Brothers Bringing Redemption

Moses and Aaron play complementary roles in communicating God's message of redemption to both the Children of Israel and to Pharaoh.

Print this page Print this page

Provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox congregations.The following article is reprinted with permission from the Orthodox Union.

Things have gone from bad to worse.  As intense as the slavery had been, now the Children of Israel must produce their quota of bricks without being provided with the straw they need.  Although at first they believed that the redemption was imminent, now they have lost hope.  Moses repeats God’s promises to save them, “but they did not hearken to Moses out of impatience and out of hard bondage” (Exodus 6:9).

The Narrative is Interrupted

And, when God insists that Moses return to speak to Pharaoh, Moses’s reaction is understandably full of frustration:

Behold, the children of Israel [who have a vested interest in listening] have not hearkened to me; how then shall Pharaoh [who has a vested interest in not listening] listen to me, I who am of uncircumcised lips?! (Exodus 6:12).

Nevertheless, God renews the command to appear before Pharaoh (Exodus 6:13). Suddenly, and quite abruptly, the narrative is interrupted, in order to provide us with a genealogy of the tribes of Reuven, Shimon and Levi.  This genealogy includes the life-span of Levi, his son Kehat and his grandson Amram; and the family of Amram and Yocheved, including Aaron and Moses, ending with Aaron’s grandson Pinchas (Exodus 6:14-25).  Then, before resuming the narrative, we are reminded:

These are Aaron and Moses to whom God had said: “Bring out the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their hosts.”  These are they who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring out the Children of Israel from Egypt, these are Moshe and Aharon (Exodus 6:26-27).

Now that we have returned to the narrative, the Torah reiterates the last part of the story before the interruption (Exodus 6:28-30).  Thereupon the Torah continues:

And God said to Moses: “See I have made you as a god to Pharaoh, and Aharon your brother shall be your prophet.  You shall speak all that I command you, and Aharon your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he send the Children of Israel out of his land” (Exodus 7:1-2).

A number of problems present themselves in this passage, but first among them is to explain the unexpected excursus on the tribes’ genealogy.  In dealing with this issue, however, Rashi’s explanation (Exodus 6:14) is puzzling:

Rashi's Explanation

"Since [the Torah] needed to trace the lineage of the tribe of Levi until Moshe and Aharon, because of Moshe and Aharon, it began to trace them via their descendants from Reuven.” 

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Avraham Fischer

Avraham Fischer is a rabbi at Darche Noam Institutions.