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Video 11 of 12
If you look at this blessing, one little piece that's interesting is right over here. He says to Shimon and Levi - and again it's a double-edged kind of blessing, it's a blessing that seems in some ways almost like a curse. Indeed the idea of cursing is mentioned right over here. So; Shimon and Levi Achim - Shimon and Levi you brothers. First of all even this idea of brothers, if you think about what we talked about in our last video, that was the main theme. What does it mean to be a brother? Here it is. Yaakov is talking about Shimon and Levi you brothers; Klei chamas mecheiroseihem - weapons of violence are your kinship, is what you were brothers to. Besodom al tavoi nafshi - let my soul not come into council with you. Bikhalam al teichad kevoidi ki b'apam hargu ish - because in anger you killed a man. Seemingly a reference there to the rape of Dinah, to the subsequent war which Shimon and Levi waged against the inhabitants of Shechem.
U'birtzonam ikru shor - and then there's an ambiguous phrase over here - and willfully you uprooted oxen. Now what does that mean, willfully you uprooted oxen? Could refer to again that same event, the armed onslaught against the city of Shechem. But Rashi has another idea. Rashi says Shor interestingly - Rashi points out; U'birtzonam ikru shor; Ratzu l'akor et Yosef - they tried to uproot Yosef; Shenikra shor - later on Yosef is called an ox. Interestingly, later on in the blessings Yaakov uses this same language over here, Shin, Vav, Reish as a reference to Yosef. You'll see it in Yosef's blessing. So Rashi makes the connection between this Shin, Vav, Reish in the blessing of Yosef, and this Shin, Vav, Reish in the blessing of Shimon and Levi, and suggests that Yaakov was referring obliquely to their role in the sale of Yosef. That Yaakov was aware of the sale of Yosef and was aware, perhaps, of the role of Shimon and Levi in that sale.
Remember, Shimon and Levi are the second and third oldest brother. The oldest brother, Reuven, as we know, was on Yosef's side, he was trying to save Yosef. So it's really the second and third oldest brother who are the oldest brothers that will be seen as culpable for the sale.
So look carefully as to what Yaakov says about them. First of all, look at this word; Klei chamas mecheiroseihem - such a strange word, don't you think? Weapons of violence are your kinship you brothers, it's what you are brothers to. But the words Mecheiroseihem in Hebrew, what does that sound like to you? Mem, Chaf, Reish - what does that remind you? That root actually is the same root for sale. When the brothers sell Yosef; Vayimkeru - there's that root. It almost sounds like Yaakov is referring obliquely to the sale of Yosef right over here; Weapons of violence you used in this sale of a brother; Mecheiroseihem - in your sale of a brother.
Now, look at this phrase over here; Orrur apam ki az - in a blessing you have the opposite of blessing, Orrur is the Hebrew word for curse - cursed be your anger for it is very brazen. What will I do? Achalkem b'Yaakov, v'afitzem b'Yisrael - I will split up Shimon and Levi, I will scatter you, I will disperse you.
Okay, so now think of these two elements over here. Element number 1, curse. Element number 2, dispersal, splitting up, scattering. What other story do we have cursing - that specific language of Orrur, cursing? Where else in Genesis do we have a person cursed with the language of Orrur? Where else in Genesis do we have somebody who is cursed with exile, with dispersal, with scattering? The answer is, you guessed it, the story of Cain and Abel. See that language Orrur, well here it is; V'atah orrur atah min ha'adamah - and now cursed are you from the land that opened up your maw to take the blood of your brother. This is the first person in the Book of Genesis ever to be cursed with this kind of language. What about exile? Ki ta'avod et ha'adamah loh tosef tet kochah loch nah v'nad tiheye ba'aretz - you're going to be a wanderer throughout the land. Cain will be scattered, Shimon and Levi will be scattered.
So if we fill out our connections between the sale of Yosef, and Cain and Abel they are really quite significant. It's not just these four over here, but it's actually five and six as well. Yaakov's blessing to Shimon and Levi includes exile and dispersal, Shimon and Levi's anger is cursed - Orrur - by their father, and of course, exile befalls Cain. Just like Cain, Shimon and Levi experience a curse, just as Cain experiences a curse at the hand of his father - his Father in Heaven - so too, Shimon and Levi's anger is cursed by their father.
This then seems to be the archetypal story, the fundamental obligation of a brother towards another brother, something terrible happens to your brother, you are your brother's keeper, you can't be okay in not knowing what happened. It seems to be that the Torah suggests by means of these parallels that the brothers are guilty of something like that - certainly the brothers themselves see it that way; Asheimim anachnu - they say about themselves - we're guilty. We're guilty for what? We may not have sold him, we may not have known what became of him, but we're guilty; Asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho behitchaneno eleinu v'loh shamanu - we heard his voice calling from the ground, we didn't respond; Al kein ba'ah eleinu hatzara hazos - that's why these things are happening to us now.
1. The First of Three Mysteries
2. Where is Reuven?
3. Three Card Monte
4. Keep Your Eye on the Midianites
5. Rashi and Ramban on 'Who Sold Joseph'
6. Where is Reuven - Redux
7. The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men
8. What Does God Think of All This?
9. Is Apathy the Ultimate Evil?
10. Seven Brothers
12. Still Responsible?
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