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    A pregnant father? – B’ha’alot’cha

    Life was tough for Moses. He had constant difficulties with the people and it is a miracle that he didn’t turn on them more often.

    In this week’s reading he cannot help himself, and he complains to God: “Did I conceive this people? Did I bring them to birth?” (Num. 11:12).

    Note the verbs he uses, hariti, “be pregnant with”, yelad’tihu, “bear them”. Feminine verbs, and the feminine imagery continues to the end of the verse.

    No-one pretends that Moses was an exception to the normal rule that it is women who get pregnant and bear the babies, but the notion is that Moses asks God how he is expected to love, nurse and nourish the people when they make it so hard for him.

    Interestingly, the Targum Onkelos changes the text in the interests of Moses’ dignity, rendering the words in Aramaic, “Am I the father of this entire people?”

    The revised wording does not tear at the reader’s heartstrings so much, but it does indicate that fathers as well as mothers are expected to have warm, loving feelings for their children.

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