1. She Is Mentioned Just Twice By Name in Scripture

It is relatively unusual for a woman to be listed in the Torah. For example, while we are told the names of 12 of Jacob’s sons, we know the name of just one daughter, Dinah. Moving on to the next generation, in the count of the 70 souls who descended to Egypt with Jacob, only one granddaughter is mentioned: “And the sons of Asher … and Serach, their sister.”1

When counting the population of the families poised to enter the Holy Land 250 years later, we find amidst the heavily male census: “And the daughter of Asher: Serach.”2

2. She Was (Not) Adopted

There is a tradition that Serach was not the biological daughter of Asher. Rather, she came to the family of Jacob as a child when her mother married Asher. This explains why Genesis identifies her as the sister of Asher’s sons, and not simply as his daughter. This would also explain what she is doing on the genealogical lists in the first place. Since her biological father left no male heirs, she inherited his possessions, which gave her power and influence few women had in those days.3

It should be noted that this approach is questioned, as it does not square with the straightforward reading of the verse where she is counted among those who “issued from the loins of Jacob.”4

3. She Is Best Known for Telling Jacob That Joseph Was Still Alive

Jacob had long believed his beloved son, Joseph, to be dead. When Joseph’s brothers found him alive and well in Egypt, they were afraid that breaking the news to their father would come as a shock and endanger his health.

What did they do? They asked Serach5 to break the news to him gently. How did she go about it?

According to one tradition, she waited until he began praying and then began saying the following rhyme:
Is Joseph alive in Egypt (Mitzrayim)
With children on his knees (birkayim)
Menasseh and Ephraim?

As he prayed, he still could not believe it to be true. However, once he finished and saw the wagons Joseph had sent, he was finally convinced that his son was alive.6

According to the most popular telling of this incident, we are told that she shared the news while strumming on a harp.7

4. She Was Entrusted With the Secret of Redemption

Various Midrashic accounts tell us that Serach was among the few who lived through the entire Egyptian exile.8 Thus, when Moses came and declared that he had been chosen by G‑d to lead the people out of Egypt, they consulted with Serach to see if his words reflected the “secret of redemption, she had heard from her father, Asher, who had heard them from his father, Jacob.”9

5. She Identified Joseph’s Underwater Tomb

When it came time for Moses to take Joseph’s remains with him on the way out of Egypt, it was Serach who directed him to the bottom of the Nile River.10

6. She Was the Wise Woman of Avel

We read in the Book of Samuel11 about a man named Sheva ben Bichri who tried to stage an uprising against King David and then took refuge in the city of Avel. Seeing that the entire city was in danger, a certain wise woman bravely left the city walls and brokered a deal with Yoav, David’s general.

Who was this woman? According to ancient sources she was none other than Serach, daughter of Asher.”12

7. She Never “Died”

In fact, she never died in the conventional sense of the word. Because of the service she provided her grandfather, she merited to enter the Garden of Eden while still alive.13

The Zohar describes four chambers, each of which is presided over by a righteous woman. Regarding Serach’s chamber, we read how she greets the light-filled form of Joseph three times a day, and rejoices in the role she played in reuniting him with his father.

She then leads the women in praising G‑d and studying Torah.14

8. Her Tomb Is in Iran

Among the Jews of Iran, there is a special cemetery in Lenjan (Isfahan Province) where the remains of Serach are said to be buried. According to tradition, in the days of Abbas I of Persia (1571 – 1629), the salvation of the Jewish community came about through an incident that happened there. The place has a synagogue and was once frequently visited by Jews from all over.