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וַיְהִי בְלִדְתָּהּ וַיִּתֶּן יָד וַתִּקַּח הַמְיַלֶּדֶת וַתִּקְשֹׁר עַל יָדוֹ שָׁנִי לֵאמֹר זֶה יָצָא רִאשֹׁנָה And it came about when she gave birth, that he (the infant) stretched out his hand. So the midwife took and bound a crimson thread on his hand, saying, "This one came out first." (Bereshis 38:28)

Is stretching a hand outside the mother enough to be considered the first born? Would this count today l'halacha? If not, how is this pasuk understood?

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    Your question is confusing. The Torah clearly says a few verses later that Peretz was born first. This Pasuk is only saying that the midwife was trying to identify who came out first, and placed a string on the hand of Zerach who was later born second. – Gershon Gold Dec 11 '14 at 17:09
  • @GershonGold don't take this the wrong way, but your comment is confusing. Where does it say that Peretz was born first?! It seems to me to be saying that putting the hand out first is the definition of being born first (otherwise what was the point of putting on the string?) – user6641 Dec 11 '14 at 17:18
  • @GershonGold it says he came out of the womb chronologically before his brother, but no where does it say he was "born" first. The whole point of the earlier pasuk is that Zerach was "born" first by dint of putting his hand out. That is literally what the pasuk says. If you are saying that's not the case according the the halachic definition of birth, and you can cite a source as such that would be a fine answer, but it would still need to explain why the earlier pasuk says otherwise and why the string was tied (what significance did putting out the hand have?) – user6641 Dec 11 '14 at 17:24
  • Interesting question, but I think you're searching for more than you're going to find here. – Seth J Dec 12 '14 at 17:39
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The simple explanation of the birth of Peretz and Zerach is that Peretz was born first. After Zerach stretched out his hand the midwife tied a red string on it figuring that he would be the first born. However he put his hand back in and Peretz emerged first. 38:30

וְאַחַר יָצָא אָחִיו אֲשֶׁר עַל יָדוֹ הַשָּׁנִי וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ זָרַח: Afterwards, his brother emerged, the one upon whose hand was the crimson thread, and he named him Zerah.

See Aish.com

As Tamar is giving birth, the hand of one twin emerges, and the midwife ties a string around it so she will know which child was born first. This baby then draws back his hand and his brother, Peretz, is born. Only then does Tamar give birth to the baby with the string on his hand, who is named Zerach.

  • Isn't the word יָצָא past tense? – user6641 Dec 11 '14 at 18:12
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    @user6641 She didn't say "I figure this will be the firstborn". She said "This is the firstborn" followed shortly thereafter with "Oops! I guess I was wrong and some random internet user in 3000 years is going to be really confused by all this" (my paraphrase of her exact words). – Double AA Dec 11 '14 at 19:12
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    @DoubleAA that may be your reading of the verse, I believe mine contains less assumptions. In any case according to your reading what is the purpose of tying the string. Whichever child comes out first is the first born, surely both cannot exit the womb simultaneously! – user6641 Dec 11 '14 at 19:16
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    @user6641 The purpose was to identify the firstborn. In this case her tactic failed as she tied too early. "Oh silly me I tied it too early. He's a trickster, that one! Now we can identify the younger one by the string. How delightfully unusual! Woudn't you say, Ms. Tamar?" – Double AA Dec 11 '14 at 19:20
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    @user6641, I cannot disagree with DoubleAA here. I think the point is that the midwife's actions make a really interesting story but do not mandate the interpretation of firstbornitude in Halachah. – Seth J Dec 12 '14 at 17:39

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