Serach, the Undying Matriarch

The highlight of this week’s Torah reading (Exodus 13:17–17:16) is the splitting of the Red Sea as the Jews make their final escape from their Egyptian oppressors. In trying to interpret the miracle, according to an ancient midrashic collection, the rabbis got help from a figure mentioned only three times in the Hebrew Bible: Serach, the granddaughter of Jacob, who, as Rabbi Rachel Adelman writes, “like Elijah, . . . shows up in the Hall of Study to resolve disputes.”

Adelman connects this tale to a variety of other rabbinic traditions that portray Serach daughter of Asher—the only female mentioned in the genealogy of the Israelites who went down to Egypt at the end of the book of Genesis—as having an extremely long, perhaps unending, lifespan, and as providing crucial assistance that made the exodus possible:

In Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer, a mid-8th-century narrative midrash, Serach plays a pivotal role in Moses’ appeal to the elders of Israel, after God appoints him to lead Israel out of Egypt. . . . When the elders are gathered, they turn to their elder Serach, now well over two-hundred years old, to determine whether Moses is legitimate.

She is the last survivor of the generation that came to Egypt from Canaan and therefore the sole link of the promise to the forefathers. True to her name, which means “hangs over,” Serach exceeds the normal life span, and overlaps the generations.

In this version of the story, “Asher son of Jacob delivered the secret of the redemption to Serach, his daughter.” Serach only admits Moses’ authenticity when he makes esoteric reference to the “secret of redemption,” and only then do the people believe him. Reading the story of Exodus through the lens of these midrashic tales reveals something important. On the one hand it is a story of revolution: the slaves gain their freedom; Pharoah’s reign and the religious beliefs that undergird it are overthrown; and the Israelites are taken to the wilderness to receive an entirely new set of laws and a new moral system. On the other hand, the Exodus depends on the continuation of tradition: it is the “God of your fathers” who appears to Moses; and it is Serach, the ultimate conveyer of ancient knowledge, who ensures his message is heard.


More about: Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Midrash

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security