Beit Midrash

  • Sections
  • Parashat Hashavua
קטגוריה משנית
  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Shmot
To dedicate this lesson
Sefer Shemot informs us of the leadership upheaval that occurred while Bnei Yisrael were developing as a nation in Egypt. In Sefer Bereishit, the struggle for leadership is between the half-brothers Yosef and Yehuda. Shemot starts with a new chapter in the national story, as Egypt goes from a king who was very close to Yosef to one who did not recall Yosef.
The midwives who stood up to Paroah were, according to the midrash, from the tribe of Levi (Yocheved and Miriam). The important couple, who Chazal also said were leaders and of course were the parents of Moshe, are again Yocheved, and her nephew Amram (see Shemot 6:20), daughter and grandson of Levi, respectively. Their three children were all critical leaders. These are all from the children of Leah, like Yehuda.
When Yehoshua became Moshe’s "youngster"/assistant, and then later was appointed his successor as leader, there is another change between the apparent supremacy of one family as opposed to the other. Yehoshua is from the tribe of Ephrayim, the choice son of Yosef. Did Yehoshua interact with a parallel leader from Yehuda, Leah’s choice son for leadership?
The climax of the tension between the disguised Yosef and his brothers is introduced with "Yehuda approached him (Yosef)" (Bereishit 44:18). When Kalev ben Yefuneh approached Yehoshua to ask for fulfillment of the divine promise that he would receive Chevron, the pasuk says: "The Sons of Yehuda approached Yehoshua…" (Yehoshua 14:6). We treat these reoccurrences of phrases as a "footnote," telling us to view both sources together.
Yehoshua and Kalev were co-opponents of the plot of the spies, who were called "princes" and "heads of Bnei Yisrael" (Bamidbar 13:2-3). Yehoshua represented Ephrayim, and Kalev did so for Yehuda. The fact that Moshe chose the former rather than the latter as his successor is a victory for the camp of Yosef, in a competition that begins in Parashat Vayeishev. Much of the time, Yosef was on top. The brothers had to plead with him to spare their lives (Bereishit 50:18), and it is Yosef who gives instructions to prepare for the liberation from Egypt (ibid. 24). Therefore, it is not surprising that his descendant would lead the entrance into the Land.
Despite this and the fact that Yaakov refers to Yosef as "the crown of his brothers" (ibid. 49:26), Yaakov’s prophecy is that Yehuda will be the ultimate leader (ibid. 8-9). Yehuda’s blessing is passed on through Tamar’s first born, Peretz, to his son Chetzron, and it would seem to be destined for Kalev (see Divrei Hayamim I, 2:6-9 with Rashi and Radak). Naval, a competitor of David and a descendant of Kalev, stakes his claim to leadership on this fact (see Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 2:3). This is furthered by Kalev’s marriage to Miriam (the complicated genealogy is beyond our present scope), who was promised, as Puah, a house of monarchy (see Sota 11b).
Some of these identifications raise questions, as Kalev does not seem old enough to have a son, Chur son of Miriam, who had a leadership role right after the Exodus (see Shemot 17:10). We have a similar question about age about the Mishkan’s engineer, Betzalel. We will investigate these next week. In the meantime, we must remember that unity is crucial in bringing full liberation; struggles between brothers are destructive.

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