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Echoes of the Future
Video 10 of 17
It's this language right here. Onochi E'ervenu - I will be the pledge for him. Then centuries later; V'et arubotom tikach - what could that mean? Well it turns out we were not the first people to see this. Long ago, thousands of years ago, our Sages saw it in the ancient form of commentary known as Medrash. Here's what they say in Medrash Tanchuma connecting these two phrases. What does it all mean? Here's what they say it means. I'm going to quote it for you in Hebrew - I don't have a handy translation of that Tanchuma available. But here's what it says.
Omar Yishai l'Dovid beno - when Yishai was sending David out to check on his brothers - so evocative of the story of the Joseph. What Yishai was in fact saying to David his son when he said, and take the Orev with you, he was in effect saying the following. Harei hasho'oh lekayem oso ha'arvah shel zekeinecha - the time has come after all of these years for you to uphold the collateral that your great, great grandfather, your ancestor, Judah himself pledged. She'orov et Binyamin miyad aviv - that he pledged himself as collateral for Benjamin for his father. Shene'emar onochi e'ervenu - as it says in the text, I, Judah will be the Orev, will be the collateral for Benjamin. Send us down, allow Benjamin to come with me. Now - Yishai is saying - Lech v'hotzi oto m'arvuto - the time has come for you to make good on your pledge.
What is collateral? Collateral is when there's a debt that's owed and a third party steps in and says, you can count on me if the debtor cannot repay, I will repay. Well, one more time we have Judah and Benjamin, except we're no longer in the Book of Genesis we're in the Book of Samuel. In the Book of Samuel, Judah looks like the scion of the dynasty of Judah, which is going to be King David. What does Benjamin look like? Benjamin looks like King Saul. Saul is the king from the tribe of Benjamin, Saul has a debt that he cannot repay, Saul is frozen by the sight of Goliath, it is up to Saul, King of the Jews to fight Goliath but he can't do it, he's in need of some third party to come and help him, to bail him out, to somehow pay his debt. That is going to be David.
Lech v'hotzi oto m'arvuto - the time has come for you to make good on your pledge and one more time to redeem Benjamin. Shene'emar v'et achicha tifkod leshalom v'et arubotom tikach. This is what it means when Yishai says, and make sure to take the Orev, it's this little hint to the legacy of King David going all the way back to the Book of Genesis. Ein arubotom elah arvot - this word Arubotom that appears in Samuel refers to Arvot, refers to collateral, refers to pledging oneself in place of another. Mah asah Dovid - so what did David do? Halach v'kayem et ha'arvot - he went and he actually fulfilled this pledge. V'harag et Goliat - he killed Goliath and he redeemed Saul from a debt that Saul himself could not repay. Just like his ancestor Judah did.
Now, read the end of this Medrash, and it's quite chilling. Omar lei Hakodosh Baruch Hu - when G-d saw this, the Holy One Blessed be He said; Chayecha - by your life; Keshem shenatata nafshecha al Shaul - David, just as you have given your soul, have risked your life for Saul; Shehu mishivto shel Binyamin - who is the scion of the tribe of Benjamin. Keshem she'asah Yehuda zekeinecha - just like your ancestor Judah did; Al Binyamin - for the original Benjamin. Shene'emar v'ata yeishev nah avdecha tachat hana'ar - as Judah has said, and now I will be the slave instead of Benjamin. Eved la'adoni. Because you did that; Kach ani noten Beit Hamikdash b'gevulecha u'b'gevul Binyamin - because you did that I will put the Holy Temple in your territory and in the territory of Benjamin.
The Temple sits at the nexus of the territory of Benjamin and the territory of Judah. This is why. It's because Judah was able to heal the rift in the family, he did it by pledging himself as collateral. When years later, when centuries later, David was able to do the same thing for Saul, he was fulfilling the destiny of Judah. Think about what he was doing. Think about the violence of the tribe of Judah, their penchant for defense, he was doing it the right way. David [saving/slaying 6:00] Goliath was redeeming the Jews from an external enemy that threatens them. At the same time David was acting lovingly towards the other side of the family, towards a potential rival in the family, risking his life to redeem their debt. Within the family David is a healing force. Outside the family David is an agent of violence and of defense from the external enemy. As the Medrash says because he was able to heal this wound, G-d says I'll put the Holy Temple in your territory - in Judah's territory - and in the territory of Benjamin. The two sides of the family coming together.
Hm, so David as the architect of the Temple, it doesn't actually get built in his lifetime, it gets built in the lifetime of his son, but this is what lays the foundation. Then we get to Psalm 30. A psalm written by David for the consecration of the Temple and now we wonder, why does that psalm remind us so much of Judah's role in the Joseph story? The answer is now clear. It's because the legacy of Judah is decided through the Joseph story. There's the Joseph story as it is and the Joseph story as it might have been.
What would have happened had Judah allowed Joseph to be killed by the brothers and has not suggested what profit do we gain by allowing him to die, let's just sell him as a slave? Would there have been a Temple then? If Joseph was dead, if the brothers had been guilty of fratricide, there would have been nothing, there would have been no Jewish people. What Temple, what kingship would there have been if Judah had not stood up heroically to the Egyptian official and said, I pledged myself as collateral of him, take me instead? What if Benjamin had been lost? What if the whole Rachel side of the family had been lost? Joseph in Egypt - what if Joseph and Benjamin had gone on their way and Judah and the rest of the brothers had gone back to their father and said what could we have done? Would Judah have been king then? What would he have been king over? A shattered, fractured nation? Could there ever have been a Temple? A place where the two sides of the family could unite and come together in the service of G-d?
That's the Joseph story as it might have been. But it's not the Joseph story as it is. The Joseph story as it is, is a story of near misses, of moral ambiguity, of terrible failures, but in the end it's a story where because of Yehuda, because of Judah, the family stays together and the Temple is built.
Now we get to Psalm 30. A psalm written - again - by David the King, who realizes the promise of Judah's potential as king. Looking back on that David considering what it means to consecrate a Temple that only his son would be able to build. David looks back to the Joseph story as it might have been and as it was and gives thanks to G-d for having been there by Judah's side to allow the story to emerge as it did and not as it might have been. That, I believe, is what Psalm 30 is about. Let's come back and read it once more.
1. What Does the Book of Psalms Have to Do With the Joseph Story?
2. A Curious Dedication
3. Profit Motive
4. Blood Money
5. Did Jacob Know?
6. A Father's Ambivalent Blessing
7. The Ruthlessness of War
8. The Lion and the Cub
10. To Redeem an Ancestor's Pledge
11. The Lion and the Lamb
12. Moving Up
13. Memories of Father
14. First Cries
15. Where Would I Be Without You
16. What Could Kill Me--But Then What?
17. A Palpable Presence
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