by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, author of Unlocking the Torah Text
When Moshe’s birth was chronicled in Parshat Shmot, the text deliberately omitted any description of his lineage, choosing instead to preface his birth with the mysterious sentence “And a man went from the House of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi.”
This omission of Moshe’s bona fides is now addressed in Parshat Va’eira.
God commands Moshe to return to Pharaoh and again demand the release of the Israelite slaves. When Moshe objects, citing his speech impediment, God repeats the directive, this time to both Moshe and Aharon.
The Torah then abruptly digresses to present a genealogical table listing the descendents of Yaakov’s oldest sons, Reuven, Shimon and Levi. The listing concludes with a detailed description of the lineage of Moshe and Aharon’s family within the tribe of Levi.
Upon completion of this genealogical record, the Torah returns to the narrative of the Exodus with the words “This was Aharon and Moshe…. They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh…. This was Moshe and Aharon.”
Once again we are confronted with a strange and abrupt digression within the Torah text.
Why does the Torah specifically choose this dramatic moment to detail the lineage of Moshe and Aharon? Why interrupt the historical narrative midstream? This genealogical table would clearly have been more appropriate at the beginning of the story, when Moshe is first introduced.
Amram and Yocheved, the parents of Aharon and Moshe, are mentioned here for the first time by name. Given the reasons for the omission of their identities when Moshe is born, why does the Torah see fit to reveal those identities now?
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Adapted from one of the multiple essays on this parsha in Unlocking the Torah Text by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin.