Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zerach's Ribbon

We note the midwife tied a ribbon around the hand of Zerach (Gen.38:28). This demonstrates rather assuredly there was the expectation of twins. You don't always need sonograms to tell you've got twins. Otherwise, why tie a ribbon on the hand? Obviously it was to mark the one first to emerge.

But if a hand comes out, that is quite problematic. The doctor would probably seek to push back the hand otherwise the baby would be unable to emerge. The newborn's head has the largest circumference of any body part and emerging head-first ensures the rest of the body can slip out rather easily. But a hand-first scenario raises horrible prospects.

Perhaps they tied the ribbon on the hand and figured they can push back the hand into the womb and, while they are at it, put the doctor's or midwife's hand inside as well, maneuver the body around and hope the head comes out first this time.

In this case, however, Zerach himself retracted his hand. Peretz saw an opportunity and burst forward.

Making some sign to know which baby emerged first has ramifications in Jewish law, which can differ depending on who comes out first or who comes out when. So identification is important, especially with identical twins. For example, one twin can emerge on one day, and another twin, who emerges two minutes later, may well have been born the "next day". Another example, the first-born male twin might inherit from his father more than might the other children.

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