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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 14 of 21
It all begins - he argues - right over here in these verses in Bereishit Chapter 30 in which Yaakov tells Lavan his father-in-law that he's leaving him. Remember Yaakov is on the lam running away from Eisav, he comes and he meets this woman by the well, it's Rachel, he falls in love with her, marries her. But in the meantime he comes and before that he sees this man who is potentially going to be his father-in-law Lavan and Lavan offers to take him in, come into my house, hang out for a while, and says, you're related to me, you shouldn't really work for nothing. Before you know it, Yaakov is working in Lavan's household. Eventually it becomes backbreaking work and finally decides that the time has come where he's just going to leave.
Now that time comes - as I talked about before - Yaakov, remember has two wives, he has Rachel and Leah as his wives. He's got a lot more children from Leah, he has six children from Leah, at this point he's got one child from [Rachel 1:30], Yosef. I want to read you these verses that take place immediately after the very birth of this person we've been discussing about, Yosef - Joseph. Here are the verses.
Vatikra et shemo Yosef - so Rachel, who has finally had a child calls the name of this child Yosef. Why does Yosef get this name? Leimor - because she said; Yosef - there's that name again, but here it doesn't just mean his name it's a verb. Yosef Hashem li ben acher - she's so desperate for a child, let G-d add for me another child. Now keep on reading. Vayehi k'asher yaldah Rachel et Yosef vayomer Yaakov el Lavan shalcheini v'elchah el mekomi ul'artzi. Now if you look carefully at verse 25 over here you'll notice something kind of strange, you'll notice a linkage between the two ideas. VAYEHI k'asher yaldah Rachel et Yosef - AND IT WAS, it happened, just as Rachel gave birth to Yosef that Yaakov said to Lavan, let me go and I'm going to go back to my place and to my homeland.
You see the connection? Here is idea number 1; Rachel gives birth to Yosef, and idea number 2 is Yaakov says I want to leave. But the verse creates this linkage between the ideas; And it happened when Rachel had borne Yosef that Yaakov said unto Lavan. So what is this? What is this linkage? Why are these two ideas linked? It seems like there is something about the birth of Yosef that convinces Yaakov that it's time to go, what is that something?
Puzzle over that for a second. What do you think? What could that something be? Try to strain - if you're familiar with the earlier chapters in Bereishit, is there anything in Bereishit that Yaakov might be thinking about? If you think carefully you might just come up with Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory.
So here's what Rabbi Soloveitchik says. He says the answer comes from here, the answer comes from Bereishit Tet-Vav - from Genesis 15, from something that happened a long time ago between Abraham and G-d. What happened? Well what happened in Genesis 15 is what's commonly known as the Brit Bein Ha'besarim - or in English the somewhat clunky name; The Covenant Between the Pieces. Now what happened here is that G-d had appeared to Avraham and had told him, had clued him in, on events that would take place a long time after his death.
What He said to him is the following, is a sort of prophetic nightmare. Vayomer l'Avram - and G-d says to Avraham; Yodo'ah teidah - you shall surely know; Ki ger yiheye zaracha b'eretz loh lahem - your children will be sojourners, will be strangers in a land not their own; V'avodum - and these people will enslave them; V'inui otam arbah me'ot shanah - and they will enslave them and oppress them for a very long time, for 400 years. V'gam et hagoy asher ya'avodu dan onochi - and indeed, the nation that does this; Dan onochi - I Myself will judge; V'acharei ken yeitzu b'rechush gadol - and afterwards everyone is going to leave, your children are going to leave with a lot of wealth. V'atah - and as for you; Tavoh el avotecha b'shalom - you'll die in peace; Tikaver b'seivah tovah - none of this is going to happen in your lifetime. Rather; V'dor revi'i yashuvu heinah - the fourth generation will return here; Ki loh shalem avon ha'emori ad heinah - because the Amorites have not become sufficiently evil to justify My kicking them off the land and giving it to your descendants until then, so we have to put this whole plan on hold for at least four generations.
Now if you think about this, this notation, this idea four generations will return here, Rabbi Soloveitchik says, Yaakov would have been aware of that. Remember, Yaakov is that not far from Avraham, Avraham gives birth to Yitzchak, Yitzchak gives birth to Yaakov, Avraham is the grandfather here. Everyone would have known about this prophecy that Grandfather had. It's kind of running around Yaakov's head, the fourth generation is going to return here, the fourth generation is going to return here. Well the question mark, who is the fourth generation?
So here's what Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests, that Yaakov could do math, and then he says, all right, well let's start with Abraham. Abraham so he is going to be generation number 1. Yitzchak my father - Isaac - so he's going to be generation number 2. Me, Jacob - Yaakov - I'm going to be generation number 3. And my child - in this case Yosef - is going to be generation number 4. That's exactly what's going on over here. Vayehi k'asher yaldah Rachel et Yosef - and it came to pass when Rachel bore Yosef, when the fourth generation came, that Yaakov said to Lavan, okay it's time to leave, it's happening.
In other words, remember, nobody knows what's going to happen - we know, the readers of the Torah, we know in retrospect that what was G-d talking about over here? G-d was talking about Egypt, but remember Abraham doesn't know that, Isaac doesn't know that and Jacob doesn't know that. All G-d said was; Yodo'ah teidah ki ger yiheye zaracha b'eretz loh lahem - your people will be enslaved in a land not their own. Nobody knows exactly what it means to say that the children are going to be enslaved in a land not their own. The name of the land isn't specified. It comes to mean Egypt, but it didn't have to mean Egypt.
Yaakov thinks - Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests - that it means Lavan. Yaakov looks around and says, all right, I'm somewhere in a land not my own, have I been in slavery? Well yeah, I've been in slavery. So the prophecy is a stranger in a land not their own and they're going to end up serving them, I've been doing this backbreaking work for Lavan all this time. Not 400 years but for a long time. By the way in retrospect, the Jews actually didn't spend 400 years in Egypt either, it was 210 years. So anyway 400 years just in the end seems like an exaggeration. Yaakov thought, oh I was here for a while, long time, fourth generation is supposed to return, maybe it's me? Maybe it's me?
Now of course we would argue in retrospect we know otherwise, but Yaakov didn't know otherwise, but isn't it interesting that if this theory is correct Yosef is the fourth generation? You can say, what do you mean Yosef if the fourth generation, he had all these children before then? But - Rabbi Soloveitchik would argue - in Yaakov's eyes, he didn't, right? Rachel was the wife he was always meant to have, the firstborn would always be the first child from Rachel. In the words of the Medrash; the woman that I had always been destined to marry, the woman that I had worked for, her first child is Yosef, that's my real Bechor. Of course it's true, Yosef is Rachel's first child and if Yaakov is looking at her that way, the wife he was always supposed to marry, Yosef is his real legacy. In a certain kind of way Yosef is my first child, my first child from Rachel. The wife, in his eyes, that he was destined to marry. This is Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory.
But it turns out there's actual even more evidence that this theory is true, which is to say, that Yaakov is viewing Yosef as his Bechor - as his firstborn child. There's another clue right in Chapter 37, right in the story of the sale of Joseph. A very subtle clue, but it's a clue pointed at by Rashi. Can you find that clue, which seems to really, really support this theory - and I think move it from the realm of mere theory to something which really I believe there's very strong evidence for? If you can, comb through the Rashis here, see what you come up with, and when we come back I'll clue you in on my thoughts on 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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