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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 2 of 21
• We talk about the brothers on the one hand; they throw Joseph in the pit, not such a nice thing to do. Even if they don’t care so much about Joseph, what about their father?
• Joseph himself later on in Egypt; not such a nice thing to do. Estranges himself from his brothers and really torments them for a long, long time. And again, even if Joseph doesn’t care so much about the brothers, what about their father? Why not just write a postcard; ‘Dad, the weather is just wonderful here in Egypt. Wishing you were here’. If he really loves his father so much, why not let him know that he is alive once he rises to prominence in Egypt. Instead, Joseph keeps that a secret for years, for years.
• Jacob; was he benighted and naïve when he sends Joseph out immediately after he seems to realize how much the tensions have escalated in the family?
• And finally God; what’s God’s perspective on all of this? Is God silent? Does God has an opinion, so to speak, is it possible for us to discern that opinion from the text?
These are some of the questions which we raised last time and I want to come back and talk about them. And I want to begin by focusing on this question over here, “Jacob, was he benighted and naïve?” I want to take a quick look through the text with you, with an eye towards Jacob’s perspective, and I am just going to use this as a chance also to raise a bunch of other observations, a bunch of other questions which I think emerge from the text of the sale of Joseph; a very difficult text. So as we go through it, I am going to call attention to some of those questions in your mind, before I get a chance to go through this, you might want to take a stab at it yourself, read through the text of Chapter 37. What are some of the questions which provoke you as you read this text?
So, without any further ado, let me jump in and share with you what’s on my mind. Okay. So let’s start reading. Here is the beginning of Chapter 37. “These are the generations of Jacob.” Eleh toldot Yaakov, I think I am just going to read it in Hebrew, and you can follow along in the English over here. The English over here is coming from the 1917 translation of the JPS edition of the Bible. You can really use any translation you like. I picked this one because (a) it’s convenient and (b) I kind of like it. It’s sort of archaic sounding, so you have to get use to that. But, at least it is fairly literal; close to the Hebrew, and therefore it suits our purpose as well because it gives you as close as I think, you will to kind of Cannon translation a sense of what the Hebrew is saying. Of course, no Hebrew translation into English is going to give you a sense of what the Hebrew is really saying, so it’s a good idea to try to consult a couple different translations if you have the ability. I found this www.mechon-mamre.org, and you are free to consult that or any other site to find a translation that you can work with if the Hebrew is not immediately accessible to you. But, I am going to be reading the Hebrew, and you can follow along in either Hebrew of English.
Okay. Eleh toldot Yaakov, Yosef ben-sheva-asrah shana haya roeh et-achav batzon. Really, the first sentence here are a little bit strange, isn’t it? “These are the generations of Jacob.” So, if these are the generations of Jacob, what would you expect to happen next? If you had a sentence here and you didn’t know what the next sentence was and the sentence began, “These are the generations of Jacob”, you would expect to hear about the children of Jacob. How many children did Jacob had? Jacob has twelve children. Well you don’t hear about that here. It’s very strange. This is a really odd, “these are the generations of Jacob”, because the only thing you hear about is this guy; Joseph who was seventeen years old, he was shepherding with his brothers’ sheep. You hear about the brothers, but you hear about the brothers in an ancillary kind of way. They are ancillary, they are almost tangential to Joseph; the stop light is on Joseph.
Now, the rationale for that could simply be that Joseph is the main character in the story , he is the character in the events that unfold, but there may be a more subtle rational here which is that perhaps in Jacob’s eyes, Joseph really was his main descendant; it was all about Joseph. You begin to get a hint of that, even in the very beginning. The later verses are going to talk about the kind of favoritism; Jacob is going to give Joseph this special coat, he is going to love him more than the other brothers. But even before you get any of that, just in the way the narrator lays this out, “These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph”, you get this sort of jarring sense, “what, Joseph is the only guy?” But somehow, Joseph has that primacy. Joseph, seventeen years old, shepherding with his brothers the sheep, but then brothers come into the picture, but they come into the picture almost as secondary, and perhaps in some ways that foreshadows what’s about to happen, which is, in Jacob’s eyes, Joseph really is primary.
So anyway, you hear about Joseph, he is seventeen years old, he is shepherding with his brothers, and the first sense we want to chart, this is what I really, really want to do, just chart the building tensions in Jacob’s family and just sort of almost lists, how the tensions build. So the first sense explicitly of tension which you get in the text, you have right over here in verse 3, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all of his other children”, v’Yisrael ahav et-Yosef mikol-banav ki ben-zekunim hu lo - “because he was the child of his old age, and he makes him this special coat of many colors.” Again, ketonet pasim could mean “a coat of stripes”, “a coat of many colors”; it’s unclear exactly what it means. For the time being, we will call it a “coat of many colors”. So this is the first indication of favoritism, the first indications of tensions in the family, the fact that Jacob, otherwise known as Israel, he has second name, is favoring Joseph and gives him this special quote. Okay, so we’re just going to put a number one over here – Joseph gets special coat.
Now actually, to be a little bit more precise, at this point, in this verse 3, you actually don’t get the sense yet that this is leading to any tension in the family. It’s actually only in the next verse over here that you get that sense. Vayiru echav ki-oto ahav avihem – “And the brothers saw that Jacob loved Joseph more than all the other brothers” Vayisnu oto v’lo yachlu dabru shalom – “And they hated him and they couldn’t speak in peace to him.” Notice that the contrasts here in verbs is love and hate, it’s almost like this inverse relationship. The more Jacob loves Joseph, the more the brothers hate him. And this is where you see the fruits of that favoritism where the tensions begin to build; Joseph gets a special coat and the brothers hate him for it in verse 4.
The Seforno asks us to focus on these words, vayiru echav ki-oto ahav avihem mikol-echav - “that the brothers saw that father loved Joseph more than the others and the Seforno’s point was that the problem over here was not so much verse three, it wasn’t the fact that Jacob loved Joseph more, you can live with that. Children can come to grips with the idea that a parent has a soft spot in their heart for one child, it’s the showing of that and the favoritism, it’s when that gets expressed externally in the coat, that’s the problem; we’re not being treated fairly, the brothers have vayiru echav ki-oto ahav avihem – that they saw that the father treated Joseph differently than the others. And this leads to the first moment of real tension in the family, the hatred expressed by the brothers as result of this act of favoritism. So if we continue kind of chronicling these tensions, as we said before, we had this special quote, or more accurately, the brothers seeing that father loves Joseph more. So let’s put that up here.
So the next thing that happens in verse 5 is the dreams. Joseph has two sets of dreams. In Joseph’s first dream, again he dreams of these sheaves of wheat, but let’s read the text. Vayachalom Yosef chalom – “Joseph dreams this dream”, vayaged l’echav vayosifu od sno oto- “and they hated him even more.” One point I want to make to you over here, is this word vayosifu in Hebrew and it’s literally, “and they added hatred upon him even more”, is a play on what? What does this reminds you of? Well the Hebrew of course for Joseph’s name is Yosef right, it’s a play-off of Joseph’s name. So – vayosifu od sno oto “They hated Joseph even more with the word vayosifu.
In any case, what’s kind of interesting about this is that you haven’t even heard what it was that was in his dreams and you’ve already heard that they hated him even more. And again, they’ve hated him not just for the fact that Joseph had the dream, the Ramban argues, Nachmanides now, but for the fact vayaged that he told them, in other words, it’s kind of interesting which is that remember the Seforno’s point, which is what angered the brothers was not so much what was in Jacob’s heart, but it was the expression of that in the world of action when the brothers can see through Jacob’s action that the father loved them more. Here to, it’s one thing to have a dream Joseph, even if it’s a provocative dream, even if it’s a dream that suggests that you might rule over us, it’s one thing for you to have that dream, that’s not something which we would hate you for necessarily, but, you have to go and tell us? What do you go on telling us for? When you express that in the world of action, that’s where the hatred comes and vayosifu od sno –“so they hate him even more.” So they hated him because they saw that father loved him, and then number two, they hated him even more because Joseph is telling them these dreams.
Okay, so reading on Joseph says, vayomer aleihem: shemu-na hachalom hazeh asher chalamti – “Listen please to this dream I had. Here we were in the field, we all have these sheaves in the field and your sheaves bowed down to my sheaves, my sheaves stood up and your sheaves all bowed down to my sheaves.” Well, that’s you know, a pretty provocative dream and the brothers answered, vayomer lo echav hamaloch timloch aleinu im-mashol timshol banu – “Well you think you’re really going to rule over us?” And then, look carefully at the words, vayosifu od sno oto, there is that word again that plays off of Joseph, “They added hatred; they hated him even more.” Why? Al-chalomotav v’al-devarav. And here is Nachmanide’s point, the Ramban, that they hated him not just for him dreams, al-chalomotav, but they hated him al-devarav – “for his words.” It was not just for mental ideas that Joseph had, but for his expression of that idea in the word of action, that’s what provokes them; the fact that he tells the dreams. Okay, so this is point number one and point number two in the building of tensions in Jacob’s family. If we continue it gets even worst.
Joseph dreams another dream vayisaper oto l’echav vayomer. In his new dreams he says v’hineh hashemesh v’hayareach v’achad asar kochavim mishtachvim li – “The sun and the moon and the eleven stars are all bowing.” Now of course, Joseph has eleven brothers so what does this sounds like? It sounds like a pretty self-evident dream. The sun represents father, the moon represents mother, the eleven stars represents all of the brothers and everyone is bowing to him and that’s exactly how Jacob interprets the dream. Vayisaper el-aviv. Notice that over he tells the dream not just to his brothers but to his father presumably because his father is actually a participant in the dream, his father seemingly would be the sun over here. So anyway he tells his father and his brothers. Now notice that father is now in the picture, whereas before, everything that happened was just the brothers. Father is now in the picture, he is hearing these dreams, there is a three way conversation here; Joseph, brothers, and father. That’s going to be important so let’s keep that in mind.
And now for the first time vayigar-bo aviv– father is angry with him, with Joseph. Vayomer lo mah hachalom hazeh asher chalamta? – “what is this dream that you’ve dreamt?” Havo navo ani v’imcha v’acheicha lehishtachot lecha arthzah? – “Shall I, your mother and your brothers, are we all going to bow down to you?” Now, one of the interesting things here is you actually pay attention to the text, remember we talked about before that there is two mothers in the family; there is Rachel and there is Leah. Rachel had actually died already. So one strange part of the dream is that if the dream is really true, what’s the mother doing in the dream? The mother is already dead, and Rashi brings that up as something which causes Jacob’s some consternation; is the dream really true? What’s going on with the bowing moon? Your mother isn’t here anymore. But anyway, here is what Jacob says, “Shall we all come to bow before you?” And Jacob is angry at Joseph.
And finally, this is point number three, vayikanu-bo echav– “and the brothers were jealous of him”, v’aviv shamar et-hadavar I will get back to the second part of the verse in the moment, but the brothers are jealous as a result of the second dream. Now, when I say the result of the second dream, what do I really mean? Again, the brothers are jealous not just when Joseph tells the dream; that’s over here, but the brothers are jealous after verse 10 when father responds to dream. Their jealous interestingly, is a response to the father’s response to the father even more than it’s a response to Joseph. Notice also that the first time the word jealousy. What was the word that was used before? The tensions were described in terms of hatred; the brothers hated Joseph, they hated Joseph, but all of a sudden now they are jealous. So something new has entered the mix, all of a sudden they are jealous of Joseph. Why are they jealous of him now? And why in particular, as a result of verse 10, not just what Joseph has done, in telling the dream, having the dream and telling it, but his father’s response to the dream. Why would father’s response to the dream somehow make them jealous? But this is number three, father’s response to the dream provokes jealousy on the part of the brothers. So I want you to think about that and we will come back next video and examine this. But what do you think? Why would it be that all of a sudden for the first time, jealousy enters the picture rather than hatred? What really is the difference between jealousy and hatred? And why would jealousy enter into the conversation, enter into the escalating build up in tensions specifically right here? Think about that. I have some thoughts about that I will share with you in our next video. I’ll see you then.
1. What Were They Thinking?
2. Building Tensions
3. From Hatred to Jealousy
4. What Was Jacob Thinking?
5. A Break From the Action
6. The Original Internet
7. The Hidden Hyperlinks
8. A Confluence of Echoes
9. Where Have I Heard This Before?
10. The Brothers' Perspective
11. When Three Are One
12. Will the Real Firstborn Please Stand Up?
13. Bechor: A Tale of Twos
14. Rabbi Soloveitchik's Theory
15. Joseph's Undershirt
16. The Meaning of the Second Coat
17. Four Links
18. Double Entendre
19. The Riddle of the Bowing Moon
20. The Hidden Angel
21. Chain of Words
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