתלקה מן העולם עד שלא היה הדור החדש מוכן לעתיד המובטח לו. במסע הארוך והעשיר בנסיונות קשים לא היו הנשים שותפות למעשי הבגידה בה', שבאו מתוך ייאוש. בשמחת לבב הן בטחו בה' וייחלו לו בהתמסרות, ולפיכך גזירת המיתה במדבר לא נגזרה על הנשים (מדרש רבה, במדבר כא, יא). ועתה אימהות וסבתות עמדו לעלות עם הדור החדש אל הארץ המובטחת, והן שמרו בליבן את הזכרון החי של העבר במצרים ושל המסע במדבר על פי ה', והן יכלו לרוות את נפש הנכדים והנינים מן המעיין הרוחני של חוויותיהן עם ה'. אכן נשי ישראל הקדימו להצטייד ברוח ישראל והיו חדורות בה עד לעומק נפשן, ועובדה זו ראויה להיות נזקפת לזכותה של מרים שהאירה לפניהן כנביאה.

Rabbi S. R. Hirsch on Bamidbar 20:1


Miriam died there; and there, too she was buried. She had completed her mission on earth. Her grave in Kadesh might show future generations that she did not leave this world until the next generation was ready to enter into the future that had been promised to them. During Israel's long wanderings, filled with so many difficult experiences, the women were not implicated in the frequent incidents of defection born of despair. In happiness, the women did the most to preserve serene trust and persevering devotion to G-d. This, (Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar 27:1), was the reason why the women were not included in the decree under which the entire old generation had to die out before the nation could enter the Promised Land. As a result, the women, as grandmothers and mothers, were able to go with the new generation when it entered the Promised Land for its new future, and to bring with them into that new future their personal recollections of their past in Egypt and of the momentous events they had witnessed in the wilderness under the protection and guidance of G-d. Thus they were given the opportunity to inspire their grandchildren and great-grandchildren with the spirit of the G-d-revealing experiences they themselves had witnessed. In fact these Jewish women were so deeply and thoroughly imbued with the Jewish spirit to the depths of their souls, and this may be ascribed in no small part to Miriam, who set them a shining example as a prophetess.