7

We all know, from when we were little children, that the Jewish people had four mothers and four fathers. The mothers will, of course, be Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel, and Leah. However, in the fathers department, we only find Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The existence of four fathers is further substantiated by the first mishna in Bava Kama.

Who is the fourth Father?


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closed as off-topic by Monica Cellio Mar 8 '15 at 18:57

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  • Seriously, I've heard that Yosef is sometimes considered one of the avos. – Ypnypn Feb 27 '15 at 19:41
  • 1
    2 Possible candidates - Avshalom or Avner. – DanF Feb 27 '15 at 20:01
  • @DanF Or maybe Moshe -- who was also called "Avi Znoach." (Midrash somewhere) – Shokhet Feb 27 '15 at 20:19
  • Some sifrei emes talk about Dovid haMelech being the 4th av. – Y     e     z Mar 1 '15 at 1:47
  • @Ypnypn For an awesome fact: Ibn Caspi writes that we see from Chumash that Yosef was a greater tzaddik than any of those called "avos". I've always wondered if ibn Caspi's first name had something to do with that comment – הנער הזה Mar 1 '15 at 6:57
11

The fourth Av is a fellow named Menachem. Menachem Av.

Yaakov Avinu actually would have served the double role of being both Yaakov and Menachem, had he died upon seeing Yosef, as the Targum there says:

אִלּוּ אֲנָא מָאִית זִמְנָא הָדָא מִנַּחַם אֲנָא

If I would die right now, I am Menachem

However, Yaakov survived the encounter (and, in fact, never died), and therefore Menachem remained a separate character.

5

This is the classic machlokes among poskim about the status of Noach vis a vis the passuk "Tzadik hayah bidorosav."

The first shittah holds that even though he was that much of a tzadik in the dor hamabul, he wouldn't have amounted to that level of greatness in Avraham's dor. The other opinion says that no, he would have been as great as Avraham if he was in a more righteous generation like Avraham was. This latter shittah holds Noach to be the fourth of the Avos.

But what about the first shittah that discounts Noach?

According to that opinion, Yaakov took his chelek and the chelek of his brother within Judaism. The implication is that there were going to be two linear "avot" and two resulting "achim" that would share the burden of building the new nation.

When Esav sold his birthright to Ya'akov, Ya'akov was empowered to take both his chelek and the chelek of his twin. That was why he married both Leah ("v'eyney leah rakot" - Rashi: (rough interpretation) she cried because she was destined for Esav) and Rachel, who was appointed to him from the beginning. That either makes Esav an Av, or Yaakov becomes our Double Down Daddy.

(P.S.: this isn't as "jokey" as other Purim Torah because it's a real question I've seen asked and answered. I've got a whole d'var about Noach as the fourth av and his bris vis a vis klal yisroel)

4

See Nechemiah 9:8, “וכרות אמו הברית And his mother cut the b’ris.” We know that women may not perform b’ris milah, so evidently the sexes can sometimes be reversed in language: “אמו” must here mean his father. (Further evidence for this is the use of “וכרות” in the masculine.)

Similarly, “ארבעה אבות” can and must be read as four matriarchs, which is the familiar number.

3

It seems like you were taught incorrectly. The four Avos are: בור, שור, מבעה, העבר and unlike your teacher who seems to be spreading falsehoods, I can prove it: the first Mishnah in Bava Kama states: ארבעה אבות נזיקין: השור הבור המבעה וההבער

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