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What Does Judaism Say About Twins?

By Yehuda Shurpin

Although the Torah doesn’t spell out any special characteristics of twins, some rabbis say that twins are generally slightly weaker than others and have a predilection towards words of truth.
Jacob and Esau:
The Quintessential Twins

The first, and perhaps the most famous, twins in the Bible are Jacob and Esau. The two could not be more different. As the verse sums it up, “Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents.”
As the biblical narrative unfolds, elucidated by the various commentaries, Esau turns out to be a deceiving murderer and idol worshiper who tries to kill his twin brother.
Some say that Jacob and Esau are the origins of the “evil twin” legends found in various cultures, where one twin will turn out righteous and the other evil.
Peretz and Zerach: The Bible’s Other Twins
The only other set of twins mentioned explicitly in the Torah is Peretz and Zerach, sons born to Judah and Tamar.
There are some parallels: Zerach stuck out his arm first, but Peretz “jumped” out of the womb first, earning the title of firstborn. This is not unlike Jacob holding onto the “heel of Esau” when they were born, and later purchasing the firstborn rights from him. However, unlike Jacob and Esau, both Zerach and Peretz were righteous.
Thus, twins are not necessarily split between good and evil. In fact, hidden beneath the text of Genesis, we find many other twins, and while admittedly not all were righteous, most of them were.
Cain and Abel Had Twins
According to the Midrash, Cain was born with a twin sister and Abel was born with two sisters. In fact, according to some traditions, Cain and Abel each married a woman born with them, and their lethal quarrel was over who would marry Abel’s remaining triplet.
Alternatively, Cain and Abel were themselves twins. One opinion in the Midrash sees evidence for this in Scripture itself. Regarding Cain's birth, we read, “And [Eve] conceived and bore Cain.” The next verse simply states, “And she continued to bear his brother Abel,” implying that the births followed a single conception.
Rachel and Leah
According to the Seder Olam Rabbah, a chronological Midrash from the 2nd century, Jacob’s wives Rachel and Leah were not only sisters, but actually twins.
Twelve Tribes Plus Twins
According to some, each of the twelve sons of Jacob was born together with a twin sister, whom they married. There is a minority opinion that Dinah, daughter of Leah, was a twin sister of Zebulon. Others say that Benjamin was born together with two girls.
Menasseh and Ephraim
According to one tradition, Joseph's children Menasseh and Ephraim were actually twin brothers.
G‑d and Israel
The Midrash compares the Jewish nation to G‑d’s twin. Just as a twin feels what is happening to his or her twin, so, too, are G‑d and the Jewish people interconnected.
Rabbi Yisrael Hopstein (1737–1814), the chassidic master known as the Maggid of Kozhnitz, explains that this is why the Torah was given in the Jewish month of Sivan. Since the astrological sign for the month of Sivan is Gemini (or Mazal Te’umim—Twins), and the Jewish nation is like G‑d’s “twin,” it is only fitting that the Torah be given in that month. This teaches us that what is good for G‑d (e.g., learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvahs) is good for the Jewish people.
The sign of Gemini is also referenced in the liturgy that we recite on the night of the 9th of Av, when we mourn the destruction of the holy Temple: “The constellation of the Twins appeared separated because the blood of brothers was spilled like water.” In other words, the calamity was so great that even the constellation of Twins (representing a bond that is closer than that of ordinary siblings) was “split.”
May we merit the rebuilding of the Temple speedily in our days! 

A Puzzling Pregnancy and Birth
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. Rabbi Belinsky's VideoBlog.
Rabbi's Videoblog
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Что делать человеку, застрявшему "меж двух культур"?

image of a ring

 

Р-н Михаэль Кориц

Вопрос:
Мой отец еврей, мать русская. <...> Я узнал очень многое об Израиле и еврейских традициях, но интересно это мне только в рамках общекультурного знания. Евреем я никогда себя не считал и не могу считать, тем не менее, наиболее глубокие истоки нравственности я нахожу именно в иудаизме и в чуть меньшей степени в христианстве. <...> Я просто не могу найти места для себя в этой жизни. Я не могу стать евреем или переехать в Израиль, но обстоятельства у меня в жизни вокруг складываются так, что и в русском обществе на данный момент я не вижу будущего. <...> Собственно, основной вопрос, который меня беспокоит - могло ли так получиться, потому что я как бы застрял между культурами? Или я слишком требователен к миру?

Ответ:
Внимательно прочел ваше письмо. Оно написано человеком думающим и искренним. Ваши рамышления являются интересным анализом состояния человека, оказавшегося по вашим же словам "между двух культур". На самом деле, вы не одиноки - в современном мире почти каждый человек так или иначе ощущает связь с разными культурами и живет, в каком-то смысле, одновременно в разных мирах.

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