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Shabbat Parashat Shemot| 5771

Parashat Hashavuah: Why Not Clarify What It Means?

Harav Yosef Carmel

The background behind Moshe’s birth is written in a very unclear manner: “A man from the house of Levi went and took the daughter of Levi as a wife” (Shemot 2:1). Why not spell out the identity of the bride and groom? The names actually appear in next week’s parasha, and the story behind the mystery appears in the gemara (Sota 12a). Amram, one of the generation’s leaders, decided to divorce his wife because having children, many of whom (specifically, the males) were killed, was too painful. His daughter, Miriam, told him that his decision was worse than Paroh’s, because Amram’s “decree” meant that girls would not be born either. Also, Paroh’s decree only took people from this world, and Amram’s excluded the people who were not born from the world to come as well.

The Kli Yakar suggests that the approach that there was divorce involved here is hinted at by the strange use of wording in the pasuk. Firstly, it says “Vayeilech” (lit., he walked or went). He points out that this word appears prominently in the context of divorce (“she left his house and went to another man” (Devarim (24:2)). Secondly, the word “house” is sometimes a reference to a wife. Finally, the name Levi is etymologically linked to the concept of joining together. The pasuk thus reads: he went away from the connection he had with a woman and then came back and took her as a wife.

The Zohar sees this matter as a sign of strong Divine intervention. It says that the angel, Gavriel, is the one who brought the couple back together, or that Amram did it but as decreed from Above. The Abarbanel says that the marriage was a “Divine decree,” for otherwise it would not be normal for Amram to have married his aunt. He says that the language of “going” shows that he went out of the normal course of action. On the other hand, the Abarbanel also says that being such close relatives actually made them compatible as far as their personal makeup.

A final reason that is found in the Zohar is that the names are not mentioned because each one acted in absolute privacy so people would not discover what had transpired.

Whatever the case, it is no surprise that the union that was responsible for the birth of such a great leader as Moshe at such a crucial time was unique and full of special Divine intervention.

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