Professional storytellers, so I'm told, have a simple secret to their success -- always keep the audience interested in the story. Although it may seem hard to do, the use of several key techniques can aid the storyteller in reaching his goal of maintaining the audience's attention.
Professional storytellers, so I'm told, have a simple secret to their success -- always keep the audience interested in the story. Although it may seem hard to do, the use of several key techniques can aid the storyteller in reaching his goal of maintaining the audience's attention. One such method is to simply tell the story without any interruptions or deviations from the storyline. Sounds easy enough.
At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Hashem gives Moses final instructions for his meeting with Pharaoh and sets the redemption process in motion. Hashem has just said pack your bags and let's get going. Let's get the show on the road. It is at this climactic point where the Torah interrupts the flow of the story and begins to discuss matters of genealogy. The Torah digresses into the lineage of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. What is this? Why are we learning about the family tree at a time like this?
There have been several answers given to this question, one of which was suggested by the Midrash. The culture in Egypt at this time was stock-full of immoral influences and the like. It is in such lewd societies that many licentious and adulterous relationships often occur, thereby leading to the birth of many illegitimate children. Oftentimes, Egyptian children were unaware of who, in fact, was their real father.
One of the main reasons why the Children of Israel deserved to be redeemed was because, despite these corrupt influences, they indeed kept the purity of the home. They didn't mess around. That is exactly the reason why the Torah interrupts here and mentions the lineage of a few of the tribes. They are being counted here by their father's names. We know who their fathers were. It was because you could trace the genealogy that they were worthy to be redeemed.
It is at this important juncture, when the redemption from the enslavement in Egypt begins, that the Torah introduces us to the players, to the characters of the story. This list of the tribes' lineage is not an unnecessary interruption. In fact, it helps the story move forward. Why were they worthy to be redeemed? Because we know where they came from. The purity of the home was secured and the branches of the family tree remained intact.
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan, is the editor of Torah from Dixie.
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