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In this video, we still ask, why does the Torah end the narrative sections with the story of Yair ben Menashe conquering some towns? In finding the answer, Rabbi Fohrman teaches us about true reconciliation: brothers taking care of brothers.
This is Rabbi David Fohrman and welcome to Parshat Masei.
This video continues last week and in which we focused on a strange almost trivial saga of the family of [Hebrew 00:13]. [Hebrew 00:15] the child of Menasha, in their little known conquest in the land of Gilead through a man by the name of [Hebrew 00:21]. Who was [Hebrew 00:23], as we talked about last week his lineage is seems confused, he is described in one way in the book of numbers and in another way in the book of chronicle. I would like to come back and offer a theory about who [Hebrew 00:34] was. A child of Yahuda, who perhaps in someway sublimates the identity and appears almost as an adopted child of Joseph.
It all goes back to Gilead, this land which [Hebrew 00:47] was so instrumental about conquering. The name of that land, Gilead seems to come from a covenant known as [Hebrew 00:54] sealed between Laban and Yaakov and we began to talk, last week about the dark history of that covenant. Yaakov and Laban had taken a pile of stones and Laban had said, this pile of stones will be a witness between you and I, God will look out from here, long after you and I have left and will judge between us and indeed, it was so. Yaakov have absconded from Laban’s household, Laban’s idols, these traphim, they are in the possession of Rachel and Laban, aware of that, that they have been taken expecting that someone in Yaakov’s camp has them, goes through an exhaustive search and can’t find them and he is deceived by Rachel and at the end, he seals this covenant, [Hebrew 01:37] but before he does, Yaakov had made a fateful promise that will come back to haunt him, [Hebrew 01:42], ‘With whomever is found your Gods, they will not live and indeed, Rachel doesn’t live. In the birth of Benjamin, she dies before her time and the sages identify that death as being connected in someway, with the terrible legacy of [Hebrew 02:00].
I suggested that last week, that the legacy is not over with the death of Rachel. For indeed for Yaakov to really loose Rachel, he would not have to loose just her but her children as well.
We talked last week about the loss of Joseph and how, if you look up the story, ‘The sail of Joseph’, all of the language of that sail hares back to [Hebrew 02:22]. But if you weren’t convinced there, let me try and add a little bit wood to that fire and convince you now.
At [Hebrew 02:30], Yaakov protesting Laban’s accusations against him, unaware again, that Rachel has in fact taken the traphim, explodes in anger against his father in law. Once his father in law turns up empty, he says, ‘what did you find out anyway as you went searching through all of my stuff?’ [Hebrew 02:48], ‘these 20 years that I have been with you, I have been a faithful worker for you, what’s ever gone wrong?’ [Hebrew 02:56], ‘The goats of yours that I have watched over, none of them ever miscarried’. [Hebrew 03:02], ‘There weren’t any sudden disappearances from your flocks, I was an honest worker. I took care of everything’. [Hebrew 03:11], ‘I never came to you with a torn up animal that I haven’t properly shielded from predator and’, [Hebrew 03:18], ‘If there was anything missing, I was the one who bore the loss of it. You have always come after me’. [Hebrew 03:25], ‘Didn’t matter whether it was stolen by days, stolen by night, you have always come after me and I replaced it’. When we look back over this little speech that Yaakov has given, we play our favorite game, where else do we hear those words. You will find no less than four references that take you to dark events later on in Yaakov’s life.
[Hebrew 03:49], Yaakov says. [Hebrew 03:54], what an interesting word. Your Rachel, [Hebrew 03:57], never miscarried. Did Rachel ever miscarry? She did have a pregnancy where labor was exceedingly difficult but she didn’t miscarry the child. It was a live birth and instead it was Rachel herself who had died, in the birth of Benjamin. Had she only miscarried, early in her pregnancy, perhaps she would have lived. [Hebrew 04:19], Yaakov says, ‘I have never brought something torn up to you’. ‘Torn up’, that’s the exact words that Yaakov himself says, when he is presented with the bloody coat. [Hebrew 04:32], Joseph, Joseph has been torn up. [Hebrew 04:35], Yaakov says, ‘you will always come and claim it for me’. Who else said those words, almost exactly like that? [Hebrew 04:45], that was Yahuda speaking about Benjamin, another of Rachel’s children. Yaakov had not wanted to allow Benjamin to go down to Egypt, he had already lost Joseph, didn’t want to lose the last of Rachel’s kids but then Yahuda says, ‘No, you can always come and claim him from me’. Yahuda is echoing the words of his father. [Hebrew 05:06], where else in Tanah, do we have a double [Hebrew 05:12] like that? It is Joseph himself, Joseph in prison. [Hebrew 05:16], Joseph had said in prison, ‘I was stolen, kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews’, everything Yaakov says to Laban, comes back to haunt him, in the stories that involves the loss of Rachel’s children and indeed, last week we focused on the loss of Joseph and it is not Joseph, Rachel has another child, Benjamin. Where was Benjamin going to be lost? Benjamin is lost later in the book of Genesis when Joseph, high Egyptian official, frames Benjamin by placing his silver goblet in his sack. The tribes leave the city, Joseph tells his henchman, [Hebrew 05:55], ‘Go pursue those men, catch up to them’, [Hebrew 06:02], ‘Go tell them’, [Hebrew 06:04], ‘why did you repay my kindness with such evil?’ Look at these words carefully, ‘pursue’, ‘catch up with’, where else did we have someone racing after someone else, catching up with them and making this self-righteous claim, ‘How could you leave like this?’ This is Laban, its happening again. It is as Joseph, who’s taken by the long arm of [Hebrew 06:30], by the long arm of Laban is now assuming the persona in a way of Laban himself, mimicking Laban and coming t take away the other child of Rachel. To deprive the family of Jacob, him too and it is the same language as Laban, [Hebrew 06:45], the verse says. Same language catching up, [Hebrew 06:48] Laban Yaakov, it is all the same language. Once again, the victim was caught unaware. The victim in the traphim story was Yaakov but now, the victim is Yahuda. He too doesn’t know, that there’s someone within his camp with the stuff that has been sought after and he too, makes a statement that will come to haunt him.
[Hebrew 07:09], ‘With whomever you find it, they will die’. It is the same thing that Yaakov had said and then there is the search. Laban has searched Yaakov’s possessions, starting with the oldest, Leah. Ending with the youngest, Rachel, one more time, [Hebrew 07:25], and then they found the goblet.
This is the moment when everything could be lost, all of Rachel’s children and Laban, could have his final victory but in the end, that final victory is prevented. Laban doesn’t prevail, Joseph and Benjamin, remain ultimately part of the Jewish family, part of Jacob’s household. Why – because of Yahuda. Yahuda recalls, that he has personally pledged that he will bring Benjamin home to Yaakov, come what may and he makes an impassioned speech to Joseph where he lays out the truth, he tells him the whole story. He says, I took responsibility for this kid, father have already lost one of the children of his beloved wife Rachel. I can’t allow him to lose too.
Yahuda comes face to face with the terrible reality, father loves Rachel, loves her more even than my own mother. There was a time when I was willing to sell a child of Yaakov’s precious Rachel because I couldn’t face that reality but this will not be that time. Take me instead, let Benjamin go home to his father. Joseph is overcome with emotion, reveals himself and now, both Joseph and Benjamin, return to Yaakov’s family.
So, as we close the book of Genesis, we see the beginning of [Hebrew 08:56] legacy, the attempt of [Hebrew 09:00], this covenant that Yaakov seals with Laban, to grab the children of Rachel and [Hebrew 09:06] is foiled, vanquished by non other than Yahuda. That same Yahuda who came up with the idea, let’s sell him, is responsible for saving both Benjamin and Joseph and bringing them back into the fold. Yahuda is responsible for making sure that there’s such thing as a tribe of Joseph among the Jewish people and now, at the close of [Hebrew 09:28], we hear about [Hebrew 09:31] one last time.
Indeed, Gilead, this land that gets its name through [Hebrew 09:38] is taken for the Jewish people, by non-other than a man called [Hebrew 09:43], a child of Menasha and yet, as we point it out, in the book of chronicles, we learn that he was only related through his grandmother, to Menasha. His tribal affiliation is Judah. It is the final act of reconciliation.
Centuries after Yahuda vanquished the ghost of [Hebrew 10:05]. A child of Yahuda, captures [Hebrew 10:08] one more time, captures Gilead on behalf of the child of Joseph. [Hebrew 10:14], the child from Yahuda ensures, that Gilead will become part of not just Jewish territory, part of Joseph’s territory. It will become part of the tribe of Menasha. His grandmother is a daughter of [Hebrew 10:27]. What a strange name [Hebrew 10:30]. Sure sounds a lot like [Hebrew 10:33], doesn’t it? The same letters as the sails as if Menasha named his child after the sail Joseph and now, comes a child, [Hebrew 10:42] from Yahuda who conquers these villages and could have claimed them for his own tribe but doesn’t, he becomes an adopted child of Menasha’s tribe and takes it for Joseph. The last action piece of the Jews 40 years adjourning in the desert ends with brothers, taking care f brothers. And with his selfless act, [Hebrew 11:05] helps to vanquish the ghosts of [Hebrew 11:08], one last time.
1. V'Zot Habracha: Looking Towards the Future - Part 3/3
2. Ha'azinu: A Unique Nation - Part 2/3
3. Nitzavim-Vayeilech: Where's the Happy Ending? - Part 1/3
4. Ki Tavo: Answer
5. Ki Tavo: Question
6. Ki Teitzei: Answer
7. Ki Teitzei: Question
8. Shoftim: Epilogue 2
9. Shoftim: Epilogue 1
10. Shoftim: The Line Between Murder And Apathy
11. Re'eh: Jewish Slavery
12. Part II: Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?
13. Part I: Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?
14. Va'etchanan: Seeing Layers in the Ten Commandments
15. Devarim: What Does It Mean To Have Faith?
16. Masei: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic? II
17. Matot: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic?
18. Pinchas: What Does It Mean To Be Zealous For God?
19. Balak: Balaam, Prophet For Hire?
20. Chukat: Was Hitting the Rock So Horrible?
21. Korach: Can We Influence God?
22. Shelach: Is Hope Irrational?
23. Behaalotecha: A Guide For...Parenting? Part II
24. Naso: A Guide For...Parenting?
25. Bamidbar: Who Cares About Genealogy?
26. Bechukotai: Why Would God Curse His People?
27. Behar: Why Does Land Have To Rest?
28. Emor: Is There A Shabbat In Other Realms?
29. Kedoshim: How Can I Achieve True Love?
30. Acharei Mot: The (Surprising) Purpose of Yom Kippur
31. Metzora: Living Within the Community
32. Tazria: The Bizarre Purification of the Metzora
33. Shemini: Why Did God Reject Nadav and Avihu?
34. Tzav: What Does It Mean To Survive?
35. Vayikra: Can Leaders Make Mistakes?
36. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
37. Vayakhel: What Does It Mean To Be Tzelem Elokim?
38. Ki Tisa: Moshe's Benevolent Chutzpah
39. Tetzaveh: Where Is God In a Physical World?
40. Terumah: Is There a Face Hiding in the Tabernacle?
41. Mishpatim: Female Servitude...Wait, What?
42. Yitro: The Marriage of God and Israel
43. Beshalach: What Does It Mean to Have Faith?
44. Bo: Did God Really Need Ten Plagues?
45. Va'era: Did God Take Away Pharaoh's Free Will?
46. Shmot: If Midrash is Real, Why Isn't It Peshat?
47. Vayechi: Who is Joseph's Real Father?
48. Vayigash: The Epic Confrontation Between Judah and Joseph
49. Miketz: Why Didn't Joseph Write Home?
50. Vayeishev: Who Really Sold Joseph?
51. Vayishlach: Becoming a Person of Integrity
52. Vayeitzei: Consequences of Yaakov's Deceit
53. Toldot: A Conversation For the Ages
54. Chayei Sarah: What Makes For A Successful Life?
55. Vayeira: Abraham's Struggle With Loyalty
56. Lech Lecha: Covenant With God
57. Bereishit: Does Man 'Acquire' Woman?
58. Noach: Why Did God Destroy the World?
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