Parashat Va-Era 5769/ January 24, 2009
the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
Jacob’s Daughters—A Response
Dr. Yael Levine
Alexander Klein (see Parashat
Va-Yeshev 5769/ December 20, 2008 on the English
Parasha Page) devotes his article to various exegetical
approaches related to the following question: who were the daughters and
granddaughters of Jacob referred to in two biblical texts?
One is in the context of Jacob’s mourning
over Joseph’s disappearance – “All his sons and daughters sought to comfort
him” (Gen. 37:35), and the other notes that when Jacob descended to
Klein cites Rashi, who presents
the Tannaitic dispute between Rabbi Judah and Rabbi
Nehemiah, appearing in Genesis Rabbah.
The former is of the opinion that “the tribes
married their sisters” and the latter, that the wives of the tribes were
Canaanite. In truth, the corpus of
midrashic literature contains a far broader spectrum of
views regarding these twin sisters.
According to another homily in Genesis Rabbah,
a twin sister was born with each tribe, and with Benjamin, an extra twin
Batra raises several hypotheses which ultimately are
rejected, that a twin sister was born with Dinah and with Benjamin.
Eliezer says that all of Jacob’s children had
their spouses born along with them, save for Joseph and Dinah.
These sources provide a response to the
question of who Jacob’s sons married, and considering the homiletical
context, one should not expect that the women’s names be mentioned.
In connection with this, recall that
midrashic literature does not tell us the names of the
wives of Jacob’s sons, aside from those whose names are explained in
Scripture: “the daughter of a certain
Canaanite whose name was Shua” (Gen. 38:2), Judah’s
 and “
Asenath daughter of Poti-phera”
(Gen. 41:45), Joseph’s wife.
Moreover, the wives of Jacob’s sons descended
Another woman whose inclusion might be considered among the
“daughters of Jacob’s sons” who came to
Notwithstanding this verse, there are a variety of views as
to where she was really born, relating to the discussion of who was included in
the reckoning of the seventy progeny of Jacob who descended to
According to Rivka Raviv,  the view that Jochebed was the one who completed the list also answers the question of one person apparently missing in the list of Leah’s children, who when totaled come to one short of thirty-three, the total given for them. However, we should also mention the view presented by Joseph Heinemann, that the homily about Serah completing the count is based on a homiletical reading of the verse: “I am one of those who seek the welfare of the faithful in Israel” [Heb. shelumei emunei Yisrael] (II Sam. 20:19), reading it as if it speaks of completing [Heb. le- hashlim] the number of those who left Egypt, and from there this motif was transferred to other homilies on who exactly completed the count of those who descended to Egypt. 
Another female figure who, according to Pirkei
Rabbi Eliezer, was one of Jacob’s granddaughters
is Asenath daughter of Dinah, whose mother was raped
Israel’s sons wished to kill her, for it would be said throughout the
land that Jacob’s household is a brothel, but Jacob took a golden ornament on
which was engraved the Holy name, hung it around her neck, and released her to
go her own way. The angel Michael
brought her to
Several homilies mention an anonymous group of women referred to as the “daughters of Asher,” or the like. These women are mentioned in Genesis Rabbah in a homily on the verse, “Leah declared, ‘What fortune! [Heb. be-oshri]’ meaning, ‘Women will deem me fortunate’” (Gen. 30:13):
“The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi, … who was the father of Birzaith” (I Chron. 7:30-31).  Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Simon [had a difference of opinion]: Rabbi Levi said that their daughters [of the tribe of Asher] were good-looking and were married to priests, anointed with olive [Heb. zayit, a play on the name Birzaith] oil, and Rabbi Simon said their daughters were good-looking and were married to kings anointed with olive oil. 
This homily is built on the scriptural verse mentioning Asher’s daughter Serah and indicating that Asher was known to have other daughters as well. This tribe was said to have had many daughters, probably due to its large population increase, as mentioned in Deuteronomy: “Most blessed of sons be Asher (Deut. 33:24) – no other of the tribes was blessed with more sons.”  However the homily in Genesis Rabbah relates to female descendants of a later period. The motif of “Asher’s daughters” also comes up in another homily: “Asher’s bread shall be rich (Gen. 49:20), for his daughters are good-looking, as it is said, ‘Women will deem me fortunate,’ and ‘May he be the favorite of his brothers’ (Deut. 33:24) on account of his daughters.”  This homily is of a general nature and could be taken as referring to daughters who lived in the time of the patriarch Jacob. 
In this article we have pointed to other female figures who
according to aggadic literature were direct
descendants of the patriarch Jacob, among them some specific figures who were
born prior to the Israelites entering
Notarikon and Gematria
As for including some of the female descendents of Jacob in
the list of the seventy who went to
number "Seventy" as the number of persons descending to
ed. (hereafter, Gen. Rabbah), 84.21, p. 1026, and
Minhat Yehudah on
the same source; Rabbi M. M.
Kasher, Torah Shelemah,
Part 6, vol. 7, Jerusalem 1938, p. 1437, remark
Rabbah, 82.8, pp. 986-987, and parallel versions
mentioned in notes and in Minhat
Yehudah, loc. sit.; Kasher,
ibid., Part 5, Jerusalem 1936, p. 1357, remark
123a-b. Also. Kasher,
ibid., Part 7, vol. 8,
 Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer, Higger ed., Horev 10 (1948), chapter 35, p. 206.
 Cf. I Chron. 2:3.
46:10 mentions one of Simeon’s sons as being “Saul the son of a Canaanite
woman,” and Ex. 6:15 also mentions this.
Cf. Gen.Rabbah 80.11, pp. 966-967,
where it is mentioned that Simeon married Dinah.
Several exegetical commentaries in the
writings of the Rishonim cite a “
midrash” which is no longer extant, based on the verse,
“who was born [Heb. yalda
otah] to Levi in
 For a discussion of several views concerning which of Jacob’s wives were still alive when he descended to Egypt, see S. Ha-Cohen, “Kol ha-nefesh le-beit Yaakov ha-ba’ah Mitzraima shiv’im,” Hebrew Parasha Page on Va-Yigash, 2005 (no. 579).
 Gen. Rabbah 94.8, pp. 1180-1182, and parallel texts mentioned in the notes and in Minhat Yehudah, loc. sit.
Heinemann, Aggadot ve-Toldoteihen,
 R. Raviv, “Be-shiv’im nefesh yardu avotekha Mitzrayma,” Hebrew Parasha Page on Va-Yigash, 2000 (no. 318).
 J. Heinemann, ibid., p. 59.
 Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, Higger ed., Horev 10 (1948), chapter 73, p. 210. (Klein, in his article on Jacob’s daughters (his note 2), citing Yalkut Shimoni, briefly referred to another later source saying that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah and Shechem.) Also cf. Midrash Aggadah, Buber ed., Genesis 41.45, p. 97; Massekhet Soferim, Higger ed., New York 1936, appendix 1.5, p. 371. Also Kasher, Torah Shelemah, part 6, vol. 7, 1938, pp. 1555-1556, note 110.
 Cf. Gen. 46:47.
 Gen. Rabbah 71.10, p. 835.
 Sifre Deuteronomy, Finkelstein edition, par. 355, p. 419.
 Gen. Rabbah 99.12, p. 1282.
 The homilies on Asher’s daughters receive greater attention in later midrashic sources. I hope to devote a separate study to the full body of homilies on this subject.
 Tosefot ha-Shalem: Otzar Perushei Ba’alei ha- Tosefot, Part 4, Gellis ed., Jerusalem 1985, p. 243, on Gen. 46:17, par. 3. As for the absence of the letter tet in Psalm 20, it is interesting to note that Midrash Tehillim (Buber ed., 20.2, p. 173) says that the nine verses of this psalm are for the nine months of pregnancy. The psalm actually has ten verses, but the opening verse is not included.
 Cf. D.
Heshelis, The Moon’s Lost Light,