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Echoes of the Future
Video 16 of 17
Yes, you can criticize that and yes, you could say, what business do you have in selling your brother as a slave, if he's really your brother you shouldn't have sold him. Yes, there is little heroism in those words. But because Judah said that he was able, so to speak, open the mouth of the lion and allow Joseph to escape. Those words are the words that redeemed Joseph. Because if that doesn't happen Joseph dies in the pit. So when Judah says to his brothers what profit do we gain out of killing our brother, it's not nice to sell your brother as a slave, but it sort of beats the alternative, doesn't it?
Mah betza bedomi - and therefore G-d yes, if You wanted to You kill me now. You could destroy me, You could destroy Judah, You could destroy David and You can get rid of me for the sin of contemplating the destruction of my brother. But with those very words that I contemplated that destruction I appeal to You G-d. Eilecha Hashem ekra v'el Hashem etchanan - I call out to You and I say to You, what profit do You get G-d; Bedomi - in my blood; Beriditi el shachat - were I to die? Yes it's true, with those same words I entertained the death of the brother, but what do You get out of having me go down into the grave?
Hayodecha aphar - what am I about? I'm about the ability to praise. That's what Judah is about. Would I ever have that potential, can I ever do that for You; Hayodecha aphar - would dust ever be able to praise You? Dust is what would cover over the blood which we kill our brother and cover his blood. Could dust ever praise You? Hayagid amitecha - could it ever tell of its truth? No. Therefore I appeal to You, don't kill me; Shema Hashem vechaneini - listen to me and give me a free gift, allow me to live. Hashem heyeh ozer li - be there for me G-d, don't do away with me because of what it is that I imagined that I would do with my brother.
By the way, these words over here are very evocative too. Shema Hashem vechaneini, Hashem heyeh ozer li - listen G-d and grant me a free gift. If you listen to these words - pardon the pun there - listen and give me a free gift, those two words appear in quick succession over here in Psalm 30 and also in the sale of Joseph. Where in the sale of Joseph do we have these two words? Shema and Lechanen - to plead, to request. Where did someone plea and request and where was that request heard or not heard? Think about that and see what you make of it.
Well the answer to that is right over here in Genesis 42. In Genesis 42 we have this point at which Joseph meets the brothers and Joseph recognizes them but they don't recognize him. Remember, they're coming for food, they've no idea who this high Egyptian official is who is being so mean to them. But Joseph knows exactly who they are and Joseph is in fact being quite mean to them. Joseph accuses them of being spies and says he's going to imprison one of them. At that point they start speaking among themselves unaware that Joseph can understand Hebrew and that Joseph can actually understand every word that it is that they're saying.
When they do that, here's what say. Vayomru ish el achiv - one man said to his brother. Aval asheimim anachnu - you know why this is happening to us, we're guilty; Al achinu - we're guilty of what we did to our brother. Asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho - we saw his pain; Vayitchanano eleinu - when he was in the pit and he was pleading to us; V'loh shamanu - and we didn't listen to what he was saying. Al kein bah eleinu hatzarah hazot - and that's why this terrible thing is happening to us. It's happening to us because of what we did to him. We saw his pain, his trouble and that's why this pain and this trouble, this Tzara is happening to us.
Well when you look at their words carefully what is it that they actually considered themselves guilty of? They considered themselves guilty of having seen Joseph's pain when he was pleading to them and not listening. Well look at this word over here for pleading and look at this word over here for not listening. These happen to be the exact same words which Judah/David is evoking over here in Psalm 30, in quick succession. Now Judah is saying; Shema Hashem vechaneini - G-d listen to me as I plead with You. Yes, it's true that we didn't listen to Joseph when he pleaded to us. Yes, it's true that we are guilty for that. But Judah is making the argument that he's redeemed himself from this, he with the help of G-d has stood up before this man who was Joseph, who he didn't even know was Joseph and pledged him to be a slave while defending a child of Rachel. In Judah's eyes he feels he can go to G-d and he can squarely face what it is that he did in the past and he can ask G-d for a gift. G-d spare me, don't kill me. Mah betza bedomi beriditi el shachat - what do You really gain? Yes, You have the right to kill me, You have the right to destroy me, yes, but what do You really gain? No, instead; Shema Hashem vechaneini - listen to my plea. Hashem heyeh ozer li.
Finally the joyous ending of the Psalm over here in verse 12. Hafachta mispedi lemochol li - You turned my mourning into celebration. When was Judah mourning in this whole story? When did that turn into celebration? Of course that would probably be when - he's mourning when I believe the brothers actually tear their clothes in mourning when Benjamin is taken as a slave - when Benjamin is arrested by Joseph's henchmen for being framed for the whole thing with the silver cup. They're in mourning. They're tearing their clothes. You turned my mourning into dancing. Because little did I know it, here I was, I made this desperate plea with no chance of - this Egyptian official - ever being heard, but he did hear it. It was celebration; Pitachta saki - You undid my sackcloth, my clothes of mourning and You turned it into happiness.
But if you look carefully here you'll hear an even more direct reference to that very story, the story of Benjamin being framed, which seems to be referred to over here in verse 12. Can you find it? The subtle, very direct, pointed hint to the story of Benjamin being framed?
So I think there is actually an elaborate double entendre here in verse number 12 and it focuses on these words right over here; Pitachta saki. The simple meaning of it is You loosened my sackcloth. Sak in Hebrew is the kind of thing that you wear when you're in mourning. In English we translate this as sackcloth, this kind of black clothes that you wear. Pitachta over here can mean You undid, or You loosened, my sackcloth. But there's a double entendre in each of these words. Pitachta can mean something else and Saki can mean something else. Pitachta can mean You opened, really very similar to undid, opened - let's just write that over here. Saki doesn't have to mean sackcloth, Sak - Sin Kuf - can also have the meaning of actually what it means in English, which is literally a sack. The [Hebrew/English 8:03] word sack and the Hebrew word Sak actually are very similar. A sack - opened a sack, You opened my sack, was there ever a time when a sack was opened in the Joseph story?
So yes it turns out that this actually did happen in the story which we've been talking about over here in the story of the framing of Benjamin. What happens in the story again is, remember, the henchmen of Joseph come and they arrest Benjamin and what they do is they accuse one of the brothers of having stolen the golden goblet. Said, in one of your sacks - in one of your sacks - there is this golden goblet. They go and they open up all of these sacks, they open up all the sacks. They find it when they open up the sack of Benjamin. Now Judah is saying, You opened up my sack, well what does he mean You opened up my sack, actually it wasn't his sack that was opened it was Benjamin's sack? What does it mean You opened up my sack? Can you figure out what that might mean?
I think what it means is remember, Judah had pledged himself as collateral for Benjamin, and because Judah pledges himself for collateral for Benjamin and puts himself in Benjamin's place and says, let me be the slave, in effect it was my sack. It was as if You opened up my sack. Yes I took responsibility for his sack, I said it's my sack that has the silver goblet in it. Take me instead. So when G-d You were with me and they opened up my sack; Te'azreini simcha - You were there to gird me with happiness, to clothe me with happiness, to take off my sackcloth and to give me happiness instead. It's all a reference to the story of the joyous conclusion of the story when the heroism of Judah really becomes manifest.
Because of that, Judah feels he can look G-d in the eye and ask Him don't kill me. Instead; Shema Hashem vechaneini - listen to me, listen to my plea. Why? Lema'an yezamercha kovod v'loh yidom - so that I can sing to You, so that I can praise to You and I will not be silent. In death I would be silent, but I want to praise You. The signal characteristic of Judah is always praise and he's saying, allow me to live, allow me to praise you.
I don't for a moment think that my strength, my moral strength in the story comes solely from myself, it comes from a sense that You were by my side this whole way. That's the only way that I managed to get myself out of this. There were so many points in which it could have gone wrong. If I didn't say; Mah betza ki naharog et achinu - if we had allowed, G-d forbid, Joseph to die and I hadn't said let's sell him to the Ishmaelites the first time round. The second time round had I not pledged myself as collateral for Benjamin, had I not redeemed that pledge, had I not said I will be the slave. If none of this had happened, if You weren't there for me during all of this time, what would have been the disastrous consequences of the story? Lema'an yezamercha kovod v'loh yidom - spare me so that I can sing to You; Hashem Elokai - my G-d; Le'olam odecha - I will always praise You. Yehuda atah yoducha achecha - Judah, your brothers will praise you. Now Judah says, G-d I will praise You.
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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