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I suggested to you in our last little video that our laws here seem to hark back to our history, to the Yaakov and Esau story and if you look a little bit further, that trend actually seems to kind of continue, read for example, just two verses later, Vegonev ish umecharo venimtza veyado mot yumat, if somebody steals somebody, kidnaps them and sells them and then is found in their hands, so that person is liable to death. Now, if you just think about kidnapping someone and selling them, did that ever happen on our history? Oh yeah, that actually did happen, that would be the sale of Joseph seemingly and it chronologically works out, you know, first the Torah tells us in verse 13 and 14 about Yaakov and Esav and then two verses later, it is telling us about the sale of Joseph, Yaakov and Esav happens before the sale of Joseph. What’s more that there’s connections between the stories of Yaakov and Esav and Joseph. Yaakov and Esau, I have referred to you before in our Haggadah course, as goats and coats 1. And the story of Joseph is really goats and coats 2. What is it that Yaakov uses to deceive his brother and his father – in goats and coats 1, on the story of the deception, he puts on the coats of Esau and he slaughters a goat and brings it to his father and what it is that the brothers use to deceive their father in the story of Joseph? They slaughter a goat and they put it on the coat of Joseph, it is goats and coats 2.
So, these stories kind of mirror each other in interesting ways and here you see them back to back where vestiges of them back to back, right here in Mishpatim. Right after our references to Yaakov and Esau, we got this reference to Joseph and his brothers and by the way, the same pattern seems to emerge here as well. I suggested you in our last video, the Torah is kind of using the raw material of Yaakov and Esau story to then create these laws and to play off of them, sort of playing ‘what if’. What if Esau would have gone ahead and killed Yaakov? He would have been liable for murder. Vechi-yazid ish al-re’ehu lehorgo ve’ormah, but he plots to kill him secretly and then kills them then he would be liable for murder and it is a capital crime. Now, that didn’t actually happen in the Esau story, didn’t go quite that far but there was the plot, there was the intent and a similar kind of thing is happening just two verses later, when we refer to the story of Joseph. Again the Torah is sort of playing ‘What if’ and here I refer you to last year’s course where we talked about Joseph and his brothers, where I talked to you about Rashbam’s theory. The Rashbam’s theory actually is that the brothers didn’t actually sell Joseph, they never actually did that. They plotted to sell him but it wasn’t them. It was the Midianite traders that beat them to it, that came to the pit while the brothers were still eating lunch and they pulled out Joseph and sold him. That at least is the Rashbam’s theory. So again, the Torah is sort of playing, ‘What if’, what if this would have happened? What if they would have actually done it, kidnapped and sold him, they would have been liable to death but they didn’t do it. And by the way if you see this is harking back to the sale of Joseph, it also answers another question, the question that Rashi is bothered with.
You see in the verse, what does it even mean, gonev ish umecharo, if somebody steals a person and by the way, the word gonev is specifically used with reference to Joseph. Joseph complains when he is in dungeon, ganov gunavti mibeit haIvrim, ‘I was stolen from the hands of the Hebrew’, so the Torah is actually using that word. Now, to talk about this sort of Joseph-like case, someone’s stolen, just like Joseph was and sold, just like Joseph was, of course the word umechoro, over here in the verse, evokes the word for mechirat Yosef, for the actual sale of Joseph, same word used in the sale and then nimtza veyado, and it is found in his hand, now the problem of course here is what do you mean it is found in his hand, how could that even be? I mean if a perpetrator acts, right? If Bob goes and kidnaps Steve and sells him, then nimtza veyado, what does that even mean that he is found in Bob’s hand, he is not found in Bob’s hand. Bob sold him, Bob sold Steve to Alice, so it would be on Alice’s hand, what do you even mean, nimtza veyado, that he was found on Bob’s hand? He doesn’t have him anymore.
So Rashi is bothered by this, Rashi says, well the verse is kind of out of order, it should have said that vegonev ish venimtza veyado mecharo, that of a person stole someone else, then he was caught red-handed or you can prove that he was in his hands and then he sold him. That’s when he would be liable but it is almost kind of out of order, why is it written out of order? But if you go back again, to where this is coming from in the Torah, it actually sort of make sense, right? Because think about the Joseph story. Gonev ish would be stealing him and then mecharo, selling him. Now what happens after that? Think about that word matza, the root matza. Do we ever have the root matza, find, in the Joseph story? And oh yes, we do because when the brothers come to their father and they have the coat and they present it to the father and they say, zot matzanu, ‘this we found’. And it happens afterwards, right?
First they took him and they kind of stole of him and then he was sold and then they come to father, venimtza veyado, and what’s in his hand, the coat is in his hand. You know, it is following the chronology of the story of Joseph. And again the idea is that the brothers didn’t really do it. Indeed when the brothers presented this to the father, what was in their hands? A coat without a person, right? That’s the only thing there was. The person was gone, they didn’t even sell him. They stole him, yes. The Rashbam, others sold him, all there is in our hands is this coat. That’s all that’s nimtza beyad.
But then the Torah is playing off of that, saying ‘what if’. What if the person who stole him, sold him and what if you could prove it, what if that person was caught red handed, they knew it was him. That the person who was stole was found in his hands. Then he would be liable for the death penalty. Again, the Torah is using our own history as its template to shape and create these laws. And by the way, it may well even be from the surrounding verses also, there’s two other verses that seem to just come out of nowhere in this Parsha. Makeh aviv ve’imo mot yumat umekalel aviv ve’imo mot yumat, if you strike your father and mother, it is a capital crime. You curse your mother and father, it is a capital crime. Now think of goats and coats 1 and goats and coats 2, does that remind you of anything? If there’s any blow against father and against mother, and if you go back to goats and coats 1, what’s Rebecca say? Rebecca says you better run away because I couldn’t bear to lose you both on the same day, oti shikaltim. It would be as if I was, I miscarried you both if I’d lose you. It would be a terrible thing. Rebecca then goes even further and says, if you go and if you marry somebody from the land of Kanaan, somebody that is not fitting for you to marry, right after the story of deception she tells this to Yaakov, so it would be as if I was dead, it would be like you are killing me. Oh well, if you strike your mother and father, you know that’s capital crime too. The Torah is playing off of those ideas. Similarly, umekalel aviv ve’imo, what about cursing mother and father? Do we have any of that in goats and coats, we do. In goats and coats one. Remember when Rebecca says, when she tries to entice Yaakov. Yaakov is reluctant, I don’t want to do it. What if father sees what I am doing and thinks I am deceiving him, veheveti alay klalah velo verachah, and he will end up cursing me and not blessing me. What does she say? Alay kilelatecha beni, now in that case, your curse will go upon me, my son. A case of cursing mother. The Torah is playing with that, saying, yeah, you know, if you actually did curse your mother that would be a capital crime.
The Torah is using our history as a kind of template and building our laws out of that history.
1. Bereishit: Thank You, God...For Not Making Me A Woman?
2. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
3. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
4. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
5. Vayeira: Epilogue
6. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
7. Vayeitzei: Understanding Rachel's World
8. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
9. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
10. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
11. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
12. Vayechi: A Tap On The Shoulder
13. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
14. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
15. Bo: God's Justice In Action
16. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
17. Beshalach: Epilogue
18. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
19. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
20. Mishpatim: Epilogue
21. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
22. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
23. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
24. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
25. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
26. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
27. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
28. Tzav: Epilogue
29. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
30. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
31. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
32. Emor: An Epic View of Jewish Holidays
33. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
34. Bamidbar: Why We Count
35. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
36. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
37. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
38. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
39. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
40. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
41. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
42. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
43. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
44. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
45. Re'eh: Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
46. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
47. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
48. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
49. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
50. Vayeilech: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 1/3
51. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
52. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
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