Parsha Halacha

Parshat Va’eira – Shabbat Mevarchim Shevat

Looking into the Family

Factoring Family into a Marriage Choice

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The Torah portion of Va’iera discusses the lineage and family of Moshe and Aharon. Concerning Aharon’s wife, the verse says,[1] “Aharon took Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav and sister of Nachshon as a wife, and she bore to him Nadav and Avihu, Eleazar and Itamar.” Although Elisheva doesn’t feature (explicitly) in any story of the Torah, her name is given out of respect for the family of Aharon – to show how they stemmed from the most prominent family in the preeminent and kingly tribe of Yehuda.[2] Elisheva is only one of 38 women whose names are explicitly written in the Torah.[3]

The Talmud says[4] that the Torah informs us of the name of Elishevah’s brother[5]Nachshon to teach us[6] that one should find out about a prospective wife’s brothers when considering marriage as most children will be similar to their mother’s brothers.

Why Should one Check the Brothers?

The Chida points out[7] that there are two reasons to check out a woman’s brothers. One, in a case where one cannot ascertain the character of a woman who does not appear in public, one can get an idea of it based on the character of her brothers.

Two, even if one knows the woman’s character, one should still investigate the character of her brothers as it is likely that the children will resemble them. This can be derived from Rivkah, whose brother was the wicked Lavan. Despite her own righteousness, one of her sons, Eisav, was wicked.

Getting Married to Establish a Family

The Me’iri explains that the main reason a person should get married is for the sake of the mitzvah of establishing a family. As such, one should look for a woman from a good family so his children will be of similar character. This is why the Talmud says[8]that women from good families would declare that people should consider the character of the family when looking for a mate since the purpose of marriage is to have children.

Babies Come from the Mother

The reason that a person’s children will resemble his wife’s brothers is that most of a baby’s body comes from the mother.[9] This connection is especially strong regarding boys as it is the mother’s “seed” that causes the baby to be a boy.[10]

Most, Not All

The Talmud says specifically that most of a person’s children will resemble his wife’s brothers rather than saying that all of his children will resemble them. Thus we see that Yaakov, the son of Rivkah, whose brother was the wicked Lavan, was a Tzadik.[11]

Why Did Yitzchak Marry Rivkah?

The commentaries explain that Yitzchak married Rivkah despite the fact that Lavan was wicked because his wickedness was not well known at the time.[12] In addition, since he had to marry a member of his father’s family, she was the best choice available from that family.[13]

Other Family Members

The Sefer Chassidim[14] says that one should also inquire about the character of other close relatives of one’s prospective bride.

Eishet Chayim Mi Yimtza

The Chida points out[15] that the acronym from the first four words of Eishet Chayil (אֵשֶׁת חַיִל מִי יִמְצָא) is the letters א חַ מִ יִ which can be rearranged to spell אַחִים, i.e., the answer to the question of “Who can find a righteous wife?” is to inspect the brothers.

Stepping Down for a Wife

The Talmud recommends[16] that one take a wife who is of lower social standing than his own so that she not look down at him. Even so, one should make sure that the woman comes from a family with good character.[17]

Will Be Judged

In addition, the Sefer Chassidim writes[18] that one who is able to marry a woman from a good family and instead chooses to marry one from a bad family (based on other considerations) will be judged by G-d for this decision as he may be causing himself to have troublesome children. As an example, he cites King David who married a beautiful woman whom he captured in battle and converted (eishet yefat to’ar). Their son Avshalom caused the death of many Jewish people including Avshalom’s own death.

In addition, he writes,[19] that there were families who had three generations of Torah scholars, regarding which the Talmud states[20] that G-d guarantees them that the family will always remain loyal to the Torah, yet because they married women who came from families with negative characters, their children strayed from the path of Torah.

Lessons from Chizkiyahu

When Chizkiyahu was hesitating to get married because he knew that he would have wicked descendants, the prophet Isaiah said to him that he should get married and not concern himself with Heavenly secrets.[21] From this we see that, if there is no other choice, one should get married even if the marriage produces children who are wicked. On the other hand, when one has the option to choose, one should choose a woman who will produce good children.[22]


Here are several examples where the children turned out like the mother’s brothers (in addition to those mentioned above):

●      Aharon’s Children vs. Moshe’s Children

All of Aharon’s children were righteous tzadikim just like their mother’s brother, Nachshon. Whereas Moshe’s children are not known to be tzadikim and one of his grandchildren became a priest for an idol. This can be attributed to their mother Tziporah who grew up in a home where her father Yitro was still an idolatrous priest.[23]

●      Noach’s Sons

Noach married Na’amah who had two righteous brothers and a wicked one. As a result of this, they had two righteous sons (Shem and Yefet) and one wicked son (Cham).[24]

Marrying a Ba’alat Teshuvah

The Taz writes[25] that the character of the person is more important than the character of their family. As such, if a woman loves and respects Torah, one need not refrain from marrying her, even if her family members are unlearned (or not yet Torah-observant).

May we all merit to have righteous children!

[1] Exodus, 6:23

[2] Ramban

[3] These are:

1)     Eve (Gen 3:21)

2)     Ada and

3)     Tzila, wives of Lemech (ibid 4:19)

4)     Na’amah, the sister of Tuval Kayin, and according to some, the wife of No’ach (ibid, 22)

5)     Sarai (who then became Sarah and was also called Yiskah), the wife of Avraham (ibid 11:29)

6)     Milka, the daughter of Haran and wife of Nachor (ibid)

7)     Hagar, the maidservant of Sarah who became Avraham’s concubine (ibid, 16:1)

8)     Rivkah, daughter of Betuel and wife of Yitzchak (22:23)

9)     Re’umah, the concubine of Betuel (ibid, 24)

10)  Keturah, concubine of Avraham, who may have been the same person as Hagar (Ibid, 25:1)

11)  Yehudit (also known and Oholivamah) and

12)  Basmat (also known as Adah) the wives of Eisav (ibid, 26:34 and 36:2)

13)  Mochalat (also known as Bosmat), daughter of Yishma’el and the third wife of Eisav (ibid, 28:9)

14)  Leah and

15)  Rachel, daughters of Lavan and wives of Yaakov (ibid, 29:17)

16)  Bilha, the maidservant of Leah who became the concubine of Yaakov (ibid, 24)

17)  Zilpa, the maidservant of Rachel who became the concubine of Yaakov (ibid, 29)

18)  Dinah, daughter of Yaakov and Leah (ibid, 20:21)

19)  Devorah, the nursemaid of RIvkah (ibid 35:8)

20)  Timna, the concubine of Elifaz who was also the sister of Lotan (ibid 36:12 and 22)

21)  Oholivama, daughter of Ana from the family of Se’ir (ibid, 25)

22)  Meheitavel, daughter of Matred and wife of Hadar, king of Edom (ibid, 36:39)

23)  Tamar, wife first of Er and then of Onan, daughter in-law of Yehuda and mother of Peretz and Zerach (ibid, 38:6)

24)  Osnat (step)daughter of Potifera and wife of Yosef (ibid, 41:45)

25)  Serach, daughter of Asher (ibid, 46:17)

26)  Shifra and

27)  Puah, the Jewish midwives who may be the same as Yocheved and Miriam (Exodus 1:15)

28)  Tziporah, daughter of Yitro and wife of Moshe (ibid, 2:21)

29)  Yocheved, daughter of Levi and wife of Amram (ibid, 6:20)

30)  Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav and wife of Aharon (ibid, 23)

31)  Miriam, sister of Moshe and Ahron (ibid 16:20)

32)  Shlomit, daughter of Divri (Levit. 24:11)

33)  Kozbi, the Midianite princess who was killed by Pinchas (Numbers, 25:15)

34)  Machla,

35)  Noa,

36)  Chogla,

37)  Milka and

38)  Tirtza, daughters of Tzelofchad (ibid 27:1)

[4] Bava Batra 110a

[5] See Maharsha who points to many other places where the Torah mentions the name of a woman’s brother; in each of these cases something is derived from it.


●       Na’ama is mentioned as the sister of Tuval Kayin (in Gen. 4:22) so that we learn of her lineage.

●       Lavan is mentioned as the brother of Rivkah (ibid 28:5) to explain how she bore the wicked Eisav (see Chizkuni).

●       Mochlat is mentioned as the sister of Nevayot as we derive the dates of Yaakov’s marriage from this verse (ibid, 28:9 see Rashi).

●       Timna is mentioned as the sister of Lotan to teach us that important people wanted to marry into the family of Avraham. (See ibid 36:22 and Sanhedrin 99b.)

●       Miriam is mentioned as the sister of Aharon to teach us that she prophesied before Moshe was born (see Exodus 15:20 and Sotah 12b).

[6] The fact that she was the sister of Nachshon can be figured out from the fact that they were both the children of Aminadav (Etz Yosef on Shemot Rabbah 7:5 see 1 Chronicles 2:10). As such, this information is included here to teach us something more than the identity of her family members.

[7] In Petach Einayim on Bava Batra

[8] Ta’anit 31a

[9] Maharsha based on Niddah 31a

[10] Maharal on ibid

[11] Iyun Yakov on Ein Yaakov, Bava Batra, ibid

[12] Ohr HaChaim on Gen. 25:20

[13] Ha’amek Davar on ibid

[14] Siman 247 and 243 regarding her parents and sisters

[15] In Petach Einayim on Bava Batra ibid

[16] Yevamot 63a

[17] Sefer Chassidim 375

[18] Siman 378

[19] Siman 243

[20] Bava Metziah 85a

[21] Brachot 10a

[22] Yalkut Biurim on Bava Batra ibid. See Sefer Chassidim (375) who writes that Isaiah was aware that some of Chizkiyahu’s descendants would be righteous.

[23] Bava Batra 109b

[24] Meshivat Nafesh by Rabbi Yochanan Luria of 16th- century Germany, on Gen. 4:22

[25] Even Ha’Ezer 2:3

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach and a Chodesh Tov!

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