Next Video Playing In ×
Video 9 of 12
So what I'm arguing is that Joseph's voice calling out [to/from 1:28] the ground for help kind of echoes this language, this poetic language, when G-d says to Cain that the voice of Abel's blood, of Hevel's blood, is calling out from the ground. Of course, in the sale of Joseph the brothers stand by and don't respond, and of course in the Cain and Abel story, Cain stands by and doesn't respond. He says; Hashomer achi onochi - am I my brother's keeper? Of course, the brothers don't know what happened to Yosef and they're content to leave it that way, and frankly, Cain says he doesn't know what happened to his brother Abel - right? Here's Cain talking to G-d, G-d says where is Hevel? Basically Cain's answer is; Loh yadati - I do not know. The truth is, he doesn't know, remember, nobody has ever died before; Cain hit him with a rock or something and then he wasn't moving and Cain doesn't know what happened. He says, I don't know where he is, I don't know what happened. But his point just isn't I don't know what happened, it's also; Hashomer achi onochi - it's not my responsibility. Frankly, Cain is apathetic; Hashomer achi onochi - it's not my business, I'm not my brother's keeper.
Again, as mentioned before, according to the Rashbam, in the Joseph story the brothers' guilt really isn't in the fact that they sold him, they didn't sell him. If they're not guilty for selling him what are they guilty of? Perhaps it's the same thing that Cain is really guilt of in the story of Cain and Abel. It wasn't so much killing Abel, he is angry at him, he hit him, nobody had ever died before, he didn't know what he was doing. It's his response after that; Hashomer achi onochi - I don't know what happened to him but I don't care, am I my brother's keeper? That's really - whereas you're reading the story as a reader you sense that condemnation of the text of Cain. Perhaps it's the same sort of thing in the story here. The brothers aren't really technically - certainly according to the Rashbam - guilty of selling him, this action over here, the sale to the Yishmaelim took place through the Midyanim, not through the brothers. But what the brothers do, is when Reuven comes back and says; Hayeled einenu - he's not there; instead of, oh my gosh, what happened to him? It's that, okay let's find an alibi, let's kill a goat and put the blood on the coat.
So in our story of the sale of Yosef, the brothers don't know what happened to Yosef and they're content to leave it that way, just like Cain says, he doesn't know what happened to Abel and he's okay leaving it that way too. The nature of the guilt perhaps in both stories is the same.
Finally, remember how the brothers worry heaven might avenge the blood of Yosef? What Reuven says to the brothers when they're in Egypt; V'gam damo hinei nidrash - his blood is being sought after by heaven. Of course that's the echo from the Cain story also, this fear - not just a fear actually, but a reality that heaven will avenge Abel's blood. V'atah orrur atah min ha'adamah asher patztah et pi'ha lakachat et demei achicha miyadecha - and now cursed are you from the ground that opened up its gaping maw to take your brother's blood from your hands, is what G-d tells Cain. It sort of echoes over here later on in the fear of the brothers, expressed by Reuven; V'gam damo hinei nidrash - his blood is calling out and is sought after by heaven.
So in all of these kind of four ways, the sale of Yosef really does seem to be echoing the story of Cain and Abel. Maybe all this is really suggesting an answer to our question, which is, according to the Rashbam if the brothers didn't really sell Yosef and if they only told a white lie to their father, so what did they really do already? Does it mean that they're aren't to be seen as culpable for what happened? Well maybe they aren't culpable for selling him, maybe the Midianites did that, and maybe they didn't really lie to their father more or less because they really don't know what happened to him? But maybe that's really the point, they don't know, but how much do they care? What they're really doing is they're turning their back on Yosef as a brother. The brothers don't know what happened to Yosef but they're content to leave it that way. Cain doesn't know what happened to Abel but he's okay leaving it that way. That's G-d criticism of Cain in the Cain and Abel story, and it's actually Reuven's criticism of the brothers' behavior in the sale of Yosef story, that we listened to his voice but we didn't respond. Ultimately that's really about what it means to be a brother.
Going back to the coats, remember, when Joseph is stripped of the coats and they talk about two coats; Vayafshitu et Yosef et kutanto, et ketonet hapasim asher alav - and we talked about the doubled coat. Rashi pointing out that the second coat was one that was added for him more than all the other brothers, seemingly a reference to him being firstborn. But remember how many coats is he stripped of? He's stripped by the brothers of both coats. Not only are you not the firstborn, they seem to be saying, you're not even our brother. Again, going back to Rashi; Vayomer ha'ish - what that phantom man said to Yosef as Yosef said, I'm looking for my brothers, I'm looking for my brothers. The phantom man said; Nasu mizeh - they've already left that already. As Rashi explains that Medrashic explanation; Hisi'u atzman min ha'achvah - they've left behind brotherhood, they're not in that mode anymore, they're not treating you as a brother. Maybe this really is where their culpability lies; Nasu mizeh - they've left behind brotherhood.
Indeed, along these lines there's one more fascinating connection between our story of Joseph on the one hand and the story of Cain on the other, and it involves this precise idea, the idea of brotherhood. I want to talk about that when we come back.
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?
Are you a day school teacher?
We have an exciting scholarship account option for you!