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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 4 of 21
The next thing that happens is that Jacob sends Joseph away down to Shechem to check on the brothers. Okay. So you just became aware that the brother’s hate him, they are jealous, and they can’t even speak in peace to him and the next thing you do is send Joseph alone to check on the brothers, far away. In retrospect, it certainly seems like dangerous mission; didn’t look like a dangerous mission on the way, no one knows what would have known exactly what would have happened. But, seems odd that immediately after becoming aware of just how bad things have deteriorated between the brothers and Joseph and the family, Jacob sends Joseph all alone and unguarded to go and check on them and where of all places? In Shechem. Well what has been happening in Shechem lately?
If you’ve been are paying attention, this is right after a massacre carried out courtesy of Simeon and Levi. Simeon and Levi are actually children of Leah. Remember, there are two wives in the family; Jacob is married to Leah, Jacob is married to Rachel. Simeon and Levi, children of Leah, comes to the defense of their sister Dinah and ultimately end up wiping out a whole city in a commando raid that the ground is soaked with blood. The brothers are in Shechem, the brothers are in this place where they took this act of vengeance for the sake of this child of Leah, the honor of a child of Leah. And now here is this child of Rachel, going down to check on them, all alone and unguarded, it seems kind of ominous. Rashi by the way comments on this. Let me actually bring this up on the screen for you so that you can see. So here is Rashi on Shechem, commenting on, makom muchen lepurenot– “Shechem, the place where bad things happen”. What bad things? Rashi quotes three historical happenings that happened in Shechem that were really awful.
Sham kilklu hashvatem– “This is where the brothers ended up selling Joseph”, right here in our story. Sham inu et Dinah– “This is where the massacre of Shechem took place when Dinah was raped “, in the previous story which I just mentioned to you. And finally later on Sham nichlakah melchot beit David shenemar v’yelech rechavim – “And this is ultimately the place in the Book of Kings where the Northern Kingdom end up splitting from the Southern Kingdom”. One of the interesting thing to do over here when you have Rashi quote three ideas, when you have these three kind of ideas, or three ideas put together like this, kind of ask yourself, “How do these three things relate?” Interestingly, they really do seem to kind of relate. When Rashi says, “Bad things happen in Shechem”, what kind of bad things happen in Shechem? Sham kilklu hashvatem– “and this where the brothers ended up selling Joseph, this is where Dinah was raped, this is where the kingdom was split. Well, how did the kingdom split?
The kingdom split actually along the lines of the children of Rachel and the children of Leah. It’s almost like the split that happens in the family, it happens at the sales of Joseph, the split between the children of Rachel and the children of Leah; that’s a family split but it becomes a national split later on in Shechem where the northern kingdom seceded from the southern kingdom. The southern kingdom of course, the Kingdom of Judah from the children of Leah, and northern kingdom, the kingdom of Ephraim from Joseph, from Rachel, and interestingly, the third piece of this, the very beginning of it, sham inu et Dinah– “this is where the brothers Simeon and Levi comes to the aid of Dinah, a fellow child of Leah”. Perhaps Rashi is suggesting the possibility that the beginning maybe of even the tensions in the family occurred then when the brothers feel it’s up to them to defend a fellow child of Leah, that’s the beginning of the tension, of the kind of sectarian split in the family with children of Leah on the one hand siding with children of Leah. When the father was silent, they thought it was up to them, they angrily protest to their father Hachzonat yaaset otenu– “we couldn’t have allowed this to happen.” You hear the beginning of a fisher in the family at that point, that fisher sort of exploded in the family scene of the sale of Joseph and that conflagration ends up engulfing the nation and the split between the kingdom were literally the kingdom of Ephraim and the kingdom of Judah, children of Rachel, children of Leah begin to go separate ways in two separate kingdoms; it all happens in Shechem.
So, Joseph is being sent to this place which historically is not a good place. But Jacob is sending him there, aware of what’s happening. Why is he sending him to Shechem, alone and unguarded, immediately after becoming aware of just how bad things are? This, I think is the real question. What is happening in the story? It’s not tenable to argue that Jacob is simply naïve, that he doesn’t know what’s going on, that if Jacob had just paid a little more attention in his family he would have been aware and there never would have been the sale of Joseph. He was aware and he sent Joseph anyway. And note also, why does he sends him? Is it for any great overriding purpose? Is there any incredibly important reason to send Joseph? Let’s look at the text, thirteen vayomer Yisrael el-Yosef. So, Jacob says to Joseph, halo acheicha roim bishechem– “Aren’t your brothers shepherding in Shechem?” Lecha v’eshlachcha aleihem– “I think I will send you to see what’s going on with them.” Vayomer lo hineni – “Joseph says, here I am.” Well, that doesn’t seem to be much of an overriding purpose, “Oh your brothers in Shechem, why don’t I send you there?” Actually, the purpose comes later.
The second thing that Jacob says over here, vayomer lo–“okay, now that you have agreed to go to Shechem,” lech-na re’eh et-shalom acheicha v’et-shalom hatzon– “why don’t you check and see on the peace of your brothers and the peace of the sheep?” Notice of course, the irony over here which is this word “peace” being repeated twice, “Check on the peace of your brothers, the peace of your sheep”, doesn’t seem to be this incredibly important mission, but also remember earlier v’lo yachlu dabro leshalom, right over here in verse 4. The very first thing we hear and the first level of tensions in the family is when the brothers see that father loves him more than everyone else. v’lo yachlu dabro leshalom – “They were so angry and they couldn’t speak to him in peace.” Well, isn’t that ironic; they couldn’t speak to him in peace and now what is Joseph being sent to do? “Check on the peace of your brothers and the peace of the sheep”, they can’t even speak in peace. What is going on here? It seems the most trivial of mission and yet the most dangerous of missions at the same time. It seems like Jacob isn’t even thinking about any mission when he first dispatches him. “Why don’t you go be with your brothers?” Halo acheicha roim bishechem – “Aren’t they in Shechem? Why don’t I send you there?”
So, if it’s so trivial and he doesn’t really have a purpose in sending him until Joseph said, “Okay, I will go”, and then he says, “Well, why don’t you go and check on your brothers in Shechem?” Something seems to be happening, there is something weird apparently happening with Jacob’s motivation. What could that possibly be? How could we understand that? There is too many things that fall into place, it’s almost like a perfect storm of danger and it happens when Jacob is aware of how much the brothers and Joseph are in tensions with each other, how much the brothers are jealous of him. So the idea that Jacob is naïve doesn’t seem to hold water, but, what was he really thinking? That’s the challenge we need to figure out. So we’re going to work on that when we come back.
1. What Were They Thinking?
2. Building Tensions
3. From Hatred to Jealousy
4. What Was Jacob Thinking?
5. A Break From the Action
6. The Original Internet
7. The Hidden Hyperlinks
8. A Confluence of Echoes
9. Where Have I Heard This Before?
10. The Brothers' Perspective
11. When Three Are One
12. Will the Real Firstborn Please Stand Up?
13. Bechor: A Tale of Twos
14. Rabbi Soloveitchik's Theory
15. Joseph's Undershirt
16. The Meaning of the Second Coat
17. Four Links
18. Double Entendre
19. The Riddle of the Bowing Moon
20. The Hidden Angel
21. Chain of Words
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