Really Big Things: Serach Teacher's Edition
Some legends of Midrash are superheroes. They have an origin story; they have supernatural powers; and sometimes they have a hidden identity.
This aggadah begins at the very end of the book of Genesis, with the death of Joseph. After one of the most epic stories in the Torah, Joseph survived being attacked by his brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt, falsely accused and jailed for years, brought from the dungeon to serve at Pharaoh's side, only to become Viceroy, saving Egypt from famine, building its economy, then reuniting with his brothers but only after teaching them a lesson about modesty and gratitude.
So on Joseph's deathbed, he made his brothers -- and their descendents -- promise to do something very important for him.
(כב) וַיֵּ֤שֶׁב יוֹסֵף֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם ה֖וּא וּבֵ֣ית אָבִ֑יו וַיְחִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף מֵאָ֥ה וָעֶ֖שֶׂר שָׁנִֽים׃
(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) וַיָּ֣מׇת יוֹסֵ֔ף בֶּן־מֵאָ֥ה וָעֶ֖שֶׂר שָׁנִ֑ים וַיַּחַנְט֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ וַיִּ֥ישֶׂם בָּאָר֖וֹן בְּמִצְרָֽיִם׃
(22) So Joseph and his father’s household remained in Egypt. Joseph lived one hundred and ten years.
(24) At length, Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (25) So Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “When God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.(26) Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
So there's that. BUT...did they do it? Let's find out.
(יז) וַיְהִ֗י בְּשַׁלַּ֣ח פַּרְעֹה֮ אֶת־הָעָם֒ וְלֹא־נָחָ֣ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים דֶּ֚רֶךְ אֶ֣רֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים כִּ֥י קָר֖וֹב ה֑וּא כִּ֣י ׀ אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֗ים פֶּֽן־יִנָּחֵ֥ם הָעָ֛ם בִּרְאֹתָ֥ם מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְשָׁ֥בוּ מִצְרָֽיְמָה׃ (יח) וַיַּסֵּ֨ב אֱלֹהִ֧ים ׀ אֶת־הָעָ֛ם דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר יַם־ס֑וּף וַחֲמֻשִׁ֛ים עָל֥וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (יט) וַיִּקַּ֥ח מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־עַצְמ֥וֹת יוֹסֵ֖ף עִמּ֑וֹ כִּי֩ הַשְׁבֵּ֨עַ הִשְׁבִּ֜יעַ אֶת־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר פָּקֹ֨ד יִפְקֹ֤ד אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וְהַעֲלִיתֶ֧ם אֶת־עַצְמֹתַ֛י מִזֶּ֖ה אִתְּכֶֽם׃
(17) Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Phillistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.” (18) So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds. Now the Israelites went up armed out of the land of Egypt. (19) And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will be sure to take notice of you: then you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”
Great. End of story. Joseph made them swear that he wouldn't stay buried in Egypt, and Moses fulfilled that promise on their way out.
Except...some ancient Rabbis took issue with this. Here's another verse, for emphasis.
(מ) וּמוֹשַׁב֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָשְׁב֖וּ בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה וְאַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃
(40) The length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years;
The Children of Israel were in Egypt for over 400 years. Moses wasn't there when Joseph died, obviously, but he somehow knew where Joseph was buried? I mean, Joseph was famous, so maybe he had a tomb and everyone knew where it was. But a tomb would preclude them from being able to get him later, so that's unlikely.
So if Moses wasn't there when Joseph died, how did he know where Joseph was buried? He would've needed someone:
  • who knew Joseph
  • who was there when he was buried
  • and who was, therefore, over 400 years old.
In order to figure out who this might've been, we need to take a detour. We also could use a list of the most likely suspects. And here's a clue to reading the next passage: families and inheritances in the Bible are patrilineal.
(ח) וְאֵ֨לֶּה שְׁמ֧וֹת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל הַבָּאִ֥ים מִצְרַ֖יְמָה יַעֲקֹ֣ב וּבָנָ֑יו בְּכֹ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב רְאוּבֵֽן׃ (ט) וּבְנֵ֖י רְאוּבֵ֑ן חֲנ֥וֹךְ וּפַלּ֖וּא וְחֶצְרֹ֥ן וְכַרְמִֽי׃ (י) וּבְנֵ֣י שִׁמְע֗וֹן יְמוּאֵ֧ל וְיָמִ֛ין וְאֹ֖הַד וְיָכִ֣ין וְצֹ֑חַר וְשָׁא֖וּל בֶּן־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִֽית׃ (יא) וּבְנֵ֖י לֵוִ֑י גֵּרְשׁ֕וֹן קְהָ֖ת וּמְרָרִֽי׃
(יז) וּבְנֵ֣י אָשֵׁ֗ר יִמְנָ֧ה וְיִשְׁוָ֛ה וְיִשְׁוִ֥י וּבְרִיעָ֖ה וְשֶׂ֣רַח אֲחֹתָ֑ם....
(8) These are the names of the Israelites, Jacob and his descendants, who came to Egypt. Jacob’s first-born Reuben; (9) Reuben’s sons: Enoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi. (10) Simeon’s sons: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Saul the son of a Canaanite woman. (11) Levi’s sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
[the list continues through the sons' families]
(17) Asher’s sons: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, and Beriah, and their sister Serah.
The Torah lists the male descendents of Jacob in the list of the 70 who came down to Egypt after the reunification with Joseph. Someone in this list would be our prime suspect. And someone in this list sticks out.
The only daughter mentioned here is Asher's daughter, Serach.
But JUST to be sure, let's see if she's mentioned anywhere else. Tip: if you're looking for a census, where the Torah lists lots of people's names, look for the Israelites to do something terrible then get punished with a plague. Here's the census taken after the plague that followed the rebellion of Korach, which itself has some wild supernatural midrashim, but that's another story.
(א) וַיְהִ֖י אַחֲרֵ֣י הַמַּגֵּפָ֑ה וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה וְאֶ֧ל אֶלְעָזָ֛ר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹ֥ן הַכֹּהֵ֖ן לֵאמֹֽר׃ (ב) שְׂא֞וּ אֶת־רֹ֣אשׁ ׀ כׇּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל מִבֶּ֨ן עֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֛ה וָמַ֖עְלָה לְבֵ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם כׇּל־יֹצֵ֥א צָבָ֖א בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ג) וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר מֹשֶׁ֜ה וְאֶלְעָזָ֧ר הַכֹּהֵ֛ן אֹתָ֖ם בְּעַֽרְבֹ֣ת מוֹאָ֑ב עַל־יַרְדֵּ֥ן יְרֵח֖וֹ לֵאמֹֽר׃ (ד) מִבֶּ֛ן עֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וָמָ֑עְלָה כַּאֲשֶׁר֩ צִוָּ֨ה יְהֹוָ֤ה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה֙
וּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל הַיֹּצְאִ֖ים מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃ (ה) רְאוּבֵ֖ן בְּכ֣וֹר יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל בְּנֵ֣י רְאוּבֵ֗ן חֲנוֹךְ֙ מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת הַחֲנֹכִ֔י לְפַלּ֕וּא מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַפַּלֻּאִֽי׃ (ו) לְחֶצְרֹ֕ן מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַֽחֶצְרוֹנִ֑י לְכַרְמִ֕י מִשְׁפַּ֖חַת הַכַּרְמִֽי׃ (ז) אֵ֖לֶּה מִשְׁפְּחֹ֣ת הָראוּבֵנִ֑י וַיִּהְי֣וּ פְקֻדֵיהֶ֗ם שְׁלֹשָׁ֤ה וְאַרְבָּעִים֙ אֶ֔לֶף וּשְׁבַ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת וּשְׁלֹשִֽׁים׃ (ח) וּבְנֵ֥י פַלּ֖וּא אֱלִיאָֽב׃ (ט) וּבְנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֔ב נְמוּאֵ֖ל וְדָתָ֣ן וַאֲבִירָ֑ם הֽוּא־דָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם (קרואי) [קְרִיאֵ֣י] הָעֵדָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִצּ֜וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֤ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹן֙ בַּעֲדַת־קֹ֔רַח בְּהַצֹּתָ֖ם עַל־יְהֹוָֽה׃
(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׃ {ס}
(1) When the plague was over, the LORD said to Moses and to Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, (2) “Take a census of the whole Israelite community from the age of twenty years up, by their ancestral houses, all Israelites able to bear arms.” (3) So Moses and Eleazar the priest, on the steppes of Moab, at the Jordan near Jericho, gave instructions about them, namely, (4) those from twenty years up, as the LORD had commanded Moses.
The descendants of the Israelites who came out of the land of Egypt were: (5) Reuben, Israel’s first-born. Descendants of Reuben: [Of] Enoch, the clan of the Enochites; of Pallu, the clan of the Palluites; (6) of Hezron, the clan of the Hezronites; of Carmi, the clan of the Carmites. (7) Those are the clans of the Reubenites. The persons enrolled came to 43,730. (8) Born to Pallu: Eliab. (9) The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, and Dathan and Abiram. These are the same Dathan and Abiram, chosen in the assembly, who agitated against Moses and Aaron as part of Korah’s band when they agitated against the LORD....
(44) Descendants of Asher by their clans: Of Imnah, the clan of the Imnites; of Ishvi, the clan of the Ishvites; of Beriah, the clan of the Beriites. (45) Of the descendants of Beriah: Of Heber, the clan of the Heberites; of Malchiel, the clan of the Malchielites.— (46) The name of Asher’s daughter was Serah.(47) These are the clans of Asher’s descendants; persons enrolled: 53,400.
Numbers 26:46 has four simple Hebrew words, identifying and confirming that Asher had a daughter named Serach who came down to Egypt.
And we have our suspect. Why would Serach be mentioned here and there? She must've done something extraordinary for the Torah insist we remember her.
Let's see what the Talmud has to say about Serach.
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 הקב"ה שאני גואל אתכם והגיעה השבועה שהשבעת את ישראל אם אתה מראה עצמך מוטב אם לאו הרי אנו מנוקין משבועתך
מיד צף ארונו של יוסף
The Gemara asks: And from where did Moses our teacher know where Joseph was buried? The Sages said: Serah, the daughter of Asher, remained from that generation that initially descended to Egypt with Jacob. Moses went to her 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 [Nilus] River as an augury so that its water would be blessed. Moses went and stood on the bank of the Nile. He said to Joseph: Joseph, Joseph, the time has arrived about which the Holy One, Blessed be He, took an oath saying that I, i.e., God, will redeem you. And the time for fulfillment of the oath that you administered to the Jewish people that they will bury you in Eretz Yisrael has arrived. If you show yourself, it is good, but if not, we are clear from your oath.
Immediately, the casket of Joseph floated to the top of the water.
  • The Talmud doesn't name a specific source for the story, which could imply this story was steeped in Jewish tradition over 2,000 years ago.
  • Serach tells Moses that, yes, she knows where Joseph is buried...but he's at the bottom of the Nile.
  • The Egyptians put the casket in the Nile and not a tomb because, in deference to Joseph predicting when the Nile would flood and make the country fertile or dry up and cause possible famine, Egypt buried him in the river to bless the river for all time.
  • [David adds: notice how Exodus begins with the new Pharaoh denying any knowledge of Joseph; no wonder, if Joseph was buried in the river with no marker.]
  • Moses stands by the river and calls out Joseph: we've done all we can to get your coffin out of the river -- Serach lived this long just to tell me you were in the river -- the onus is now on YOU to appear or we're off the hook for this oath.
All this being said, he get to the next part of our journey. What are we to believe then about Serach? By this point in the Torah, folks weren't living more than 120 years. So, yes, it's unusual that anyone would live for over 400 years. If she does have what you might call a superpower, she must have been granted it as a blessing.
What did Serach do to earn this blessing of longevity?
Let's jump back a bit before the opening of our lesson. Here we find Joseph, post-reunification with his brothers, after instructing them to return home with tons of horses and donkeys and wagons full of goodies. Their biggest job is simply to tell their father, Jacob, that Joseph is alive...and all the stuff they bring with them is the proof.
(כה) וַֽיַּעֲל֖וּ מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב אֲבִיהֶֽם׃ (כו) וַיַּגִּ֨דוּ ל֜וֹ לֵאמֹ֗ר ע֚וֹד יוֹסֵ֣ף חַ֔י וְכִֽי־ה֥וּא מֹשֵׁ֖ל בְּכׇל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַיָּ֣פׇג לִבּ֔וֹ כִּ֥י לֹא־הֶאֱמִ֖ין לָהֶֽם׃ (כז) וַיְדַבְּר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו אֵ֣ת כׇּל־דִּבְרֵ֤י יוֹסֵף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וַיַּרְא֙ אֶת־הָ֣עֲגָל֔וֹת אֲשֶׁר־שָׁלַ֥ח יוֹסֵ֖ף לָשֵׂ֣את אֹת֑וֹ וַתְּחִ֕י ר֖וּחַ יַעֲקֹ֥ב אֲבִיהֶֽם׃ (כח) וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֛ב עוֹד־יוֹסֵ֥ף בְּנִ֖י חָ֑י אֵֽלְכָ֥ה וְאֶרְאֶ֖נּוּ בְּטֶ֥רֶם אָמֽוּת׃
(25) They went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. (26) And they told him, “Joseph is still alive; yes, he is ruler over the whole land of Egypt.” His heart went numb, for he did not believe them. (27) But when they recounted all that Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. (28) “Enough!” said Israel. “My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.”
How does Serach fit in here? She was present, as were all the families. But we have to dive deep to find her story.
Here it is.
We dive into a collection of Midrashim called the Sefer HaYashar. As far as I know, nobody's sure where this collection came from, only that its earliest appearance known was around the 13th century. Then again, the Torah does mention the existence of a Sefer maybe this was a book lost in antiquity that was found in the Middle Ages. Maybe not.
We do not judge. We keep our minds open. Because we want to know the story.
As noted before, the brothers knew they had a trust issue with their father. As the Torah states, they told their father Joseph was alive, gifted them all this stuff, and was ruler of Egypt. And you'll never guess: Jacob did NOT believe them.
So...someone must've been there to convince Jacob, someone he trusted, and someone who had their own special way of communicating with her grandfather...thru music.
(ט) ויכל יוסף לצוות אותם ויפן וישב מצרימה, ובני יעקב הלכו ארצה כנען בשמחה ובטובה אל יעקב אביהם.
ויבואו עד גבול הארץ ויאמרו איש אל רעהו, מה נעשה בדבר הזה לפני אבינו. כי אם נבוא אליו פתאום ונגד לו הדבר ויבהל מאוד מדברינו, ולא יאבה לשמוע אלינו.
וילכו להם עד קרבם אל בתיהם וימצאו את שרח בת אשר אשר יוצאת לקראתם, והנערה טובה עד מאוד וחכמה ויודעת לנגן בכינור. ויקראו אליה ותבוא אליהם ותשק להם,
ויקחוה ויתנו לה כינור אחד לאמור. בואי נא לפני אבינו וישבת לפניו, והך בכינור ודיברת ואמרת כדברים האלה לפניו. ויצוו אותה ללכת אל ביתם, ותיקח הכינור ותמהר ותלך לפניהם ותשב אצל יעקב.
ותיטיב הכינור ותנגן ותאמר בנועם דבריה, יוסף דודי חי הוא וכי הוא מושל בכל ארץ מצרים ולא מת. ותוסף ותנגן ותדבר כדברים האלה, וישמע יעקב את דבריה ויערב לו. וישמע עוד בדברה פעמיים ושלוש, ותבוא השמחה בלב יעקב מנועם דבריה ותהי עליו רוח אלוקים וידע כי כל דבריה נכונה.
ויברך יעקב את שרח בדברה הדברים האלה לפניו ויאמר אליה, בתי אל ימשול מות בך עד עולם כי החיית את רוחי. אך דברי נא עוד לפניי כאשר דיברת, כי שמחתני בכל דברייך. ותוסף ותנגן כדברים האלה ויעקב שומע ויערב לו וישמח, ותהי עליו רוח אלוקים.
עודנו מדבר עמה והנה בניו באו אליו בסוסים ומרכבות ובגדי מלכות, ועבדים רצים לפניהם. ויקם יעקב לקראתם וירא את בניו מלובשים בלבוש מלכות, וירא את כל הטובה אשר שלח יוסף אליהם. ויאמרו אליו, התבשר כי יוסף אחינו חי והוא המושל בכל ארץ מצרים, והוא אשר דיבר אלינו ככל אשר דיברנו אליך. וישמע יעקב את כל דברי בניו ויפג לבו אל דבריהם, כי לא האמין להם עד ראותו את כל אשר נתן להם יוסף ואשר שלח לו ואת כל האותות אשר דיבר יוסף אליהם. ויפתחו לפניו את שקיהם ויראוהו את כל אשר שלח יוסף, וידע יעקב כי נכונה דיברו וישמח מאוד על בנו.
(9) And when Joseph had finished giving them his orders, he turned: and went back into Egypt, ‎and the sons of Jacob went to the land of Canaan, in joy and happiness to their father.
And ‎when they came to the boundaries of the land, they said to one another: What shall we do in ‎bringing this matter before our father? For if we impart it to him suddenly, and tell him all ‎about it, he will be greatly astounded at our words and he will refuse to listen to us.
And when ‎they went on until they approached their houses they met Serach coming towards them, and ‎the damsel was exceedingly beautiful and wise, and a skilled player on the harp; and they ‎called her and she came unto them and she kissed them.
And they took her and gave her a ‎harp saying unto her: Go, we pray thee, before our father and sit down before him and strike ‎this harp and speak unto him according to these words. And they instructed her concerning ‎what she had to say, and she hastened unto Jacob and she sat down before him.
And she sang ‎and she played beautifully upon the harp, and she sang in the sweetness of her voice: Joseph ‎my uncle is alive and he reigneth over all the land of Egypt; he is not dead. And she often ‎repeated these words. And Jacob heard her words and it pleased him greatly, and when he ‎heard her sing it twice and three times, the heart of Jacob was possessed by joy, through the ‎sweetness of her voice, and the spirit of God came over him, and he knew that all her words ‎were true.
And Jacob blessed Serach for singing these words before him, and he said: My ‎daughter, may death never prevail against thee forever, for thou hast revived my spirit, only ‎repeat thou this song once more before me, for thou hast caused me gladness with thy words. ‎And she sang once more the same words and Jacob listened, and he was pleased and he ‎rejoiced, and the spirit of God came over him.
And while he was yet speaking with her, his ‎sons came before him with horses and chariots and royal garments and servants running ‎before them. And Jacob arose and went to meet them, and he saw his sons dressed in royal ‎garments and all the good things that Joseph sent unto them. And they said unto him: Be thou ‎informed that our brother Joseph liveth, and that he ruleth over the whole land of Egypt, and ‎it is he who hath spoken unto us all we have told unto thee. And Jacob heard all the words of ‎his sons and his heart fainted, for he believed them not, until he saw all that Joseph had given ‎unto them and all that Joseph had sent along with them, and all the signs he had spoken of ‎unto them. And they unpacked all the things before him, and they displayed all that Joseph ‎had sent, and they gave to every one of them what Joseph had sent him. And Jacob knew ‎that they have spoken the truth, and Jacob was greatly rejoiced on account of his son.
And so we learn why, and when, and how Serach was blessed. And we also learn, more specifically, that she wasn't blessed with longevity. She was blessed with eternity.
Serach, for her wisdom and her empathy, was blessed with immortality. That's her superpower.
This, of course, begs the question: how do we know she was immortal? Sorry, how do we know Serach is immortal? Do we just have to find a Torah story from somewhere further down the line that features and old, wise, respected woman?
The Talmud refers to the following story as proof of Serach's power. See what you think.
We jump ahead to the time of King David. A man named Sheva [translated here as "Sheba"] decides to revolt against King David. Sheva is a Benjaminite, Jerusalem is in their territory, and if David wants the capitol of his kingdom in their territory, someone's bound to start a ruckus at some point.
As we'll see, Sheva almost starts a civil war between "Israel" in the north and "Judah" in the south, splitting the kingdom in two. David tries to rally his southern army to put down the rebellion, but it's taking too long. So he gets a small posse to chase down Sheva and bring him to justice.
It's a wild story which I'm abridging, but feel free to read it in full.
(א) וְשָׁ֨ם נִקְרָ֜א אִ֣ישׁ בְּלִיַּ֗עַל וּשְׁמ֛וֹ שֶׁ֥בַע בֶּן־בִּכְרִ֖י אִ֣ישׁ יְמִינִ֑י וַיִּתְקַ֣ע בַּשֹּׁפָ֗ר וַ֠יֹּ֠אמֶר אֵֽין־לָ֨נוּ חֵ֜לֶק בְּדָוִ֗ד וְלֹ֤א נַחֲלָה־לָ֙נוּ֙ בְּבֶן־יִשַׁ֔י אִ֥ישׁ לְאֹהָלָ֖יו יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
(ו) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ אֶל־אֲבִישַׁ֔י עַתָּ֗ה יֵ֧רַֽע לָ֛נוּ שֶׁ֥בַע בֶּן־בִּכְרִ֖י מִן־אַבְשָׁל֑וֹם אַ֠תָּ֠ה קַ֞ח אֶת־עַבְדֵ֤י אֲדֹנֶ֙יךָ֙ וּרְדֹ֣ף אַחֲרָ֔יו פֶּן־מָ֥צָא ל֛וֹ עָרִ֥ים בְּצֻר֖וֹת וְהִצִּ֥יל עֵינֵֽנוּ׃ (ז) וַיֵּצְא֤וּ אַחֲרָיו֙ אַנְשֵׁ֣י יוֹאָ֔ב וְהַכְּרֵתִ֥י וְהַפְּלֵתִ֖י וְכׇל־הַגִּבֹּרִ֑ים וַיֵּֽצְאוּ֙ מִיר֣וּשָׁלַ֔͏ִם לִרְדֹּ֕ף אַחֲרֵ֖י שֶׁ֥בַע בֶּן־בִּכְרִֽי׃
(יד) וַֽיַּעֲבֹ֞ר בְּכׇל־שִׁבְטֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָבֵ֛לָה וּבֵ֥ית מַעֲכָ֖ה וְכׇל־הַבֵּרִ֑ים {ס} (ויקלהו) [וַיִּקָּ֣הֲל֔וּ] וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַף־אַחֲרָֽיו׃ (טו) וַיָּבֹ֜אוּ וַיָּצֻ֣רוּ עָלָ֗יו בְּאָבֵ֙לָה֙ בֵּ֣ית הַֽמַּעֲכָ֔ה וַיִּשְׁפְּכ֤וּ סֹֽלְלָה֙ אֶל־הָעִ֔יר וַֽתַּעֲמֹ֖ד בַּחֵ֑ל וְכׇל־הָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶת־יוֹאָ֔ב מַשְׁחִיתִ֖ם לְהַפִּ֥יל הַחוֹמָֽה׃ (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 שָׁא֧וֹל יְשָׁאֲל֛וּ בְּאָבֵ֖ל וְכֵ֥ן הֵתַֽמּוּ׃
(יט) אָנֹכִ֕י שְׁלֻמֵ֖י אֱמוּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
אַתָּ֣ה מְבַקֵּ֗שׁ לְהָמִ֨ית עִ֤יר וְאֵם֙ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לָ֥מָּה תְבַלַּ֖ע נַחֲלַ֥ת יְהֹוָֽה׃ {פ}
(כ) וַיַּ֥עַן יוֹאָ֖ב וַיֹּאמַ֑ר חָלִ֤ילָה חָלִ֙ילָה֙ לִ֔י אִם־אֲבַלַּ֖ע וְאִם־אַשְׁחִֽית׃ (כא) לֹא־כֵ֣ן הַדָּבָ֗ר כִּ֡י אִישׁ֩ מֵהַ֨ר אֶפְרַ֜יִם שֶׁ֧בַע בֶּן־בִּכְרִ֣י שְׁמ֗וֹ נָשָׂ֤א יָדוֹ֙ בַּמֶּ֣לֶךְ בְּדָוִ֔ד תְּנוּ־אֹת֣וֹ לְבַדּ֔וֹ וְאֵלְכָ֖ה מֵעַ֣ל הָעִ֑יר וַתֹּ֤אמֶר הָאִשָּׁה֙ אֶל־יוֹאָ֔ב הִנֵּ֥ה רֹאשׁ֛וֹ מֻשְׁלָ֥ךְ אֵלֶ֖יךָ בְּעַ֥ד הַחוֹמָֽה׃
(כב) וַתָּבוֹא֩ הָאִשָּׁ֨ה אֶל־כׇּל־הָעָ֜ם בְּחׇכְמָתָ֗הּ וַֽיִּכְרְת֞וּ אֶת־רֹ֨אשׁ שֶׁ֤בַע בֶּן־בִּכְרִי֙ וַיַּשְׁלִ֣כוּ אֶל־יוֹאָ֔ב וַיִּתְקַע֙ בַּשֹּׁפָ֔ר וַיָּפֻ֥צוּ מֵעַל־הָעִ֖יר אִ֣ישׁ לְאֹהָלָ֑יו וְיוֹאָ֛ב שָׁ֥ב יְרוּשָׁלַ֖͏ִם אֶל־הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃
(1) A scoundrel named Sheba son of Bichri, a Benjaminite, happened to be there. He sounded the horn and proclaimed: “We have no portion in David, No share in Jesse’s son! Every man to his tent, O Israel!”
(6) And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bichri will cause us more trouble than Absalom. So take your lord’s servants and pursue him, before he finds fortified towns and eludes us.” (7) Joab’s men, the Cherethites and Pelethites, and all the warriors, marched out behind him. They left Jerusalem in pursuit of Sheba son of Bichri.
(14) [Sheba] had passed through all the tribes of Israel up to Abel of Beth-maacah; and all the Beerites assembled and followed him inside. (15) [Joab’s men] came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah; they threw up a siegemound against the city and it stood against the rampart. All the troops with Joab were engaged in battering the wall, (16) when a clever woman shouted from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come over here so I can talk to him.” (17) He approached her, and the woman asked, “Are you Joab?” “Yes,” he answered; and she said to him, “Listen to what your handmaid has to say.” “I’m listening,” he replied.
(18) And she continued, “In olden times people used to say, ‘Let them inquire of Abel,’ and that was the end of the matter.
(19) I am one of those who seek the welfare of the faithful in Israel.
But you seek to bring death upon a mother city in Israel! Why should you destroy the LORD’s possession?”
(20) Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me to destroy or to ruin! (21) Not at all! But a certain man from the hill country of Ephraim, named Sheba son of Bichri, has rebelled against King David. Just hand him alone over to us, and I will withdraw from the city.” The woman assured Joab, “His head shall be thrown over the wall to you.”
(22) The woman came to all the people with her clever plan; and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri and threw it down to Joab. He then sounded the horn; all the men dispersed to their homes, and Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.