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Goats and Coats
Video 8 of 14
That is the following; we all know - we all think we know that Egyptian slavery was prophesized to Abraham. In Chapter 15 Abraham is told that his children are going to be slaves and they're going to be slaves for 400 years, and we all know this is going to happen. But again, as I mentioned to you before, that promise in actuality developed into Egyptian slavery but it didn't necessarily have to be Egyptian slavery. In other words, you can't read with the end in mind. The ultimate way that this prophecy happened to come to fruition was from the Jews spending actually 210 years - not 400 years - in Egyptian slavery, but you'll never find the word Egypt mentioned once over here.
Vayomer l'Avram yodo'ah teidah - you should surely know; Ki ger yiheye zaracha b'eretz loh lahem - your progeny are going to be sojourners in a land not their own. And a land not their own could be anywhere. V'avodum - and they will be slaves; V'inui otam arbah me'ot shanah - and they'll be enslaved for 400 years. Didn't even end up being 400 years. V'gam et hagoy asher ya'avodu dan onochi - even this nation that subjugates them I will judge them and then they'll come out; B'rechush gadol - with a great amount of wealth. Don't worry Abraham it won't happen to you, you'll be buried in a ripe old age. Then this mysterious prophecy; V'dor revi'i yashuvu heinah - the fourth generation will return here.
There's so many elements of ambiguity of exactly what this will mean. The fourth generation - what does that mean exactly? You're going to come out with a great amount of wealth. Well it's true the Jews came out of Egypt with a great amount of wealth, G-d saw to it [and that 2:44]. But again, there's so many things that are fluid, where is it going to be? Exactly when is it going to be? Is it going to be four generations from now? Or will it be later? Four hundred years? Again, as it happens, the Medieval Commentators struggle to figure out the 400 years, you have to start it from before the Jews came down to Egypt, from earlier times.
I mentioned to you before Rabbi Soloveitchik's theory that Jacob in fact thought that this whole prophecy, this promise of slavery, was actually coming true through to him. He was in his father-in-law Lavan's house, he was in a position which looked a lot like slavery. He looked like he was being oppressed. He made sure to come out B'rechush Gadol - with a lot of wealth. He thinks of himself as the fourth generation who is going to return. And, as we talked about before, it's possible that he wasn't wrong, it wasn't necessarily that he was wrong, maybe it could have been true? I mean interestingly enough, as I think I mentioned to you before, he ends up being in, so to speak, slavery in his father-in-law's house for 21 years, the Jews end up being in slavery for 210 years. It's an interesting kind of correspondence 21 and 210, it almost seems as if what Jacob lives out as a personal person, as a microcosm, later on the Jews enact on a the macro level. It's just a macro version of what he experienced in his own life. Maybe it could have been that this would have been the fulfillment of Abraham's prophecy. History didn't end up working out that way but perhaps history could have worked that way, maybe something changed.
This, I think, it begins to give us the platform to understand the deep significance of Mechirat Yosef - the sale of Joseph, because that's when it changed. That's when - we know at that point that it's not going to be this little microcosmic thing that's going to be the fulfillment of Abraham's promise, but the Jews in Chapter 46 are on their way down to Egypt, there's going to be a macro version of this, there's going to be the 210 years of slavery.
By the way, what's particularly intriguing about this theory that maybe Jacob was right, is you could sort of even test it. Maybe Jacob wasn't so wrong when he thought that Abraham's prophecy could be fulfilled through him, that his experience in his father-in-law's household might have been the fulfillment of that prophecy. Because there's this very intriguing set of parallels actually between Jacob's experience in his father-in-law's house and the Jews' experience in Egypt. I'll just kind of quickly list some of them, it's really kind of remarkable.
Here's what happens when Jacob is in the house of Lavan. So if you remember here he is, he's on the lam, he's running away from his brother, so he comes to just stay for a little while, but he ends up staying there for a long time. He just thinks that he's coming for Yamim Achadim - just a few days, he tells his mother, but he ends up being there for, again, 21 years. Next thing, there's this sort of deceptive descent into slavery, Lavan isn't really so honest with him. He says; Hachi achi atah va'avadetani chinam - so you're my brother, you should work for nothing? Who said anything about work? Before he knows it, Jacob is working, he's in his house, and then Lavan keeps on switching around the deal, and before he knows it he's in this dependent position and can't really get out of it, and he's there for 21 years. This very difficult, sort of backbreaking work.
If you look at the persona of Lavan himself, he starts out as a father figure, but ends up kind of being a slave driver - he's literally a father figure. At the end Yaakov takes great wealth from Lavan on the way out. Remember there's this whole story, there's Divine intervention, where there are these goats and he's going to have the spotted and the speckled goats and he ends up getting a tremendous amount of wealth due to Divine intervention. When he leaves, he leaves sort of deceptively, he leaves in the middle of the night and Lavan when he finds out, he chases after Yaakov. Not only does he chase after Yaakov, he eventually catches up to Yaakov. And of course the grand total of the time in Lavan's house, 21years.
Now if you take each one of these color-coded elements you can actually match them up with events that happen over here, the Jews in the house of Egypt. Every one of these things, the brown, the orange, the lavender, the - it all happens and just watch. Remember Yaakov comes to stay for a bit ends up settling for a long time, that's exactly how the Jews ended up [coming to 6:48] Egypt, they tell Pharaoh we're just coming for a little while, until the famine breaks, well they end up staying there for 210 years. There's the same sort of deceptive descent into slavery, the same kind of backbreaking work. The Jews first they get subjected to taxation, the taxation eventually evolves into slavery, same kind of thing that you had with Jacob. Remember how Lavan started out as a father figure and ended up being a slave driver? Well Pharaoh, the original Pharaoh at least, what was his relationship to Joseph like? Very much like a father figure. He actually gives Joseph a new name, he actually gives him a wife, he loves him, he takes care of him, he's exactly like a father figure. What kind of person gives you a new name? What kind of person gives you a wife? It's like your father. But Pharaoh - or the next Pharaoh - ends up being a slave driver.
Do you remember how Yaakov takes great wealth from Lavan on the way out due to Divine intervention? Exactly the same thing that happens with the Jews, the Jews take great wealth from Egypt on the way out, G-d goes and gives the Chen Ha'am Hazeh - gives grace to the people in the eyes of their Egyptian neighbors. The Jews go into the Egyptian households and say, hi, can we have some stuff? Can we borrow some things? The neighbors just give them all this great wealth and the Jews walk out with great wealth from Egypt. Remember how Lavan chased after Yaakov? Pharaoh once the Jews leave chases after the Jews. Same language by the way; Vayirdof, exactly the same verb. When Lavan catches up to them same language as Pharaoh catching up; Vayasigem - same language as Vayaseg. Time in Lavan's house 21 years, time in Pharaoh's house 210 years.
So it really looks like Jacob wasn't really wrong, maybe it could have been that this was the fulfillment of the promise. Indeed when the promise is actually fulfilled in history as we know it, the exact same events happen. It seems like he wasn't really so off the mark. So again if we read without the end in mind, the possibility exists that this could have been the real deal.
That, I think, again, is the necessary platform for understanding the development of the promises of land and children throughout the Book of Bereishit, and for in particular understanding the cataclysmic effect of the sale of Yosef. This sort of backwards Akeidah, what I'm calling sort of unraveling or temporary delay - delay by a factor of centuries - in the realization of the promises, the blessings of the Akeidah. That the Jews will get their own land, will come into the land of Canaan, will inherit it, will conquer their enemies and will be a great nation. We're going to come back and explore exactly how [this is so 9:13] in the next video.
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