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Coats, Dreams and Jealousy
Video 9 of 21
Back in Genesis Chapter 22, God tells Abraham one day to take his son, his beloved son, his only son, and take him atop a mountain and to slaughter him; to kill him and yet it is only a test. God tells him to offer him up as an offering, but then at the last minute, stayed Abraham’s hands. Abraham goes and travels there and binds Isaac and puts him at the top of the altar and takes out the knife, he was about to kill him and this Angel calls out from the clouds and says “Abraham, don’t do it! Don’t stretch out your hand against the child. Let go. Don’t kill him.” And at the last minute, he is spare; Isaac is spared. Abraham opens his eyes and he sees the ram and he sacrificed the ram and not Isaac.
What’s going on in the story? What do we understand? Why would God ask of a man to kill his son and to give him back when he doesn’t really mean it? This is very difficult stuff and it is not the subject that we are talking about today. So I am not going to get into the theology of the Akaida, of the Binding of Isaac. We will by the way, occasionally use the word Akaida to talk about this with you. Akaida is the Hebrew word for “binding of Isaac”. Kind of colloquial, comes from this word over here binding, Akaida means to bind. But the story of the Akaida, the binding of Isaac, is Mystery Story X. It’s the one that we have all of these echoes and parallels from the story of Joseph. Let’s go through it and you will kind of see.
I have just began and highlighted in blue, one of these over here which is the word hineni. If you recall back in the Joseph story, we had that word; that word really resonates in the Book of Genesis. Because of the Akaida, here is the hineni over here. When Jacob says, “you know, I think I will send you out to your brothers to check on them”. Joseph’s response, hineni “Here I am”, an echo of Abraham’s response to God, “Here I am.” Two people being sent out on a mission, little known to each of them, the mission is a very, very scary mission; a very dark mission. In both cases, hineni is the response. hineni is the response here, hineni is the response there.
Okay. Could be a coincidence right? Maybe there are not actually the only times hineni appears; who knows? And perhaps you could chalk it up to coincidence except that the parallels keep on happening. Remember how Jacob had said to Joseph lech-na – “Will you please go?” Well, these innocent words over here, “please go”, again find their echo again in the story of the binding of Isaac where we have this, God talking to Abraham over here, kach-na et-benecha et-yechidecha asher-ahavta et-yitzchak v’lech lecha – Again, “please go”. Take, please and go, take Isaac and go. Again here, “go please”, same kind of language; not just same language, same exact language mirrored from the Binding of Isaac, again over here, the Sale of Joseph, a good fifteen chapters later. But it continues. And here, the resonances really comes out in spades.
Vayiru oto merachok, where else in the Torah do you have that language? No other time in the five books of Moses you have that language except for right over here in the story of the Binding of Isaac.
On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and he sees the place from afar; he sees the place of doom. And now the brothers see Joseph coming, same language, they see him coming from afar. And then it continues, Reuben yad al-tishlechu-bo – “Let’s not set our hands against the child”, we don’t have to kill him, “Let’s not stretch out our hands against the child”, the exact same words appearing in the Binding of Isaac when the Angels said these words to Abraham, “Don’t harm him. Don’t stretch out your hand against the child.” Reuben, regarding Joseph, “Don’t harm him. Don’t stretch out your hand against the child.” Again, the only time in the Book of Genesis you have this formulation.
But then as we continue, there is this fifth echo. They see the caravan of Ishmaelites vayisu eineihem vayiru v’hineh orchat yishmelim baah migilead – “they see the caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead and behold Joseph is saved”, right. So they lift up their eyes and they see and behold; exact same language from the binding of Isaac. Remember the end of the story, Abraham lift up his eyes and he sees something; what does he see? He sees a ram. And the cool thing is that it’s not just the language in all these cases that are similar, it’s not just that there are blind phrases that echo each other, the meaning of the phrases, the context of the phrases is all the same. In other words, exactly what these phrases are doing from a narrative standpoint, these phrases are doing. In other words, the significance of all of them is precisely the same. Let me chart it out for you.
It’s not just that the words and phrases are the same, the significance of the phrase in the larger context of each story is exactly identical. What each phrase means in the larger picture of the story is the same. For example, let’s take the Sale of Joseph on the one side and the Binding of Isaac on the other.Hineni. When Joseph says hineni, what was he doing? He was expressing readiness for a mission that’s going to end in doom. But that’s exactly the same thing that Abraham is doing when Abraham says hineni he is doing the same thing, he is also expressing readiness for a mission that little does he know is going to end in doom.
And then it continues, right. Vayiru oto merachok – “when the brothers see Joseph coming from afar”, what does that really mean? You have the kettle drums playing, doom is approaching, and this is the dark moment of confrontation when Joseph stand and was threatened and almost killed and similarly here; A doom is threatening, Isaac is almost killed. When Abraham sees the place from afar, what’s the place? The place is the place of doom. Similarly, when Reuben says, “Don’t stretch out your hands against him”, what’s the significance of that? The significance is, Joseph is saved. Joseph isn’t going to will not die. These are the words, it’s almost like Reuben is playing the same role as the angels. What did an angel do? An angel said “don’t stretch out your hand against him”, that was the exact same thing. Isaac is saved the moment the angel says that.
And similarly over here, when they lift up their eyes and they see and behold the Ishmaelites were coming, because Judah thinks the plan is they are still going to kill him but what did the Ishmaelites offered? The Ishmaelites offered an alternative; there is an alternative to death, there is another possibility, there is something we can do instead. We can sell him as a slave and it won’t be lethal and we won’t kill him. Well, there is another non-lethal alternative, at least for Isaac here too. What’s the alternative? “Abraham lifts up his eyes and behold”. The significance of what’s happening with the lifting up his eyes and behold, is exactly the same, we are finding an alternative; an alternative to death. Isaac is not going to be killed, instead the ram will be sacrificed, not Isaac. So it’s not just that we have identical phrases, we have the identical phrases mirroring the identical significance.
In both the story, the Sale of Joseph and the story of the Binding of Isaac, it seems like the Torah is going out of its way and again, in this kind of internet web-like fashion, the Torah is saying, “you want to understand the sale of Joseph? Look over here. Look at the story of the binding of Isaac, you will see everything you need to know”. How would the binding of Isaac will gives us everything we need to know about the sale of Joseph? How is the binding of Isaac offering as a commentary in the Sale of Joseph? What could that possibly mean? Is it suggesting that the sale of Joseph was some kind of test just like Abraham was being sent out by God, it was almost like a test and everything was supposed to work out fine, that Joseph was being sent out by Jacob on some kind of test that was also to work out fine? It didn’t really work out fine right? What does it really mean? How do we understand the nature of these connections? Very, very odd. But the connections really do seem to be there. We’ve got to figure out what does it mean? Do we have an inkling as to what it means?
We are going to ponder that and think about it and we’ll come back and explore it. Before we do that, we have other work to do. I want to go back and try to gather some more evidence to putting together this text. We’ve been looking together at the verses here, and we’ve been focusing really on Jacob’s perspective. We asked a lot of questions about Jacob, what was he doing? What did his perspective look like? He doesn’t seem to be naïve, so why is he sending him out? Is it some kind of test in some sort of way? What would he be testing? These are the questions with which we have been struggling with.
Now, I want to switch gears and look at a different perspective of the whole story with you. Instead of looking at the perspective of Jacob, let’s look at the perspective of Joseph’s brothers. What did the story of the Sale of Joseph looks like from their perspective; from the brother’s perspective? Do we get any hints as to the unique kind of perspective that they may have had. Let’s come back to our question, what was their rational? How did they sleep at nights? What were they doing? Did they have any kind of way of rationalizing themselves, anyway of making sense out of what it was that they were doing? I do think they had such a way, I think the text gave us some inklings to what that might have been, and when we look at the brother’s point of view, we may find keys that will help us to understand what the Binding of Isaac has to do with this whole story. So let’s come back and explore 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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