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22 Kislev 5760 - December 1, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
"From Of Old It Was Ordained"

by L. Jungerman

The manner in which this week's portion describes the birth of Peretz and Zerach is shrouded in mystery. "And it happened at the time of her birth and lo, there were twins in her womb." If their fact of being twins is stressed, there must be a special significance in it. This is why the Torah states, "And lo!" See! Contemplate!

In the past, at the time of the birth of Yaakov and Eisov, who were also twins, this fact was also laden with meaning. These twins were complete opposites, and would continue to oppose one another throughout history. When one rose, the other would fall. But what was especially significant about the twinship of Peretz and Zerach? The birth process, besides, is described in the Torah in great detail. Subsequently, "And at the time of her birthing, and he put forth a hand . . . " An uncommon event, to be sure, but does this deserve historical recording?

The Torah makes a point of telling us how the midwife related to this incident. "And the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying: This one emerged first." If she immediately tied the thread upon his hand without waiting for him to emerge entirely into the world, she must have anticipated his withdrawing the hand before being born, and that his twin would be born first. This is what actually happened. But of what significance was her act? And what did the extension of the hand mean, as well? As far as the laws of birthright, it is only the actual birth that determines who is the firstborn.

We also curiously note her question at the emergence of the first one, Peretz: Why did you burst forth like that? It seems as if you forced your way out first, deliberately. And the Torah even repeats her question.

Apparently, her words were not the automatic poo-ing and coo- ing of a midwife towards the newborn, such as Rashi describes by Yocheved and Miriam, additionally called Shifra and Pua, for this natural motherly kind of baby-talk. The question here was a serious one, one that hovered in the air. Why, yes, why did this child force its way through first? Why did he seize the place that seemed to rightfully belong to his brother, who had begun by extending a hand? And his name remained forever locked in commemorating that act: Peretz, a bursting forth. The name symbolized a fact and a prophecy, like with Yaakov, who was born grasping onto his brother's heel, a fact that was realized later when he latched on to the birthright by right, by buying it from Eisov. How was the prophetic act of Zerach realized in his lifetime?

The second brother, Zerach, was also to become immortalized by the act at this birth. His name reflected the scarlet thread which was bound upon his hand. His sun also shone. How did this make a mark in history? How did it justify all the attention given to it in the Torah?


The work Niflaos MiToras Hashem Yisborach, is the one of which the Maharil Diskin zy'o, writes: "There is nothing sweeter to the palate than this." This work seeks to show how the entire history and future of the Jewish people is hidden within the verses of the Torah. One of the portions with in which he finds the deeply esoteric secrets of the Davidic dynasty, that of Moshiach, is this very parsha.

The event of the birth of Yehuda's sons, forerunners of the royal House of David which continues down through the ages until Moshiach, is a core for the chain of future events and developments. It is the seed, the genetic germ of Dovid. Surely the account of the birth is very significant, with long ranging implications, just like the tiny seed contains within it the future trunk, branches and fruit of a massive tree.

Peretz begot Chetzron and Chetzron begot Rom and so on. And Oved begot Yishai and Yishai begot Dovid. And Dovid? Was he born into royalty? No. Shaul ruled over Israel for two years. Were these completely severed from the years that Dovid ruled? No. By the first war that Shaul waged, Shmuel asked him to wait for seven days before bringing sacrifices. But Shaul anticipated Shmuel's coming and brought up the sacrifices himself. As a punishment, Shmuel said, "Therefore will your kingdom not endure. Hashem sought a man after His heart and Hashem commanded him to be a prince over His people. But because you did not heed what Hashem commanded . . . " At this point, we already note the first sign of an alternative rulership.

Not long after that, in the war against Amolek, we learn of the painful developments that took place, and review them with each reading of Parshas Zochor. There Shmuel was more explicit, and prophesied: "Hashem has rent the kingdom of Yisroel from you today and given it to your more worthier fellow." And this is followed by, "And Hashem said to Shmuel: For how long will you continue to lament over Shaul when I have despised him from ruling over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go to where I send you, to Yishai, of Beis Lechem, for I have seen amongst his sons a king for Me."

At this point, Dovid was anointed, and from here, he went forth to battle against Golias. And was victorious. This victory brought on a period of persecution at the hands of Shaul which did not stop until Shaul fell in battle and Dovid ruled in his place.

Why was the kingship not given to Dovid to begin with, since he was designated for it, destined for it as a scion of Yehuda who had been promised monarchy by his father?

Chazal reveal the answer: "The seed of Eisov, Amolek, can only fall through the hands of Rochel's seed, Binyomin." Shaul son of Kish was, "A man from Ben Yomin" (Shmuel 9). He was appointed to kingship so that he could fight Amolek to the latter's bitter end, down to the last vestige. But since he did not fulfill his commission, "And Shaul and the people had compassion upon Agog and on the fat of the sheep," the kingdom was torn asunder from him and transferred to the lion whelp of Yehuda. And from there ever onward, the Name of Hashem is not complete (Yod al kes Koh -- the incomplete version of His Name) so long as Amolek still continues to exist in this world.


All of these portentous events were included in that core, the seed. Peretz, father of royalty, was born together with a twin. The kingship existed simultaneously, and overlapped. The twin was supposed to have been first; he had already extended a hand, which symbolizes power and rule, the opposite of helplessness (ozlas yad -- lack of a hand). And this hand was bound with a scarlet thread to prove that it had emerged first. This hand would have to prove itself, to show if it was worthy of the monarchy by fighting against and defeating Amolek. Would it shed blood like scarlet or would it be weak and pitying, and cover up the blood? Would the hand fulfill its task or would it cause Hashem's hand to weaken, so to speak, and become Yod al kes Koh?

To our dismay, that hand was retracted. It did not execute its commission. "He withdrew His right hand behind" (Eicho). And Shaul and the people had pity on . . . and on . . . But then Peretz, his brother, burst forth. He pushed his brother aside and seized the kingship. And he was called Peretz. When his brother retracted his hand and came forth second, it was already too late. And his name was established as Zerach, for the glow of the scarlet. This was the hand and this was the scarlet. This was the hand that began the process but failed before completing it. And ever since then, Hashem has declared battle against Amolek, from generation to generation.

Everything was foreseen and encompassed in the beginning. Everything was alluded to in the Torah. Is there anything sweeter to the palate than this?

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