Talmud this Shabbat: Why Do We Never See Bilhah and Zilpah?


The Jewish people are missing two of our mothers. We don’t see them. We don’t talk about them. We act as if they don’t exist. We don’t say their names. Tomorrow morning, we will.

Bilhah and Zilpah.

Here are the incontrovertible facts. They are the mothers of one third of our people. Bilhah is the mother of Dan and Naphtali. Zilpah is the mother of Gad and Asher. Each had as many children as Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin). They are both the wives of Jacob. The Torah says so explicitly.

Yet.

Hardly any midrash mentions them.

When we bless our daughters, we say: “May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.” We do not say their names.

In 1998, when Siddur Sim Shalom added the matriarchs in the Amidah, it added: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. We do not say their names.

In 2016, when Siddur Lev Shalem came out, that is only four years ago, again: we do not say their names. Only Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Why do we still not see the mothers of one third of our people? Maybe in biblical times, or ancient rabbinic times, it was a patriarchy. But today?

Find the texts for tomorrow here.