The Bible Says What? ‘Asher’s daughter lived more than 1,000 years’

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The Bible Says What? ‘Asher’s daughter lived more than 1,000 years’

Rabbi Elana Dellal takes a controversial topic from the Torah and applies a progressive Jewish response

The books of Genesis and Numbers both mention by name Serach, the daughter of Asher. In Genesis, Serach is listed as one of the Israelites who went into slavery. In Numbers, she is listed as one of the multitudes counted to enter into the land of Israel.

Although there are no further details about her life narrative in our Torah, there is a plethora of rabbinic and midrashic writings on Serach, who lived for numerous generations and really did see and hear it all.

One midrash teaches that Serach was charged with helping her grandfather, Jacob, emotionally prepare to be reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, by playing music and singing to him. Another shares that she encouraged the enslaved Israelites to trust Moses as their leader.

In the most fascinating midrash, Serach visits the Beit Midrash while Rav Yochanan is teaching on what the walls of the parted sea looked like during the Exodus. She interrupts him by sharing her first-person account of the parted waves.

Taking all the stories together, it would put Serach’s life span at more than 1,000 years!

Besides the impossibility of someone living that long, with or without realising, the rabbis were making a statement by creating numerous midrashim about wise and spiritually connected Serach.

From her, we learn that no member of a community should be nameless or storyless – that there is deep value and benefit in learning more about the people who surround you.

That is part of the beauty of our sacred literature. There are layers upon layers of creative interpretation of Torah and the narratives found within, just as there is always more to learn about the shoulders we stand on.

  •  Rabbi Elana Dellal is a member of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors
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