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The Grandfathers (Shemot)

Yesterday was the yahrzeit of my grandfather, שמעון בן יחיאל הכהן, after who I am named. In his memory, today’s post will explore the connection between two grandfathers who play significant roles in this week’s and last week’s parshah, respectively: Yisro and Yaakov.

This connection is the subject of a two-part shiur which began last Shabbos and continues this week at Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, New Jersey. You can find the lecture notes for both parts of that series (it’s divided into three on the document itself), annotated with footnotes to help guide you through the material, by clicking here.

These are its main highlights:

  1. Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comPart I: A fascinating medrash claims that Moshe promised Yisro, his father-in-law, to raise his firstborn son (=Yisro’s grandson) as an idolater. It’s a story that doesn’t appear in the Torah itself; but, we’ll argue, it’s actually inspired by a similar story that does appear in the Torah: the interaction which takes place between Yaakov and his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, shortly before Yaakov’s death.
  2. Part II: We’ll look at the overarching series of parallels one finds in the Torah connecting Yosef to Moshe (and, in lesser degree, connecting Yaakov to Yisro), which would have warranted the sort of intertextual activity we argue is on display in that medrash about Moshe’s pledge.
  3. Part III: We’ll examine the way that Moshe’s family is portrayed throughout Tanach, and also by Chazal. Then, we’ll try to figure out what larger message Chazal may have been trying to communicate to us by modelling a story about Yisro and his grandchildren upon a story about Yaakov and his grandchildren—if indeed that’s what they were doing.

Finally, a logistical note: The format employed this week (posting a source sheet with guiding footnotes, and perhaps a few paragraphs of introduction before the link) is one that I hope to make more use of moving forward, both in the interest of time, and to facilitate greater engagement with primary texts.

Hope you enjoy, and, as always, feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.

Shabbat shalom!

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