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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 15 of 21
So I want to direct your attention actually to a little piece of text - in particular a comment by Rashi which, if nothing else, seems to suggest that Rashi believed that this was true. Here's the piece of text I want you to look at, it is the story of the sale of Joseph, it is the text's account of Yosef actually being stripped of his coat before he's thrown into the pit. Right before he's thrown into the pit the brothers take him and they strip him of his coat and here is what the text says. Vayehi k'asher bah Yosef el echov - and it happened when Joseph came to his brothers; Vayafshitu et Yosef et kutanto - they stripped Joseph his coat; Et ketonet hapasim asher alav - his multicolored coat, his special coat which he was wearing.
Now if you listen carefully to the text you'll see that the fact that Joseph was stripped seems to get repeated. It's not just that once, it seems to get repeated. So first you have this idea; Vayafshitu et Yosef et kutanto - the first time we hear it, Joseph is stripped of his coat right over here. He stripped Joseph his coat - in English. But then it again says one more time; Et ketonet hapasim asher alav - his coat which was upon him, the coat of many colors that was upon him.
Again, as I mentioned to you at the very beginning, this is why I really like the 1917 translation of the JPS. As archaic as it sounds, this kind of words over here; As it came to pass, but it preserves this kind of stuff over here, this kind of double language, which many other translators would be frankly tempted to kind of wash away and to take away these kinds of things and to make the text read easier. They would just put one in and they would eliminate the other. In fact, I believe that the JPS, the new JPS translation, actually does just this. The old translation is much better than this, the new translation reads much better but it reads better because it takes these awkward kinds of things out of the text, but the awkward kinds of things are actually windows into meaning. Here it's a very crucial window into meaning, the fact that the verse repeats twice this idea that Joseph is stripped.
So it turns out that we weren't the only ones who saw this, Rashi saw it and Rashi comments on it. Now I'm going to show you a Rashi that actually quotes a Medrash, and again, when I first show it to you you're going to say, oh, come on, that's kind of crazy, it just seems like a strange sort of thing. But again, I want to caution to you, when the Medrash says stuff it has its own way of talking, it talks to you with a wink and a nod and you really have to pay attention to what it is that it's saying. Because it will say things that sound trivial or strange or fantastic, but if you listen carefully you'll see that they are just kind of tapping you on the shoulder and nudging you in the direction of something very, very fascinating. But it's up to you to figure out what it means.
So here is the Medrashic comment that Rashi quotes. So Rashi says the following - very, very briefly. Rashi says, the first time; Vayehi k'asher bah Yosef el echov vayafshitu et Yosef et kutanto - when it says that they stripped him of his coat, the first time it says it, it means; Zeh chaluk. It means that was kind of his undershirt, that was his regular coat. That was the coat which all the brothers had. But when it then says; Et ketonet hapasim - when it says that he stripped him of his special coat, that actually refers to another coat, a second coat. Hu she'hosif lo aviv yoter al echov - this is the second coat that his father added upon him - a little play on words over here; Yosef literally means add - if you remember those were the words that Rachel said when Yosef was born; Let G-d add another child for me. So in other words, this coat was the coat that was added - that his father added for him more than all the brothers. In other words, all of his brothers had one coat but Yosef had two. He had this special coat too.
Now at face value when you listen to this Rashi, this seems like the most trivial Rashi in the entire Bible. Like, I don't care how many coats that Joseph had, why do I need to know this kind of trivia? Here I am, at the most climactic, the most disastrous moment in Genesis, there's brothers throwing another brother inside a pit and about to sell him off to slavery, and Rashi is concerned about telling me whether Joseph still had his undershirt on. Whether Yosef was wearing his undershirt, he wasn't wearing his undershirt, how many coats did they strip him of, what is going on? It's not really Rashi, it's really this Medrash over here - Bereishit Rabah over here, these parentheses indicate that this is actually quoted from a Medrash. What is the Medrash telling me? Why do I care about any of this?
The answer is boy do I care. The Medrash is actually telling you something with a wink and a nod. Can you figure out what this Medrash is actually trying to tell us? Let's come back and compare notes in this.
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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