Monday, May 31, 2010

who were Eldad and Meidad?

Who were Eldad and Meidad, singled out for prophecy beyond what their 70 peers experienced? The Targum Yonasan has an interesting spin. Recall that when Pharoah decreed that all male children should be drowned Amram divorced Yocheved, which started a movement that others followed (Sotah 12). It took the cajoling of Miriam to re-unite her parents, leading ultimately to Moshe's birth. Targum Yonasan writes that Yocheved actually married Elitzaphan bar Parnach after being divorced, Eldad and Meided are offspring from that marriage! That makes them Moshe, Aharon, and Miraim's half brothers.

I told this to my wife on Shabbos, and she raised a few objections. How could Amram re-marry Yocheved after she married another husband? (My answer: no problem, the Torah had not been given yet so there was no issur.) How was there time for her to conceive and give birth to two children? (Who knows how long she was divorced?) And doesn't the gemara say that Amram's actions led to a mass divorce movement -- all husbands followed his lead and divorced their wives as well. It doesn't make sense that someone would buck the trend and marry Yocheved. (I have no answer for this point other than to think the Midrashing argue.) Perhaps, suggested my wife, the idea here is to create a thematic relationship and remind us of the separation between Amram and Yocheved as a prelude to the parsha of Miriam's objecting to Moshe's separation from his wife.

My wife later showed me that the Ksav v'Kabbalah quotes that a certain scholar (unnamed) sent a letter to Rav Amram Gaon saying he saw the graves of Eldad and Meided and on their their tombstones is written "Brothers of Aharon from the father but not the mother." According to this story, Amram divorced Yocheved after mattan Torah, as she was his aunt and became forbidden to him. Amram remarried and had two other children named in a way to emphasize that they came from a kosher marriage: Eldad = "aino dodah," not from my aunt; Meided = "mi hu dodasi" who is my aunt. The relationship between Eldad and Meided and Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam in this version is the opposite of the Targum -- they are half brother through the same father. However, the Ksav v'Kabbalah questions the authenticity of this legend. If Amram divorced Yocheved only after mattan Torah, that only leaves two intervening years until the episode of Kivros haTa'avah, where Eldad and Meided became prophets. They must have been precocious toddlers indeed! I also wonder at the purported tombstone engraving. Why mention being brother of Aharon and not Moshe Rabeinu?

The mysterious lineage of Eldad and Meided, their prophecy, what happened to them, have all the ingredients to make a good thriller. Someone get Dan Brown on the phone...

For another insight on the parsha from the Ksav v'Kabbalah, see here.


  1. I'm sorry, but you're dead wrong with the interpretation about Amram: he died well before Matan Torah.
    Look at the Mefarshim on when Hashem approached Moshe for the first time in Midyan: it says that Hashem spoke in Amrams voice to hint to Moshe that his father had died and Aharon had taken over.

  2. P.S. He spent seven days with Hashem by the Sineh debating and sitting Shiva.

  3. I should have included that in the post -- my wife also asked from the Midrash that Hashem spoke in Amram's voice because he was dead. You have to say midrashos chalukos, that there are different views.

  4. Fair enough, may I ask the source of the כתב והקבלה? I'd like to see it inside.


  6. Anonymous5:32 PM

    r chaim kanievsky discusses all these questions in siach hasadeh in his section on hakdamah to rambam going through the mesorah.

  7. Anonymous6:32 PM

    I have to say The Scholarship of the readers of this blog is above and beyond on any random topic everyones got Mareh Mekomos.

  8. Anonymous8:04 PM

    which chelek (or should I say heleq) of the siach hasadeh?

  9. Anonymous10:48 PM

    its in the sefer entitled chelek alef/beis and like i said its in the section on the rambams hakdama to mishneh torah. i dont have it with me but its on the left page as opposed to the right.

  10. Anonymous10:51 PM

    you also might want to see daas zekanim/chizkuni that takes the apporach the eldad and maidad were bnei amram and not bnei yocheved.

  11. ... Ksav v'Kabbalah quotes that a certain scholar (unnamed) sent a letter to Rav Amram Gaon saying ...

    The 'Ksav v'Kabbalah', and, for that matter, the Mincha Belulah( starting here, the last two lines of the page) may not name the "certain scholar", but Da'at Zeqenim( lower right column here, seven lines from the start of "vaYaros haNa'ar Ze Gershom") and Hadar Zeqenim( here, left column, Dibur haMatchil: Eldad uMeidad) do name him as R. Hilel( ר' הלל).
    Also Shlomo Balzer's Sha'arei Tziyon( starting here) speculates on the identity of said R. Hilel.

    Chaim B.( 1:22 PM): ... You have to say midrashos chalukos, that there are different views.

    If you want Midrashot Chaluqot, Da'at Zeqenim( also Hadar Zeqenim, without giving the source) also mentions Midrash Tanchuma( here, fith line from the top of the page) who gives Eldad and Meidad as Elidad ben Kislon of Binyamin and Qemu'el ben Shiftan of Efrayim.

  12. MMHD - Dov's Successors7:01 AM

    I don't see why we can't just say that Amram had two wives back in Mitrzayim... It would resolve the whole thing.

  13. It would not "resolve the whole thing." As Tamir pointed out, some identify eldad and Meidad as individuals from different families. And for the half brother of Moshe, there is the opinion that attributes them to Yocheved and another opionion that identifies them as sons of Amram. Saying that Amram had 2 wives at the same time would create a conflict with the well-known midrash that he publicly divorced Yocheved when the decree to kill baby boys came out. Miriam was the one who convinced him that his causing no girls to be born either was worse. If he had 2 wives, he would have had to separate from both then. It is, actually, easier to say that Yocheved predeceased him (likely she was older, given that she was from the earlier generation) and that he then married another wife and had more children. Still, the way Hakthav Vekabala presents it, he chose to divorce Yocheved and marry another because marriage to an aunt became forbidden.

  14. What I meant by "the whole thing" was between myself and the author, not all the other De'ot that I didn't see until after I posted. I apologize for the misunderstanding.
    Also, who says that he couldn't mary another wife while Moshe was out for so long? We are only told that he died (according to eh Midrash in Shemot) towards the end. Saying that Yocheved predeceased him is entirely pointless: even today, except for Ashkenazim, a man is permitted to have more than one wife. So who cares if she's still alive? He could also have separated/remarried two wives at the same time... Abaye (or one of the other Amoraim) did it, and he was a descendent of Aharon ben Amram.
    But in light of al the other De'ot, I we'll have to wait for Eliyahu to enlighten us.

  15. MY mistake, Abaye, or whichever Amora it was, married a few hunder women at once so that he could provide for them. It would be interesting because Abaye was a descendent of Eli HaKohen, and, therefore, a descendent of Amram.

  16. MMHD, the view that Amram is their father interprets the names to stress that they were not born of a marriage to an aunt. So it does not really make sense to stress that if he remained married to Yocheved while married to their mother.

  17. Sorry I came into the game so late; I'm very interested in seeing what RC"K wrote in Siach Yitzchok, but hope to add a little until then. (I was thinking about writing about these issues this year, but still might next year; If I do, this discussion will help.)

    1) There is actually a 4th opinion (Midrash Esfa, quoted by Yalkut Shimoni) that both Eldad and Meidad were from the Tribe of Binyamin (Elitzafan was not).

    2) Toldos Yitzchok (R' Yitchok Karo, the Beis Yosef's uncle, quotes the half-brothers from Amram as being a "kabbala from the early Nevi'im," and bypasses the question of HaKesav VeHaKabbala by saying that Amram was told by Moshe that HKBH will (in the future) prohibit marrying an aunt, so Amram divorced Yocheved. If this information was gleaned at the sneh, only one more year is gained. If, however, it was deduced by Moshe years earlier (the way Avraham figured out the Torah), there would be plenty of time.

    3) I am also puzzled at why it was say "brothers of Aharon" rather than of Moshe. Perhaps this was done to avoid misinterpreting the term "brother" as being "brothers in prophecy" (since they all prophesied "in the camp" w/o prior preparation), although "from the father" minimizes the chance of gthinking it meant anything other than literally brother.

    4) Whatever answer you give to explain how Amram could marry his aunt coulds be given to explain how he could remarry Yoecheved after she had been married to Elitzafan.

    5) Kli Yakar says that the reason Shevet Levi had so far fewer people in the census (in Bamidbar) was because they all followed Amram's lead and divorced their wives. This means (a) they were divorced for much longer than 3 months, or there wouldn't have been such a discrepancy, and (b) only Shevet Levi followed his lead, so Elitzafan wasn't going against anyone else, as most didn't divorce their wives.

    I hope this added to the discussion.

  18. Thank you for the mareh mekomos!