Rashi on Bereshit 33:7 relates that, when Yaakov's family presented themselves to Eisav, the mothers drew near before the sons, but in Rachel’s case, Yosef preceded her .

...He said, “My mother has a pretty figure. Perhaps that scoundrel will set his eyes on her. I will stand in front of her and prevent him from gazing upon her....

And in Bereshit 49:22

אמר יוסף רשע הזה עינו רמה, שמא יתן עינו באמי, יצא לפניה ושרבב קומתו לכסותה,

Joseph said,“This scoundrel has a haughty eye. Perhaps he will take a fancy to my mother.” So he went ahead of her, stretching his height to conceal her.

My question is:

Being that Yosef was a 6 year old boy at the time (see Bershit 30:25 and 31:41 ) how could he conceal Rachel?

Was he really tall? Was Rachel short?

  • 2
    You're asking a question of Metzi'uth on a Midrash?
    – Seth J
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:49
  • Just want to understand Rashi
    – Danield
    Jan 13, 2013 at 22:51
  • @Danield That doesn't answer SethJ's question. In what way exactly don't you understand it?
    – Double AA
    Jan 13, 2013 at 23:26
  • 3
    If she was standing in a depression in the ground and he was standing on top of something, this is easily conceivable; perhaps he just needed to stand up straight (or even on his toes) to conceal her. Regardless, the point isn't that he was successful, the point is that he made the effort.
    – Fred
    Jan 14, 2013 at 0:06
  • 1
    I think you'd be stretching it to say that when Rashi says: "stretching his height to conceal her" - he means that he stood on a mound or that she stood in a depression in the ground
    – Danield
    Jan 14, 2013 at 10:13

2 Answers 2


I have no source for this answer, and I may very well be wrong, but here goes anyway:

Look at the expression Rashi brings: "ושרבב קומתו"

Now this word "ושרבב" rang a bell to me. Where is it used in other places?

1) Regarding the daughter of Pharoh who stretched out her hand - Rashi on Shemot 2:5

והם דרשו את אמתה את ידה, שנשתרבבה אמתה אמות הרבה:

They, however, interpreted אֶתאֲמָתָהּ to mean her hand, [that she stretched out her hand,] and her arm grew many cubits (אַמוֹת) [so that she could reach the basket].

2) Regarding the punishment of the 10 spies - Rashi on Bamidbar 14:37

באותה מיתה ההגונה להם מדה כנגד מדה. הם חטאו בלשון, ונשתרבב לשונם עד טבורם

Through that death which was fitting for them-measure for measure; they had sinned with the tongue and now [in retribution] their tongues extended to their navels.

So it seems to me that the word "שרבב" denotes growing/extending.

Furthermore, if we take the incident of the daughter of Pharoh:

We see that when someone has a good intention about something - even though it may be physically impossible - you should do your bit, and if Hashem Wills - He will cause you to succeed (via a miracle say)....

So too I could say about Yosef - Hashem make a miracle - and he grew tall to hide his mother from Eisav.

(again, no source, but I think it's a good pshat)

  • 1
    more like good drash.
    – Double AA
    Jan 14, 2013 at 14:55
  • 1
    @DoubleAA, even a drash has a pshat
    – Yirmeyahu
    Jan 14, 2013 at 17:53
  • This drash is clever and nicely said, but let me make two points: (1) Rashi makes up the "שרבב" language here. In the midrash he's quoting (B. Rabbah 78:13), the language is "וגבהה קומתו". Perhaps it's true, though, that Rashi understands the midrash as you say and changed the language to illustrate this point.
    – jake
    Jan 15, 2013 at 9:32
  • (2) You must differentiate between the active "שרבב" and the passive "נשתרבב". While I don't really know much about this verb, it seems very possible to me that "נשתרבב" could mean that something grew/extended by itself, which would imply miraculous character, while "שרבב" would mean that someone is extending something actively; in this case Yosef is extending his height. But it need not imply anything miraculous. [cont.]
    – jake
    Jan 15, 2013 at 9:32
  • [cont.] If Rashi would have written "ונשתרבב קומתו", that would mean "his height extended" [i.e. without him actively extending it], in which case we would have more to go on if we wanted to infer a miraculous "stretching".
    – jake
    Jan 15, 2013 at 9:33

It occurs to me that Esau would have wanted to know where Rachel was had he not seen her at all, since the rumor at the time was Yaacov was the intended of Rachel he knew she existed. Secondly, why did Rachel bow at all if she was hidden from site.

Based on that perhaps he only hid her main figure and did not totally cover her but it was enough to stop Esau from enjoying the beauty.

  • I think this is better suited as a comment on the question. Was that your intention?
    – Seth J
    Jan 14, 2013 at 15:55
  • @SethJ No! (15 chars)
    – Yehuda
    Jan 14, 2013 at 17:13
  • @yehuda, I'm not seeing how this answers the question. Could you expand on this? Most six-year-olds I've seen aren't tall enough to hide an adult's main figure, so the question still stands -- did he stretch somehow, was he tall, was she short, ...? Mar 4, 2013 at 18:03
  • @MonicaCellio you said it yourself, most 6 year olds, however some could.
    – Yehuda
    Mar 5, 2013 at 0:14

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