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Anyway, so that's Three-card Monte, this really incredible sleight of hand trick, where you've just got to keep your eye on the cards and then all of a sudden the card you're looking at just seems to disappear and then another card takes its place. I want to suggest to you that the Torah is playing almost a mental version of this game with us, this kind of almost sleight of hand trick, in the Joseph story - at least according to the Rashbam. The Rashbam, I'm going to suggest, to you makes a very convincing case for a very fascinating way of looking at the sale of Joseph, where you really, really have to keep your eye on the cards.
Let's take a look at his theory. I suggested to you the three questions that underlie his theory. So again, those questions were, number 1, how come the brothers pull their punches when they discuss their guilt amongst themselves? How come they only talk about themselves being guilty of not listening to his cries? Why don't they just admit to themselves at least, that they sold him? They have nothing to hide - as we talked about before. Number 2, remember, what are the Midianites doing in the story? They just seem to be interjected in there for no good reason. Then number 3, again, this question of where did Reuven go? Which kind of seems almost like a shell game, a Three-card Monte game of itself. You know, you're keeping your eye on Reuven, you're keeping your eye on Reuven, all of a sudden he's not there.
By the way, I don't if I mentioned to you - in case I didn't - Rashi's theory. Rashi is of course the grandfather of the Rashbam. Rashi has a different theory. Rashi says that Reuven evidently went away, he went back to be Mechabed his father - to take care of his father, that's where he went. Then he returned to the brothers. The problem of course that the Rashbam is going to have with this theory, is that the text never tells us that Reuven left, so it just seems to be this kind of black hole and I guess we can assume that Reuven left, but why doesn't the text tell us that if it really happened? Again, the text sort of sets it up in an almost non sequitur kind of way, Reuven is with them, Reuven is with them, never mentions that he leaves, and then all of a sudden Reuven is coming back. So why doesn't the text let us know that he left? So this is the Rashbam's problem with Rashi's theory.
But these are the questions that underlie the Rashbam's assertion that he's going to make here. By the way, the Rashbam does not himself mention all of these questions, he mentions some of them, but I guess I'm suggesting to you that these questions underlie the Rashbam's theory. But one of the points that the Rashbam does make is actually a fourth point. A fourth point that I think is going to be a key to this all, and that's what I want to discuss with you now. Once you see how the Rashbam interprets this, all the other pieces are going to fall into place and kind of this really, very interesting, new perspective on the story is going to unfold. That fourth question is this, where were the brothers when they sat down to eat?
If you go back to the text, the text tells us that the brothers sat down to eat bread immediately after they cast Yosef into the pit. Vayehi k'asher bah Yosef el echov vayafshitu et Yosef et kutanto, et ketonet hapasim asher alav - if you read over here verse 23, so this is the verse in which the brothers strip Joseph, and then; Vayikachuhu vayashlichu oto haborah - then they take him and they throw him in this pit, a pit that's empty that doesn't have any water in it. Then; Vayeishvu le'echol lechem. We talked about these verses before, but the Rashbam wants us to focus on these words over here, the seemingly innocuous fact that immediately after casting Joseph in the pit the brothers sit down amongst themselves and kind of have this picnic. They're sitting down and eating bread. Why do we have to hear about that picnic? What's the whole point of it? It's an interesting question, we'll come back to that sitting down and eating bread, we'll hear an echo later on in the story.
But for now the Rashbam wants us to ask exactly where were the brothers eating? It's actually kind of a geographical question, where were they eating? It's like, who cares where they were eating? But actually it does make a difference. Let's kind of get ourselves a desert landscape here, and I'm going to graph this out for you. Normally the way we think of it is, well the brothers just sat down and they put Joseph in a pit, and then they figured all right he's in the pit, let's have lunch, or something like that. So the brothers are right next to the pit and they're sitting down and eating. So the Rashbam says that's probably not what happened. The brothers wouldn't have wanted to sit down and eat lunch - I mean Joseph is screaming in that pit, it's just not a nice thing, it's unpleasant. They would have been out of earshot, probably out of sight of the pit, when they sat down to eat. So here's what the Rashbam says.
If we call up our little desert scene over here, so let's imagine we've got the pit over here, here's our pit, and the brothers put Joseph in the pit. Now normally we think of - okay, so the brothers are sat down right over here and this is the spot - X marks the spot - where the brothers are eating, and we never really think about the fact that Joseph is screaming and wants to get out, and it just wouldn't be very appetizing. But the Rashbam says that that's not very likely that they ate bread over here. The Rashbam says what probably happened is that the brothers are like over the next hill or something, the brothers are like way out over here, and they're picnicking over here, they're eating and they're kind of thinking about what they've done and they're sort of wondering about it and figuring out what to do next.
Once you say that, once you say that they're over the next ridge, actually everything changes. The whole story takes on a different complexion.
In the next video I'm going to come back and describe to you how it is that that plays out in the Rashbam's theory. But just kind of for fun, I want you to try to anticipate this. See if you can read through Chapter 37 again and taking this perspective that the brothers were here, not here, try to see how that changes everything in the story. How does the story read differently now? What other possibilities emerge? So see what you think, come back and let's talk about it.
1. The First of Three Mysteries
2. Where is Reuven?
3. Three Card Monte
4. Keep Your Eye on the Midianites
5. Rashi and Ramban on 'Who Sold Joseph'
6. Where is Reuven - Redux
7. The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men
8. What Does God Think of All This?
9. Is Apathy the Ultimate Evil?
10. Seven Brothers
12. Still Responsible?
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