Serach bat Asher: Family Secrets from the Articulator
In “Playing Her Way Into Eden,” we posited some questions, and, a “deal’s a deal!” Here is my reading of the Midrash:
“So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. They told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.’ Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, ‘I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’ (Genesis 45:25-28).” It does not say that Jacob’s spirit was revived after Serach’s performance, rather that he was stunned, numb, or, as I read it, ‘filled with daggers.’ Serach may have accomplished enough to play her way into Eden, but she had not revived Jacob’s spirit.
Two issues were at play: Was Joseph alive? How would the brothers respond? Serach successfully addressed the first issue; Jacob believed that, as had suspected all along, especially since the brothers’ return from their first visit to Egypt, that Joseph was alive. He was still concerned with their response to Joseph; had they learned from their experiences?
When Jacob heard Serach play her harp with the message that Joseph was alive, he, who had probably heard her play all through the twenty-two years that Joseph was missing, had to wonder whether Serach and Jacob’s other grandchildren had known all along that Joseph was alive. Serach’s song was her way of rejoicing that she now had permission to share the secret. That permission implied that the brothers had agreed to inform their father. The family secret was out in the open.
A secret, meant that the brothers had been lying to Jacob despite watching him mourn for more than two decades. Were they know informing him because Joseph was ready to reveal himself to Jacob; leaving them no choice? Or, were the brothers prepared to repair their sins against Joseph and their father?
“But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them,” the same brothers who despised Joseph “because of his dreams and because of his words (37:8),” Jacob realized that the brothers had overcome their hatred and resentment of Joseph, even though, “he is ruler of all Egypt,” and his dreams had been realized, Jacob’s spirit revived.
Adam named Chava, “The Articulator,” as in, “Kol peh yiChaveh do’at (Psalms 19:3),” (‘da’at,’ as in Knowledge, or The Tree of Knowledge), for her forcing him, articulating without a word, all that was in his heart; he had always intended to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.
Serach not only stated that Joseph was alive; she articulated the issues that were concerning Jacob; “that he was the ruler of Egypt.” Serach sang her song of rejoicing, indicating that she understood Jacob’s concerns beyond whether Joseph was alive; was the family going to heal, and become the Children of Israel.
Serach was concerned for the whole picture in this story, and in her dealings with Yoav and King David; (I believe that it was she who taught David how to play the harp!)She continued to articulate the eternal vision of Israel, which allows her to live a timeless life. She challenges David and Yoav to deal with the complete picture; hence she “completes” the Seventy Souls.
There is much more to Serach; she is a peacemaker as she negotiates with Yoav. She is a peacemaker between Jacob and his sons. Whole, Shaleim, and, Peace, Shalom. She accomplishes what the first Articulator did not; she participates in Joseph’s drive to lead Israel back into Eden, she does not, as did the Isha, (the weakened woman who forfeits her greatness to be with her husband), leave the Garden for her husband; she leads the way back; “She enters Eden alive!”