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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Serach Bat Asher: The Memory Keeper

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Parshat Pinchas presents us with another census counting the people and in this census the name of Serach bat Asher appears. This is interesting because Serach bat Asher was also mentioned in the book of Genesis, more than 200 years earlier which would mean that she had lived for many years and is still alive long after the first generation has died off.

There are no details about Serach in the text, but she is named twice, which is significant. This lack of details and Serach's longevity leads to a wealth of midrashim written by the rabbis about her. In the Midrash, Serach is the one chosen to inform Jacob that Joseph still lives because of her gentle singing voice. There is another midrash where Serach convinced the Hebrews to accept Moses as a leader, despite being an outsider in their community and another where Serach appears with the rabbis of the Talmud as they debate how the water of the Red Sea appeared when the sea split. The rabbis wove their tales of the water, but Serach bat Asher piped up saying that they were wrong and because she was there when the seas parted. It is said that Serach bat Asher never died and entered the Garden of Eden still alive, a gift only bestowed on a few characters in Tanach.

I imagine Serach bat Asher as an old woman who carries not only her age, but also the history of her people. Serach should give older women the confidence that they are the gatekeepers of our collective past and the storytellers of a generation.

Serach bat Asher: The Memory Keeper


old woman,

in your heart you believe

that the sands that flow through the hourglass

have decreased your worth in the world;

that you are not seen

and your voice is not heard;

that your age has

flattened you.

Old woman, listen.


Serach bat Asher

the ancient one,

once you were

willowy and young.


whose thin white braid

trails behind you

like a comet's tail.

You, whose skin is as thin as parchment

and whose spine bends

like a reed in the wind.


with your stooped shoulders

and your heart slowly beating;

you are the ancient messenger

holding history

in your purple veined hands.

You are the memory keeper

the story whisperer;

with you,

the stories of the generations.

Where do you store these treasured stories,

Serach bat Asher?

Do you wear them

stored tightly rolled

in a scroll around your neck

so they lay close to your heart,

or do they remain

behind your eyes

which are as blue as the Nile,

as blue as the waters of the sea at crossing,

as blue as the dye of the fringes?

Serach bat Asher,

ancient woman;

you are

The Gatekeeper,

the eternal memory weaver.

We are your witnesses.

Serach bat Asher,

we are your listeners.

So speak,

your voice still soft and breezy.

We sit at your knees

and listen to your stories

We inhale your memories

as they are woven into our own.

Others stand on the shoulders of giants,

but Serach bat Asher,

you are a giant.

Your memories span centuries.

and your stories connect generations.

Stories of deserts,

comings and goings,


filaments of hope

for a land

for a people.

Serach bat Asher, you are proof that old women never die,

their bodies may whither but their stories continue.

They are the storytellers.

They hold the keys to wisdom.

They hold open the doors to the past,

bringing that which was

to that which is;

carried in gently folded arms

The gift of perspective

of history.


Old woman, never doubt

the power of your stories,

the timelessness of your memories.


Tell your stories.


The sons of Asher [were]: Yimnah, Yishvah, Yishvi, and Beriah, and their sister, Serach.

וּבְנֵ֣י אָשֵׁ֗ר יִמְנָ֧ה וְיִשְׁוָ֛ה וְיִשְׁוִ֥י וּבְרִיעָ֖ה וְשֶׂ֣רַח אֲחֹתָ֑ם וּבְנֵ֣י בְרִיעָ֔ה חֶ֖בֶר וּמַלְכִּיאֵֽל׃

Genesis 46:17

וְשֵׁ֥ם בַּת־אָשֵׁ֖ר שָֽׂרַח׃

The name of Asher’s daughter was Serach.

Numbers 26:46


For more information on Serach Bat Asher:

There is a synagogue in Iran named for a miracle associated with Serach Bat Asher.

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