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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 11 of 21
So we get this interlude eleh toldot Yaakov– “These are the generations of Jacob; Joseph, Yosef ben sheva esreh shanah, and I mentioned this to you back at the very beginning how jarring this is, that when you originally hear this point, “these are the generations of Jacob”, you expect to hear about all of his children but you don’t; you only hear about one child, and that one child is Joseph. Yosef ben sheva esreh shanah – “Joseph was seventeen years old”, haya roeh et-echav batzon – so the brothers are mentioned over here but they are mentioned in an ancillary way. Joseph is the focus; the spotlight is on him. And that seems to sort of presage everything which comes next, which is that in fact the spotlight is on Joseph from Jacob’s perspective.
Now, it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who noticed this; the Midrash, the most ancient form of rabbinic commentary, picks up on this also; Rashi actually quotes it. And the Midrash actually asks this question, which is, “why is it that the text focuses specifically on Joseph this way? Why is it that the text looks at Joseph as the prime descendent, so to speak, the prime child so to speak, so to speak, of Jacob?” And the Midrash gives a very interesting answer. I am going to quote it for you in Hebrew over here, I am actually going to quote Rashi comments on it, and let’s kind of go through it.
One of the things you are going to see as we go through this, is that the Midrash talks about three different reasons for why the verse would do this, why the verse would hang this idea of the generations of Jacob being specifically on Joseph. Here is a general rule I think when approaching something like this in the text, when approaching something like this in Rashi, which is that whenever you have a whole bunch of explanations of something, you can do one of two things. Let’s say you have an idea over here, and then say a commentator or text or something, are going to give you like three different explanation of the idea.
Now this is point, there is a couple of interesting things you can do. One of the things we typically do is we talk about how these three explanations are different; how do they differ from one another. Another really interesting thing you could do is, you could talk about how they are all the same which is that even though overtly this is different, this is an X and this is a Y and this is a Z, sometimes what’s fascinating to ask, “is there a common set of assumptions which is shared by both X Y and Z?” This circle is going to equal what we are going to call a ‘common assumption’. Is there any common denominator between all of these? Sometimes if you look carefully, you will find the stuff, and sometimes that’s more interesting than what’s different about the various explanations because what you are showing is that even though there are arguments, that the arguments are more superficial than they seem because there is a certain unstated common assumption which all of these explanation are sharing. And I think that’s the case here when we get to these three things in Rashi. So I am going to read through this and I want to ask you, what you, what do you think the common thing that emerges from all of them are?
So here are the three reasons why according to Rashi, why according to the Midrash, the verse hangs the generations of Jacob specifically on Joseph. Midrash Aggadah Doresh – The Midrash Aggadah Doresh says, I am reading right over here, teleh haketuv toldot Yaakov b’Yosef– I don’t have a ready, handy translation here, so I am just going to translate it freely, you just have to put up with the Hebrew if you are not a native Hebrew speaker here. Teleh haketuv toldot Yaakov b’Yosef – The reason why, this word is hang over here, the reason why the verse hangs specifically, the generations of Jacob specifically upon Joseph mipenei kamah devarim for a lot or reasons.
Here is the first reason. Shekol otzmu Yaakov lo avar etzel lavan ele berachel – Because look, Jacob in the first place, he had always worked for Laban specifically for Rachel. Rachel had been the wife that he had wanted to marry from the beginning and Joseph is Rachel’s child, he’s never been trying to marry Leah, he was tricked into marrying Leah. That is one reason why the verse sees Joseph as the toldot, the generation of Jacob in particular.
Here is reason number two over here. U’shehayah ziv ukunin shel Yosef domah lo– This is a fancy Aramaic term that really means that the way his facial features, the face contours of Joseph looks just like him. This over here is a play on words of something a later verse says, which is that Joseph was loved because he was a ben zekunin, because he was a child of his old age and this is a Midrashic play on words which is that his features, the features of Joseph looks like Jacob.
And here is the third reason over here. This over here is reason number one, this over here is reason number two, and here is reason number three. Kol mah she’ira l’Yaakov ira l’Yosef – historically, as Jacob was looking at Joseph, he notices that everything that kind of happened to Jacob himself in his life, also happened to Joseph in his life, v’zeh nistam v’zeh nistam - “this one was hated by his brother and this one was hated by his brothers”, of course Jacob was hated by Esau, and Joseph is hated by the other brothers. Also in particular, this particular language for ‘hate’, of course in Hebrew you can have the regular language for ‘hate’ which is sone, and that’s a very common word in the Bible, but a very uncommon word is this word over here, which is satam, let me spell it for you right here, sin, tet, mem שטם. And satam, a very kind of vigorous hatred, a hatred that sort of simmers over time and doesn’t go away, actually seems to be used only twice in the Book of Genesis; one of course with Jacob and Esau and that story, and one with Joseph and the story of Joseph with his brothers. So the Midrash picks out v’zeh nistam v’zeh nistam, this one was the victim of sitmah which is Jacob and then Joseph is also the victim of that particular kind of hatred. Zeh echav mevakesh lehorgo v’zeh echav mevakshim lehorgo – This one, his brothers tried to kill him. In other words, I , myself Jacob, my brothers tried to kill me, the brothers tried to kill Joseph, and then there are other examples of this, of various things that happened in Jacob’s life, that seems to echo in Joseph’s life.
So these are the three things, the three reasons why according to the Midrash, the verse goes and specifically sees Joseph as the generations of Jacob; (a) Jacob always wanted to marry Rachel (b) the facial features of Joseph were just like Jacob’s and (c) everything that had happened historically in Jacob’s life is happening now in Joseph’s life. So what I want you to think about is how are these three things not different, we talked about how they’re different, but how are they kind of all the same? What’s the common denominator of all these things? So think about that for a moment and let’s come back and talk about that.
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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