Re: Matriarhs

Yakov Grunewald (
Sun, 27 Jul 1997 00:35:28 +0300

Marian Stefaniu asked:
<<Almost in every reference I saw about matriarchs, only 4 of them are
mentioned. Yet, the 12 sons of Israel come from 4 mothers, which could lead
us to believe that, in fairness, we should recognize all 6 matriarchs. Why
don't we do that? >>

In a recent correspondence the question was asked why we do not have 6
mothers rather than four, since Bihah and Zilpah were the mothers of 4 of
Ya'akov's sons. It seems to me that the reason is due to the fact that
Bilhah and Zilpah were not mothers in their own right at all. Their status
was that of maidservants and they belonged to Rachel and Le'ah. Therefore,
they only bore their sons on behalf of Rachel and Le'ah respectively. In
other words the mother of Dan and Naftali was Rachel and not Bilhah and the
mother of Gad and Asher was Le'ah. The Torah states so quite specifically.
In Patriarchal time, this arrangement was recognized as a kind a surrogate
motherhood. In the case of Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael,Hagar's son was intended
to become Sarah's son, but when Issac was born, Ishmael and his mother were
rejected. Abraham was upset by this, but Hashem justified Sarahs behaviour
because Hagar should have known that this was the condition upon which she
had Ishmael from Avraham in the first place. I hope that this clariifies
the question.

Rabbi Ya'akov Grunewald,
Pinner, London.