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So the question I want to ask you now is what do we make of all of this? Here's what I think is an interesting question, if the brothers in fact didn't really sell him and they only told what amounts to a white lie to their father, what do we make of that? Does that mean that we shouldn't see them as culpable of what happened? I mean they didn't actually sell him, they didn't really lie to their father about what happened, does that mean they're sort of scot-free, that from the Torah's perspective there's no guilt in what they did, that it was okay? Does the Torah hold them accountable for this at all? So how would you see it according to the Rashbam? What are we to make of what the Torah thinks about it? Is there any indication from the text itself as to what the answer to this question is? How culpable are the brothers for what happened? Or is it okay? What's sort of G-d's perspective on this?
This gets back to one of the questions we asked earlier when we talked about - at the very beginning - what were they thinking? What was Yaakov thinking? What was Yosef thinking? What were the brothers thinking? Finally, what was G-d thinking? Do we have any indication as to what was G-d thinking? Certainly, according to the Rashbam, this question is even a stronger question, what was G-d thinking, is this okay, is there no guilt to it attached at all? Are the brothers sort of being paranoid when they say to themselves that we're guilty of listening to cries and not responding? Is it something which they imagine but not in fact true? So how is it that we understand that? What do you think about that?
Okay so I think we get a sort of fascinating clue to this, and I want to flesh that out to you. Again, in order to see this you have to play the intertextuality game or the sort of, where have we heard these ideas before game. So I'm going to ask you what other story does this sequence remind you of? There's a certain sequence of events that takes place in the story of the sale of Joseph - and we've talked about the Akeidah parallels in this, we've talked about the expulsion of Yishmael parallels in this. But seemingly there's another story which we're also hearing echoes of and there's certain events which are going to take place in sequence, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and not only are the events similar but the sequence of events are similar between this story and the other story. So I want to point out a couple facets of the story of the sale of Joseph and think about them and listen for their echoes elsewhere in Sefer Bereishit - elsewhere in the Book of Genesis. Where else do you see all these things happening?
So let's go to some pieces of text from the larger story of the sale of Yosef. So I want to direct you here to Bereishit Mem-Beit - Genesis 42, and this section of text takes place much later on in the story. It takes place when the brothers actually meet up with Yosef, but they don't know that it's Yosef. They're talking to him and Yosef is very harsh with them and accuses them of being spies and basically says that you have to go back and bring back this other brother that you've been talking about. The brothers suggested that they have another brother that they've left behind in the land of Canaan. Yosef, disguised here as an Egyptian official says, I think you're spies, if you want to prove you're not spies, come back with this other brother that you say that you have. And, Yosef makes things more difficult by saying, I'm going to put one of you in prison, I'm going to imprison one of you until the others come back with this phantom brother that you're talking about.
Now at that point the brothers are concerned and they start talking to themselves. Now they're talking in Hebrew unaware that Yosef can understand Hebrew, they think he's just a regular Egyptian fellow who doesn't understand Hebrew. This is what they say amongst themselves - and we talked about this a little bit before when we were looking at the Rashbam's theory, but I want to look at this now again from another angle. So here's what they say; Vayomru ish el achiv - they say; Aval asheimim anachnu - we are guilty; Al achinu asher ra'inu - for what we've done to our brother. Asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho behitchaneno eleinu v'loh shamanu. Al kein ba'ah eleinu hatzara hazos - we are guilty for having seen the pain of our brother's soul when he was pleading to us and we didn't listen to him and that's why this terrible thing has happened to us.
At that point Reuven responds and Reuven says; Haloh amarti aleichem Leimor al techetu bayeled - he says, didn't I tell you guys; Al techetu bayeled - that we shouldn't sin against this child; V'loh shamatem - and you didn't listen; V'gam damo hinei nidrash - and now look, his blood is being sought after. Someone, or heaven, is seeking to sort of avenge his blood in these terrible events that is happening to us now, that - and then one of us is going to be imprisoned.
So this is what the brothers say to themselves when these bad things start happening to them in Egypt, they suspect that they're guilty.
Okay, so if we look at this text and we take a look at this section over here, the brothers considered themselves guilty of having listened to this child, this brother of theirs, cry out to them from the pit - so there's this brother in the ground and his voice is crying out to them and they don't listen. So where else do we have a story like that? Someone is - there's a brother's voice that's calling out from the ground for help, and then the other brothers stand by and they don't really respond to that voice? What other story in Genesis does that remind you of?
Now just to further this analogy a little bit more, let's go back to the text of Bereishit Lamed-Zayin, the actual story of the sale of Yosef and just read it through again with Rashbam's perspective. Let's read this as the Rashbam would see it. So; Vaya'avru anashim Midyanim socharim vayimshechu vaya'alu et Yosef min habor - so these Midianites come - remember they're coming unbeknownst to the brothers, the brothers are unaware of this. They're off picnicking, they're eating their bread, and over the next hill these Midianites who they hadn't seen go and they do what the brothers have been contemplating and they preempt the brothers, they pull Yosef out of the pit. And they are the ones; Vayimkeru et Yosef laYishmaelim - they are the ones who sell Yosef to the Yishmaelim before the brothers can even get there. Vayavi'u et Yosef Mitzrayma - and then the Yishmaelim come and they bring Yosef down to Egypt.
Now remember as the Rashbam saw it; Vayoshov Reuven el habor - now Reuven is the first person back, Reuven leaves early from the meal because he wants to go and save Yosef because there's this new plan that Yehuda has had, which is let's sell him to the Ishmaelites, so he has to get to Yosef before the other brothers do. So he goes back early and he's the first person to discover the truth. V'hinei ein Yosef ba'bor - Yosef isn't there. Vayikra et begadav - and he tears his clothes. So Reuven is distraught by this because remember, Reuven is the one who wanted to save him.
But now look at the response of the brothers, what is the brothers' response at this point? Vayoshov el echov - he returns to the brothers; Vayomar hayeled einenu v'ani onoh ani bah - so Reuven comes back to the brothers and says, my goodness guys, he's not there, Yosef isn't in the pit anymore. Now at that point the brothers have a choice, you would expect perhaps for them to be surprised, anxious, but according to the Rashbam, remember this is the first time which they're finding out, they're surprised by what has happened, in the Rashbam's reading. Look at their response. Vayikchu et ketonet Yosef vayishchatu se'ir izim vayitbelu et haketonet badom - they actually don't respond to Reuven whatsoever, there is just no response, it's simply an attempt at an alibi. They take Joseph's coat, they Shecht a goat and they put the blood on the coat; one way or the other we got rid of Yosef. Their only concern is to find some way of explaining this to father and they put the blood on the coat.
So to go back to the elements that we're looking for in this other story, let's add one more here, and that is going to be this one over here, which is that in the Yosef story the brothers really they don't know what happened with their brother. Certainly according to the Rashbam's reading they're completely unaware of what's happened to him, but they really don't care, they're content to leave it that way. Their only concern is really to find an alibi for what happened and defend themselves in the face of their father. So what other story do you have this element as well?
Finally, if we're going to call this Element 1 and this Element 2 and this Element 3, there's a fourth element here and for that, let's go back to the text of Genesis 42 - Bereishit Mem-Beit, which we were talking about before. Fast-forwarding later on, we're talking about that episode when the brothers have met Yosef, they don't know it's Yosef and they're speaking among themselves in Hebrew. So one of the things they say amongst themselves is Reuven is talking and he says; V'gam damo hinei nidrash - that his blood is going to be avenged by heaven, maybe G-d is taking revenge against us because his blood is calling out to G-d. So where else do we have that kind of language where there's a concern that heaven might avenge somehow the blood of the brother that was in distress?
So what other story has all four of these elements in that exact same sequence? What other story does all this remind you of? Do you have any ideas? Can you guess what I'm thinking of here? So come back and I'll spill the beans and tell you what's on my mind.
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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