The Great Switch
‘These Are The Sons Of Leah’
Our Gemara notes a teaching that confounded our sages. According to this teaching, the gender of a child is dependent on whichever parent is the first to “emit the seed.” If it is the mother, the child is male; if it is the father, it is female. Yet, this teaching remained without a source until R. Tzadok expounded the following pasuk (Bereishis 46:15): “These are the sons of Leah whom she bore to Yaakov in Padan Aram and Dinah his daughter.” Significantly, the pasukattributes the boys to Leah and the girl to Yaakov.
The Prayers Of Righteous Women
The Gemara (Berachos 60a) relates that Leah, after bearing Yaakov six sons, found herself pregnant with a seventh son. At this juncture, Yaakov already had 10 sons and the matriarchs knew through prophecy that Yaakov would only bear 12 sons. Leah reasoned that if she has another son, Rachel (who did not have any children at this point) would be humiliated as she would end up with fewer children than Bilhah and Zilpah, who already had two sons each. To save her sister from this humiliation, Leah prayed that she give birth to a daughter rather than a seventh son.
The Yefei Toar (cited by the Me’am Loez) adds that Bilhah and Zilpah entered Leah’s tent, told her they were satisfied with having two sons each, and agreed that it was Rachel’s turn to bear children. All three of them then prayed together for Rachel.
The Power Of Prayer
In light of this Gemara, the Maharsha (Niddah 32a) questions R. Tzadok’s exposition from the words “and Dinah his daughter.” It wasn’t any action that Yaakov took that resulted in a girl being born. Rather, the child was originally a male and it was the prayers of Leah (and Bilhah and Zilpah) that converted it into a female!
The Maharsha answers by citing the Paneach Raza (which is similar to Targum Yonasan and Da’as Zekeinim) who refers to one of the piyutim recited on Rosh Hashanah which indicates that Hashem did not transform the male fetus in Leah’s womb into a female one. Rather, Hashem exchanged the male fetus in Leah’s womb (i.e., Yosef) for the female fetus in Rachel’s womb (i.e., Dinah). Thus Dinah was indeed a female from conception, due to her father Yaakov.
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