Al Naharot Bavel: By the Waters of Babylon
Al Naharot Bavel: By the Waters of Babylon
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
Al Naharot Bavel is part of the weekday benching, or grace after meals. It is a psalm, specifically, psalm 137, that we say before we begin the formal blessings.
Our presentation is largely taken from a webinar Rabbi Fohrman held one year on Tisha B’Av as a sort of Epilogue to a course on Shir Hamaalot. If you haven’t seen that course yet, we strongly recommend you watch it before watching this epilogue that discusses Al Naharot Bavel. You can click here to access it now.
Rabbi Fohrman explores the connection between laughter, crying and singing. He takes a closer look at Psalm 137 and how it connects to Psalm 126, the song of ascent that will be sung when the Jews return to Zion. He demonstrates how muscle memory holds onto trauma, and how Naomi Shemer, was able to unearth the passion and pain of the psalms and reignite the desire for a unified Jerusalem, perhaps changing the course of Jewish history.
R: You'll call it out. Okay. Excellent. Okay. Let us move on and let me take you back to what I was talking about before in Sefaria. So I'm just going to come back to our Sefaria piece and show it to you. Switch screens. Hold on. Over here. Okay.
So here's the question I want to ask you about. This is something that occurred to me, again, after we had finished principal animation on the video.
By the way, I have to tell you that every once in a while, here at Aleph Beta Land, one of the very sad things that happens is the the nature in how we put these courses together is that there are always works in progress. These are usually that things that I thought about for, like, a dozen years. Often there's this stuff that, you know, I'm researching and working on as we're putting together the videos and every once in a while, you come up with something and you realize you are wrong and you have to redo something. And our poor, hard-working video editors, Shoshanah, Lisa, Charles and others who spend, just literally, forever.
Here's a query from you Facebook Live bugs. See if you can guess from the comments how many hours of video editor time it takes Shoshanah, Lisa and Charles to put together a 10-minute stretch of the video that you guys enjoy in 10 short minutes. How many hours do you think it takes them? So you can put that in the comments while I tell you the story.
So every once in a while, you have to undo it, right? You see there's something wrong and all of that hours go to waste after you have to reanimate and redo an entire video. Come on, guys, nobody's guessing. A hundred hours, Shoshanah says. Pretty close. Imu, what's our total of hours, do you think, usually it is to put together a video?
Imu: Closer to 40-50 hours.
Rabbi Fohrman: It's more like 40-50 hours. All right. Give David Aron (ph) a free Coke. You've got it right. About 40-50 hours of video editor time for about 10 minutes of video. Anyway, so we've just finished animating everything and it struck me that there was a refinement that I wanted to get across to you.
Here's the issue. What exactly does Joseph's dream mean? And when does that dream get fulfilled? What I had thought, when I had originally started the Shir Hama'alot video -- so I had thought about this notion, that okay, so here Joseph is being portrayed as the stalk of wheat. He's this big stalk of wheat that stands up really tall and all his brothers are bowing to him. I looked at the scene where Joseph reunifies with the brothers and, as I talked about in the video, that scene where he reunifies with the brothers is also the scene in which he starts telling the brothers, seemingly, behind the scenes, what the dream meant.
Do you remember, going back to the video? This is the moment when he tells "Kol hanitzavim alav," all of those who were gathered around him, what the dream means. Of course, nitzavim is one of those dream words. It seems like a reference to the dream. He tells them to tell Dad, "Od Yosef chai v'chi hu moshel b'chol Eretz Mitzrayim," Joseph is ruling over all of Egypt. That comes from the dream. So he seems to be talking to the brothers about the dream. It seemed to me at the time that this is the moment in which the dream is coming true, the moment he is reunifying with his brothers, the moment that he's choosing to feed them. Because that's what the dream means.
The problem is, folks -- and this is something which I, kind of, avoided talking about on the video, but in the interest of family therapy I'm going to just put it right out there to you now. The problem is that doesn't really seem to be what the dream is. In other words, if the dream foretells Fohrmans and Bergers here in this room, right. If the dream foretells -- Facebook Live folks, think about this. Put on your thinking caps for a second. I know you're fasting and Al Naharot Bavel is part of the weekday benching, or grace after meals. It is a psalm, specifically, psalm 137, that we say before getting into the first blessing of benching.
Our presentation is largely taken from a webinar Rabbi Fohrman held one year on Tisha B'Av as a sort of Epilogue to a course on Shir Hamaalot. If you haven’t seen that course yet, we strongly recommend you watch it before watching this epilogue that discusses Al Naharot Bavel. You can click here to access it now.
Alright so here is the webinar on Al Naharot Bavel, we get into it fairly quickly, although I should add that this webinar also discusses many other related topics such as Nomi Shemer’s poem - Yerushalayim Shel Zavah, as well as many other Biblical themes in the Joseph Story.
Rabbi Fohrman: So, we're going to be spending some time together. This is a rare chance for me to talk with you about a lot of the larger pieces of stuff that I've come up with here in connection with this year's Tisha B'Av video that didn't actually make it into the video. So if you haven't seen it yet, you can take a look. Either before or after this webinar, I'll try to review some of the really salient pieces.
Here in the room at Aleph Beta central, we have Rivky Stern, one of our producers, and Immanuel Shalev, our COO and director of the Parsha Experiment. If you hear any background noises from them, you will know that that is them. Here at Aleph Beta, we've put out about, I guess, four or five years now of Tisha B'Av videos. Imu, how many years of Tisha B'Av videos have we put out?
Imu Shalev: I think five.
Rabbi Fohrman: Imu thinks it's five. We had Yavneh. Yavneh was Year Number 1, one of my favorites. I should actually put out a poll for you. Maybe, Imu, you can set up a poll. Which was your favorite video? We have Yavneh is Year 1. In Year 2, we have Kamtza and Bar Kamtza where we talk about baseless hatred. Let's see if can remember them all. In Year 3, I think we had our video about Rachel and the tears of Rachel. In Year 4, which was last year, we had really an epic piece on Hezekiah and the Messianic era. This year, we were talking about the Song of Songs. So we're going to be looking at this year's Song of Songs piece.
One of the interesting pieces here is that when we were putting together this year's video on the Song of Songs, in the very beginning, we were actually thinking about doing two psalms. We were talking about doing, actually, "Al Naharot Bavel" and the Song of Ascents. There are two psalms -- Psalm 126 is the Song of Ascents and 137 is "Al Naharot Bavel".
These are two psalms that, traditionally, you kind of alternate in saying before you say grace after meals. After you eat a meal, we say Song of Ascents, typically, on holidays. We say "Al Naharot Bavel", typically, during the week. "Al Naharot Bavel" isn't actually said that much. If you were in camp as I was, in an Orthodox Jewish camp, sometimes that's your only experience in the summer months during the three weeks of mourning before Tisha B'Av, that you ever say "Al Naharot Bavel".
We're going to take a look at these two psalms in connection with one another. That is piece number one from the cutting-room floor that I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about, really, a whole kaleidoscope of things which didn't make it into this piece. So why don't we start with "Al Naharot Bavel".
If you happen to have a Bible handy, you can open up to Psalm 137. Otherwise, I'll try to put it on the screen. I'm actually going to picture for you, if I can find it here, my actual notes and share it with you on the screen so you can see it. I'll actually say a word about my notes here, so it won't look so scary to you. Give me one second.
Here we go. These are what my notes look like. They look kind of funny, but they're color-coded. You can ignore the colors until I explain them to you. On the top, you have the Song of Ascents. On the bottom, you have "Al Naharot Bavel". Let's just go through a little bit of "Al Naharot Bavel" and try to point some of the connections to Song of Ascents which I personally found kind of fascinating.
One of the arguments that I made to you about the Song of Ascents is that the Song of Ascents is really an attempt to deal with an overwhelming experience. In the case of the Song of Ascents, that overwhelming experience is one of joy. This amazing thing happens which is redemption.
The challenge I suggested to you, I think, in Video 2 of this year's Tisha B'Av series is that when you're dealing with an overwhelming -- and whether it's joyful or whether it's tragic, you sort of have to make it real for yourself, which means that you kind of have to embark on this journey from using the language of the Song of Ascents, a journey of "hayinu k'cholmim," of being like dreamers to "hayinu smeichim," to being happy.
Being happy is a real state. That's where you actually feel a kind of emotion. Being a dreamer is where you're not sure if anything is real. It's like, pinch me. Is this really real? The danger with staying in a dreamlike state, as normal as it is to be in a dreamlike state when something overwhelming happens, is that if you can't ultimately reconcile yourself to the reality of what's going on, you are going to suffer in one way, shape or form because of it.
If it's a joyful reality, you just won the lottery, you won $150 million. If it's not real, so that's normal for a day or two. But if it keeps on being not real and you never call a financial advisor and the Monopoly money feel -- and the money feels like Monopoly money, you fritter it all away, you never really understand what you've done, where you're at and you can't build on the success and you can't build on where you're at.
What I want to suggest to you is that "Al Naharot Bavel" really is a mirror image of this. "Al Naharot Bavel" is talking about the flipside of redemption, which is exile. The same way that redemption can happen in a flash and the same way that redemption can upend your life happily, what Tisha B'Av is really about is the tragic side of that, the exile of that. On the exile side of that, you have the same challenge. In this case, it's not "hayinu k'cholmim" so much as it is -- not so much as if we were dreamers but as if we felt like we were in a nightmare.
It's actually interesting. Immanuel and I were doing some research I think back around Passover time and we were talking about the Covenant Between the Parts, the covenant that Abraham experiences in Chapter 15 with God. It's a covenant where he actually gets the very first whispers of exile.
It's kind of interesting that at that moment that he hears "ger y'hiyeh zaracha b'eretz lo lahem va'avadum v'inu otam arba me'ot shanah," that there will be suffering and exile hundreds of years long in Egypt -- at that moment, he experiences it as a dream, actually, and as a prophetic nightmare, "eimah chasheichah gedolah," it's a deep, dark, dreaded fear that comes upon him. It's really that same kind of imagery, the imagery -- the flipside imagery of a mirror, of a dream, but in his case, a nightmare.
In any case, "Al Naharot Bavel", I really think is a struggle, or encapsulates a kind of spiritual struggle, which is that how do you take a nightmare which is the experience of exile and make that real? Let me actually go through a couple of lines with you and point out one or two things that caught my eye.
Take a look at the Song of Ascents on the top and you have "Al Naharot Bavel" on the bottom. "Al naharot Bavel," "Al Naharot Bavel", "sham yashavnu," that's where we sat, "gam bachinu b'zachreinu et Tzion," that's where we cried when we remembered Zion.
One of the points I made to you, I think, back in the Song of Ascents is that the Song of Ascents talks about in its effort to talk about the transition from this dreamlike state into a regular, normal state, it talks about different modes of communication. One mode of communication that we use for cognitive things, things that we can actually wrap our minds is speaking, speech.
The other modes of communication are really three. They are the ways that we communicate orally, through our mouths and not with words, and that's through crying, laughter and through song. The Song of Ascents talks about all three, and you're going to find all three -- interestingly, I think I talked about it -- in "Al Naharot Bavel" also, you're going to hear about song, you're going to hear about crying and you're going to hear about laughing.
What's interesting about it is that, normally, we think about song as a happy thing, typically, and we think of laughter as a happy thing. We think about crying as a sad thing. Although that's true in the main, it's not absolutely true. All three of these have expressions in very, very happy moments and have expressions also -- sort of minor expressions in sad moments.
For example, a song could also be a dirge and you can find a way of communicating a deep, plaintive, painful feeling through a song also. Laughter is generally associated with happiness but can be associated with any surprise, even tragedy. Crying as well. You can cry tears of joy as well.
So "Al Naharot Bavel" begins and introduces us to crying. "Al naharot Bavel," "Al Naharot Bavel", "sham yashavnu gam bachinu," there we sat and there we cried when we remembered Zion. "Al aravim betochah," on the willows there, "talinu kinoroteinu," we hung our harps. Why did we do that? "Ki sham sh'eilunu shoveinu," because there our captors asked us, "divrei shir," they wanted us to sing. There, so far, we've got two out of those three elements for those nonverbal ways of communicating. Remember, those are laughter, song and crying.
The Song of Ascents talked about all of them and now we have them coming back here. You're going to see crying at the beginning when we cried. "Gam bachinu," we cried because we were asked to sing. And where is the laughter? The laughter is actually going to come in the very next line, "Ki sham sh'eilunu shoveinu." What is it that our captors asked of us? They asked us to sing. Now you get this strange word, "v'tolaleinu simchah." What do you think tolaleinu simchah means? It's some sort of verb that has to do with happiness.
Imu, since you're my only live participant here, I'm going to throw this question out to you. What in blazes do you think the word tolaleinu could possibly mean? It's one of those strange words. Again, remember, the Song of Ascents has been -- Imu is going to just Wikipedia it on the side.
The Song of Ascents and "Al Naharot Bavel" are full of these strange words, these made up -- almost made up words, words that the psalmist makes up for this occasion. In the Song of Ascents, we had words like that where we had "meshech." We talked about that in the videos. "Afikim," we talked about that in the videos. What do you think tolaleinu might possibly mean? Imu, what do you say?
Imu Shalev: I can't think of anything. Taf, Lamed, Lamed.
Rabbi Fohrman: Taf, Lamed, Lamed, right. What could it possibly mean?
Imu Shalev: Talal.
Rabbi Fohrman: So if you look at it, it's interesting. It does seem related, and I'll throw this out to you guys. You can use your Facebook comment to try and guess on this. Can you see an analog to it earlier in "Al Naharot Bavel"? Is there a word here that reminds you?
Imu Shalev: David Aron says from the root, Hallel.
Rabbi Fohrman: Ah, interesting. So in the word Hallel -- it could be from the word Hallel. Various commentators suggest it's actually from the word, yalal, with a Yud.
Imu Shalev: Shoshana Zohari asks talelei orot.
Rabbi Fohrman: Interesting. Talelei orot I think in that case would be "pearls of", but the verb here would be yalala, Yud-Lamed-Lamed, which would really be a mournful elegy, to raise your voice in mourning. That's what a yelala is. It's interesting, but it also seems to be related. Can you find the word earlier in the Song of Ascents, in 137, that tolaleinu seems to be connected to? I wonder if we can bring Rivky back here, if we can get a little piece of my Facebook feed.
Imu Shalev: Eitan Zerykier says it's in the word yalal.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, that's what we said. It's the word yalal, Eitan Zerykier says. Yes, it's from the word yalal. If you look in my notes over here, do you see how I put that in orange? Look at the other orange word a little bit earlier in Psalms 137, talinu. Do you see how closely it's connected to talinu? Just add another lamed to talinu. It really seems that tolaleinu is a play on words here off of talinu.
In other words, we hung our harps upon these trees and our captors responded with "tolaleinu simchah." They responded to us hanging up our harps with mocking our hanged up harps, mocking our sadness. "Tolaleinu simchah," they made happiness out of our pain, out of our yelala, out of our dirges. So they had this question. They wanted to know, "shiru lanu mi'shir Tzion," could you possibly sing for us?
Now, we have the triad of all these nonverbal forms of communication coming out. We have singing, we have crying and we have laughter, except here it's this sort of nightmarish version of all of them. Instead of the happy laughter of the Song of Ascents, we have the mocking laughter of our enemies.
Instead of the happy singing of "bo yavo b'rinah nosei alumotav" in the Song of Ascents, we have the sadness of the mocking question, "shiru lanu mi'shir Tzion," You Jews, why don't you see if you can make -- if you can sing for yourselves the song of Zion. Instead of the "hazorim b'dimah," the fruitful tears that are planting with tears that you can hope for something to come from it, you have the tears that just are anguish, that just seems to relate to this past, that it seems that there is no future when "sham yashavnu gam bachinu b'zochreinu et Tzion." So these songs are kind of like mirror -- are beginning to show up as mirror images of each other.
I was debating, by the way, how to hold this webinar over here, the first long-form webinar. I'm going to try to do this just by talking with you. We do have other folks in the room right now. Right now, we have Imu. I'll occasionally be talking off-screen to him. Maybe if he's naughty enough, I'll drag him on and force him to come on screen and we can have a conversation together. We'll see how that goes. Anyway, let's keep on reading.
"Eich nashir et shir Hashem al admat neichar." How do we respond to "tolaleinu simchah," to this anguished mockery on the part of our captors? We said, "Eich nashir et shir Hashem al admat neichar," how could we possibly sing the song of God on foreign soil? It doesn't compute. We can't really do that.
Again, if you think back to what "song" is and what these three modes of nonverbal communication are, they're really ways of communicating something when words don't suffice. When something is so deeply true or so deeply felt that to talk about it doesn't really address what's going on because to talk is the words of the mind and there's something deeper happening that just what your mind can itself around, that's when you laugh, that's when you sing and that's when you cry.
So if you think about a "shir Tzion," a song of Zion, a song that expresses my connection to God, expresses my connection to the land and I sing it in song because it's so deeply felt -- my connection to the land, my connection to God -- that I can't just express it in regular words, it has to be a song. So now, think about the mockery.
These captors are coming and say oh, "shir lanu mi'shir Tzion," why don't you sing us one of those? It's one of our Top 40 Hits here in Babylon. They're debasing the very idea of song to think that it's just a tune, it's just a bunch of notes and it doesn't really matter where you sing it and that's our response. "Eich nashir et shir Hashem al admat neichar," how could we possibly sing the song of God?
We can sing those words, but to sing the words on foreign soil as if nothing has changed is to debase those words, which really leads to the very next idea. "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim tishkach yemini." These are those famous words from Psalms 137, from "Al Naharot Bavel", "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem."
What does "tishkach yemini" mean? Here, by the way, a lot of people get this wrong. You can try this and ask your friends. What does "tishkash yemini" really mean? A lot of people mistranslate it here. "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim" -- they think it means if I forget thee, O Jerusalem, "tishkach yemini," let me forget my right hand.
What does that mean, let me forget my right hand? And you remember your right hand? Are you guys walking around remembering your right hand? Oh, remember to take your right hand with you. Like, what's that about? Nobody remembers your right hand and nobody forgets your right hand. So what does it mean tishkach yemini?
It doesn't mean let me -- we can do this on your Facebook comments here, by the way. "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim," if I forget thee, O Jerusalem, "tishkach yemini." If it doesn't mean let me forget my right hand, then what does it mean? I'll leave you to ponder that for a second while I try to call up these comments. What do you think it means, "tishkach yemini"?
Imu Shalev: Eitan Zerykier says, "Forget the skills of my right hand. They're usually so automatic and engrained."
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Good.
Imu Shalev: Vadim Birman also says, "Forget its skill."
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Good. Now, notice that the word skill -- so Imu, just off-screen there, is bringing the comments of Eitan Zerykier and who?
Imu Shalev: And Vadim Birman. Michael Davies also just commented and said, "Its strength."
Rabbi Fohrman: While you guys ponder that, we're going to see if we can out this Facebook feed so that I can actually see it. There we go, look at that. So it seems to me that -- in other words, if you just follow it grammatically, what's happening here is "tishkach yemini" means that your right hand is actually the subject there in that sentence. It's not the subject. That's what can get you confused.
It doesn't mean if I forget you, O Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand. "Yemini," the right hand has now switched from object in the sentence to subject. So the subject in the sentence -- it begins with you, if you forget or I forget you, Jerusalem, but then it merges to "tishkach yemini," let my right hand forget.
Now, the object of what it is that your right hand is forgetting is actually implied and is not there, so you have to figure out what the object is. We don't know exactly what it means. It could mean let me forget my strength -- let it forget its strength but strength isn't something that a right hand remembers or forgets. It's really in -- some English translations translate this as cunning.
If you think about what a right hand is, for most people who are righties, your right hand knows how to do things. Now ask yourself, well, how does your right hand know how to do things? It sort of remembers how to do things. Modern medicine would call this muscle memory. You have muscle memory. Your muscles just remember how to do things.
By the way, muscle memory makes an appearance now not just in Verse 5 of Psalms 137 but in Verse 6. Let's go to the next verse. "Tidbak leshoni l'chiki im lo ezkereichi," let my tongue cleave to my mouth if I do not remember you. Again, that's also a matter of muscle memory.
Think about the very first things that muscles do. The very first muscles that a human being ever trains are which muscles? An infant trains the muscles of his palate, the muscles of his mouth, the muscles of his tongue to be able to nurse, and not just to be able to nurse but, ultimately, to be able to cry, to be able to talk, to be able to vocalize. That requires very sophisticated muscle memory on the part of the tongue.
So there's arm muscle memory and there's tongue muscle memory. The funny thing about this is that, again, none of us really experience this cognitively. We experience this bodily. So there's a very interesting notion here because if most of us would think of memory and you would say associate one organ in your body with memory, most of us would think brain.
What the psalmist is concerned about here is another kind of memory entirely. It's body memory. I guess the question is -- and I'm going to throw this out to you guys and you can comment on this on your little feed over here -- why is that? What do you make of that? Why should it be that the psalmist is saying if I forget you, Jerusalem -- which seems like a cognitive act -- then let my right hand forget how to act as a right hand? Let my tongue forget how to be. Why are we talking all of sudden about muscle memory and bodily memory rather than cognitive memory?
Imu Shalev: Eitan Zerykier seems to be saying the author is a musician, yet he can't sing and play and celebrate as he would.
Rabbi Fohrman: First of all, yes. On the simple level, that's seemingly true. That's really addressing another question here. Another question is why these particular things? Let's say we're talking about muscle memory, but why are we talking about the muscle memory of the right hand in particular and of the mouth in particular? The answer would seem to be because the author is a musician. If the author isn't a musician, the subjects of the psalm are musicians.
Remember what we're talking about here. We're talking about those who were exiled in Babylon. What do they have in their hands that they're hanging up on the trees? They have harps. Well, what do you do when you play a harp? You do a few things. You strum it with your right hand, that's one thing you do. The other thing you do is you sing along with the harp.
Basically, the punishment, so to speak, which we should get if we degrade the songs of Jerusalem by singing the songs of Zion on foreign soil, is that our muscle memory that we use for the simplest thing, for song, would be erased. We wouldn't know how to sing anymore, which would mean we would not know how to use our right arm to pluck the harp and we would not be able to sing. We would not be able to use our mouths to sing, and it's a fitting response to debasing the songs of Jerusalem.
I think on a little bit of a deeper level -- let me just see if anybody else here -- okay. So David Aron says because the existence before the exile was so normal that it was like muscle memory, now in our diminished stated, it's almost as if we're disabled. It's almost as if one forgets what life was like before. It's kind of a curse, Steve says, a punishment for forgetting. Is there any possibility that it could a suggestion of a remedy?
I'm going to actually go with Linda over here. Linda Moore says, "Handedness, a motor skill and speech are so innate that without them it's as if you don't exist. Without awareness of Jerusalem, the soul also loses something innate." Very beautifully put, Linda. I'm just going to call your attention to that comment.
I'll just say it one more time. "Handedness, motor skill and speech are so innate that without them it's as if one doesn't exist." I think it's really true. If you think about what makes you you, it's the things that we teach ourselves that make us us.
If you think about memory, there are different kinds of memory, almost as if there's -- one almost can see three kinds of memory that go from shallowest to deepest memory. If you think about short-term memories, the shallowest kind of memory, the memory that you can cram for on a test and then deeper memories, long-term memory that really stays with you. Then there's muscle memory. There's just what you teach your body to do.
Short-term memory is the first to go, but long-term memory, even if I have struggles with my short-term memories, I still have long-term memory. But if my long-term memory goes, I still know how to use my right hand, I still know how to talk, I still know how to sing.
So our deepest sense of who we are is aligned with muscle memory, our ability to talk, our ability to use our right hand. There's something sort of not -- and I guess the psalmist is saying Jerusalem or Zion, our connection to the land and our connection to God is kind of like that. It's so innately a part of ourselves that we would imagine our sense of self diminished without that. I think that's what the psalmist is talking about here.
Let's move on now to the end of the psalm. I want to come back to this theme that I talked to you about in the Song of Ascents. The theme really was this transition from a dreamlike state, a non-real state to a state of reality. In the case of the Song of Ascents, the transition from "hayinu k'cholmim" right up here at the top -- I'll use my cursor to highlight it -- being like a dreamer to "hayinu smeichim," to being happy.
If you think about the Song of Ascents, the Song of Ascents talks about a process for that happening and part of that process, interestingly, involves people other than us and particularly gentiles. "Az yimalei s'chok pinu u'leshoneinu rinah," after our mouths are filled with song. We can't think about it. We can't cognize it because it's still not real. We're singing and we're laughing.
After that, "az yomru ba'goyim," someone can speak, but the one who can speak are the nations. "Az yomru ba'goyim higdil Hashem la'asot im eileh," and they speak about us and they say how great is God that He's actually done this with these people. After that, we can say the same thing, "Higdil Hashem la'asot imanu hayinu smeichim," we can ape those words because it's as if the non-Jews, the gentiles have given us words.
They can talk about what's happening and the reason they can talk about what's happening is because it's not happening to them. So if it's not happening to you, you can wrap your minds around it. So there's this use of some sort of externalizing agent, in this case, the non-Jews, the gentiles, which help make it real for us.
That one insight, I think, powerfully translates into "Al Naharot Bavel" as well. "Al Naharot Bavel" also has an externalizing agent and it's a fascinating one. It helps us really understand the end of the psalm. I was thinking now that the end of the psalm here -- and this is a point that I made when I spoke in Efrat, which I also put on our little chat.
The end of "Al Naharot Bavel" is full of this horrifying image, an image that C.S. Lewis, the Christian theologian, considered so abhorrent that he felt that right-thinking people couldn't even say the psalm because the psalm just left you cold. Look at this image which seems almost like this evil image at the end of the psalm. I'm just going to mark these last lines here.
"Zechor Hashem livnei Edom," remember, O God, the children of the Edom, "et yom Yerushalayim ha'omrim aru aru ad ha'yesod bah." Remember, God, what the Edomites did to us on the day Jerusalem. By the way, it's interesting, isn't it, that the day of Jerusalem is the words that we now use, in 1967 and beyond, to describe the day of the redemption of Jerusalem.
If you think about those words, they are used once in Bible, but they're used for the exact opposite. Again, a mirror image of the day of Jerusalem was the moment, the day when Jerusalem was captured. So remember, God, the day of Jerusalem, the day that Jerusalem was captured when the Edomites said, "aru aru," raze it, raze it -- that's R-A-Z-E -- lower it to the ground, "ad ha'yesod bah," destroy the very foundations.
Now, the question is what are these Edomites talking about? The question is what is it? What is the implied object of the verse? So the implied object of the verse is really the Temple or Jerusalem; destroy it, destroy it to its very foundations. Keep in mind that it's not overt. It's not actually there in the verse. The object is implied, so you don't really know what it is.
What are the foundations? What exactly is it here that is being destroyed by the children of Edom that they're cheering and saying destroy it, destroy it to its very foundations? You can ask yourself, what really are the foundations of Zion? Well, the foundation of the Temple, I suppose, the foundation of the city or might it be something more? You get a little hint of it in the next verse.
The next verse projects you towards a moment in the future, some hopeful moment in the future. This is the chilling moment. "Bat Bavel hash'dudah," looking forward, Babylonia is the agent of the exile. Nebuchadnezzar is the one who destroys the Temple. Now, the psalmist is looking forward into history to a moment when Babylon itself will be destroyed and will lay in wasted, pillaged as Jerusalem was in the present moment of the psalmist.
"Bat Bavel hash'dudah," O daughter of Babylon, who is despoiled, who has been -- all its finery has been taken from it, "ashrei sheyeshalem lach et gemuleich sh'gamalte lanu," fortunate is the one who would be able to do to you what it is that you've done to us. Now, the question is well, what is that? What exactly was done to us that it would be fortunate to do to you?
Here, you get that final, chilling metaphor in the very last verse of "Al Naharot Bavel". "Ashrei," fortunate would be the one, "sheyocheiz v'nipeitz et olalayich el ha'sala," that would be able to grab your babes, your young ones, your infants and dash them against the rocks. You see that and you think, "Oh, my goodness. It's the craziest thing. How could you say this?"
Again, C.S. Lewis recoils in horror when he sees this. What kind of barbarism is this to actually put in something spiritual like the Psalms this wish to cast Babylonian babies against the rocks? I think you can begin to get understanding of what's happening if you fill in the blanks here in the very last part of "Al Naharot Bavel" and if you see it as the mirror image to the Song of Ascents.
Let me explain what I mean. Look at the last part of Psalms 137, the last part of "Al Naharot Bavel". There's a reality here that hasn't really been spoken about but has been danced around. The reality hasn't been spoken about why. Well, think about the Song of Ascents. The Song of Ascents talks about a reality that can't be spoken about, a reality that is so wonderful that you can't even wrap your minds around it.
It just seems like a dream, so you can't talk about it. You can sing about it, you can laugh about it, there are all these things you can do at the edges of the experience, but you can't really experience it in words because it's too bright, it's too intense. Well, the mirror image of that is an experience so tragic, so dark that you can't talk about it. You can only dance around the experience, but you cannot confront the experience because the experience is too chilling, is too dark.
What is that opposite experience of the joy of the Song of Ascents, which is the exile of "Al Naharot Bavel" that is so dark, so chilling and so destructive that you can't even think about it because to think about it is just too much? You can hear it if you look at the language that dances around the edges and put two and two together.
Let's read these last verses together. "Zechor Hashem livnei Edom," remember, God, the children of Edom, what they did on the original day of Jerusalem, on the original day in which Jerusalem was conquered when they said, "destroy it, destroy it, ad hayesod bah," until its foundation. And I asked you, what was the foundation?
On the simple level, the foundations are the foundations of the Temple or the foundations of the building. But there's another foundation for society, isn't there? What's the foundation for society? What does it all rest upon? It rests upon children, babies. Destroy it, destroy it, the Edomites said, to our very foundations.
Now, the psalmist does say it; the psalmist implies it because the significance of this is so horrifying. Attack the children, attack the babies. It's like, you had to destroy everything but to destroy the children too? And now look at this wish. "Bat Bavel hash'dudah," come with me now, again, and realize how much "Al Naharot Bavel" is a mirror image of the Song of Ascents.
In the Song of Ascents, the psalm which talks about the happy version of laughing, crying and singing, we had a journey from a dreamlike state where I couldn't really wrap my mind around a reality and in that journey I used an externalizing agent to help me make that journey. It wasn't real until I could actually go to someone else, the nations of the world and somehow use what's going on with them as a way of making it real to me.
So it was this joyous, joyous moment and I couldn't really wrap my mind around it until I read it in the New York Times or read it in the Washington Post. I read it in the New Republic and I saw these gentiles, they're saying "higdil Hashem la'asot eileh," how great is God that He's done this us. Only after I've heard that can I then say those same words, "Higdil Hashem la'asot imanu," and I could finally be happy.
The same thing is happening here. I'm going to use the gentiles, so to speak, as an externalizing agent to do what? To come to grips with a nightmare. What if you never come to grips with the nightmare? The nightmare is what happened during the exile. The nightmare was the callous, wanton destruction of children, for nothing.
If you watch Schindler's List, what are the most affecting scenes in Schindler's List, in the pogrom? It was the callous -- it was the killing of babies, that scene where the Germans throw the babies off the top of the roof with the piano playing the -- I forgot what it was, one of the German composers.
Imu Shalev: Wagner.
Rabbi Fohrman: Was it Wagner? Was it him they were playing? It wasn't. It was with an S-H. I forget who -- Schopenhauer is the philosopher, but it was one of those guys. It's the most chilling, chilling thing. If you witnessed that, if you've seen the wanton destruction of your children for nothing, it's a psyche-destroying experience.
The problem is it seems like a dream. It seems like a nightmare, but if you can make it real, what happens? It's the ultimate post-traumatic stress disorder. It haunts you forever. You can never -- it's something which when these terrible, terrible things happen, it skates off the surface of your consciousness and it never feels real, but your muscle memory knows about it.
Your subconscious knows about it. So you wake up in the middle of the night sweating and you don't know even know why. You clutch the sheets and you get these ticks. Your body becomes haunted with the memory that your mind won't acknowledge. How do you make it real? Here's how you make it real. You make it real with the gentiles as an externalizing force.
The same way that in the Song of Ascents it wasn't about the gentiles, it was about me, but listening to them talk about this made it real for me. So too, what you have here, I want to suggest, is a revenge fantasy projected into the future. "Bat Bavel hash'dudah," in the future, O pillaged daughter of Babylon, "ashrei sheyeshalem lach et gemuleich sh'gamalte lanu," fortunate would be the one who would be able to do to you what you have done to me. What is it that you've done me? We see it in the very next line.
"Ashrei," fortunate would be the one who could take your babes and dash them against the rocks. That's a way of talking about what happened to me. The same way that in the Song of Ascents, when I hear the gentiles talking about the great redemption I can then talk about it, here, the way I can talk about the extreme trauma of the deaths of our own children -- I can't even say those words if I've lived through it -- is to be able to externalize it through a revenge fantasy. If I would say fortunate would the one who could do to you what you did to me; fortunate would be the one who could dash your children against the rocks. That's the only way that I can talk about what's happening to me through this externalizing thing.
The metaphor that's coming mind, I don't why, is billiards. In billiards, there are two shots you can make, the direct shot where the white ball hits the eight ball or you can carom off the side. Sometimes you can't make the direct shot, but you can carom off the side. This is a way of caroming off the side.
"Ashrei sh'yocheiz v'nipeitz et olalayich el ha'sala." It's the way that -- these two psalms together are really about the journey from unreality to reality, from the dreamlike state to our experience of this as an actual reality. How is it that we begin to come to grips with an overwhelming reality? In the Song of Ascents, an overwhelming happy reality; in "Al Naharot Bavel", a very, very sad reality, indeed.
Okay, guys, that is section one. In this webinar, where are we holding 45 minutes in? In this webinar, we've got about three hours together. We're sitting together here, Eastern Time, from about 1:00 p.m. to about 4:00 p.m. or thereabouts Eastern Standard Time. We'll see how it goes. I just talked with you a little bit about one piece that was kind of left on the cutting-room floor.
By the way, I think you can see how sad this is. Imu, how sad is it working in Aleph Beta and leaving all this stuff on the cutting-room floor? Invariably, when we put together these videos, the way the videos get put together is you research a whole kaleidoscope of things and it's wonderful.
You just wish you could somehow put it all out and you sort of can't because there's only so much you can say in 45 minutes of video or about an hour of video. And so you go through this very, very painful process of what am I going to cut out here, what am I going to cut out here. So it's a thrill to be able to share some of these pieces with you. This is one of the pieces that we weren't able to get into the video itself, the "Al Naharot Bavel" piece of this.
I want to take you into a couple of the other pieces. Let me consult my notes here up on the screen. I wanted to share with something else. Here is a little source sheet that Rivky put together for us.
I just wanted to talk to you about some modern ramifications of both the Song of Ascents and "Al Naharot Bavel", as it were, that came to be in the actual Jerusalem Day which we have experienced in our day and age. This is not the day of Jerusalem of the original exile but Jerusalem Day of salvation, of 1967, when we did get Jerusalem back in our hands and Jerusalem Day came to have a different meaning in Jewish history than just the terrible, tragic day of Jerusalem of "Al Naharot Bavel".
I want to talk to a little bit about a song which was a kind of anthem of the times, and that song is actually Naomi Shemer's Jerusalem of Gold. The history of Jerusalem of Gold was -- in 1967, Naomi Shemer composed this song before June of 1967. So actually, the debut of the song was just in the weeks before the Six-Day War, which was that terrible moment where it really seemed like things were going downhill. There was a music festival with songs unveiled and it quickly went to the top of the charts and sort of became an anthem of the times.
I was reading a couple of books, actually, about the time, in particular, Yehuda Avner's book The Prime Ministers, which actually follows Avner's connection to five prime ministers, from Levi Eshkol all the way through -- I think Menachem Begin is his last one. Begin is really the prime minister he was closest to and he tells the story -- Like Dreamers, by the way, another great book, written by Yossi Klein Halevi. The book actually takes its title from the Song of Ascents that talks about the capture of Jerusalem. We were like dreamers, "hayinu k'cholmim." They talk about the composition of the song and its connection to the time.
I actually happened to have been visiting Israel at the time when Jerusalem Day, the 50th anniversary of the conquest of Jerusalem was taking place. I got to see those festivities. On the day before the Jerusalem Day, I actually made my way down to the Western Wall. I actually posted a little Facebook live at the steps of the -- the southern steps of the Southern Wall with those original steps leading up to the Temple. It was really quite remarkable. That was the grand entrance to the Temple, and those are original steps from the original Herodian building.
It's interesting. The Southern Wall is typically ignored. My daughters and son who were there with me were just amazed that the whole Western Wall plaza was completely filled, but the Southern Wall, they were the only ones there. It's just as holy as the Western Wall. You see Sha'arei Chuldah (Gates of Huldah), the Second Temple recreation of the First Temple's gates where the Prophetess Huldah would be. You see the actual street that has been unearthed which is on the side of the Western Wall, which is where the shuk was, the marketplace was there.
We were just walking around and you see the rubble, by the way, from the original Tisha B'Av during the Second Temple times, where you actually see these huge stones which are the size of the bottom Temple stones. In other words, if you're at the Western Wall, if you ever notice the stones there, so you've got the huge stones at the bottom of it and then the stones get smaller and smaller as you get towards the top of the wall. The reason is because the original stones are the huge, big ones at the bottom, but the ones at the top are not original. They're stones that have come at later stages.
There's this huge rubble of these huge, big stones which are the original stones, which came from the top of the wall that Roman soldiers pushed down on the Tish B'Av itself. There are scorch marks and there are coins from the time that are hidden in those stones. It's right there and you can see it. It's really remarkable. It's almost like this visceral encounter with the Tisha B'Av.
Anyway, I'm there at the Southern Wall and at the Southern Wall, there is a little museum there. It's called the Davidson Museum, put together by a friend of mine. If you go into the Davidson Center, there are a couple of real gems. They have this temporary exhibit for Jerusalem Day.
There are two things in particular that I want to tell you about that I saw at the time. One of them was -- I guess they're both connected to Aleph Beta videos. One of them is connected to our last year's Aleph Beta video and one of them is connected to this year's Aleph Beta video. So first, last year's. Last year's is you go to the right-hand side of the Davidson Center, a little, tiny thing that you almost have to look under. They actually have a huge magnifying glass that you can see it in larger relief. It is a seal that was found in a garbage pit outside of the walls of Jerusalem, outside the walls of, I think, Damascus Gate. It is a little seal that they found of King Hezekiah.
We have some Fohrman kids and cousins who have joined live webinar over here in Queens. They are off-screen because they are shy, but we do have some Fohrman kids and Bergers that have come to experience us. Actually, these are the kids that I was just telling you about. I was just telling the story of how Shoshanna and Abigail, how you guys were with me, we were at the Southern Wall excavation. I remember Avichai was showing you around there, around the Southern Wall. Then we went off to the Davidson Center where we saw two remarkable things. The two remarkable things we saw is -- one is the seal, a silver seal of King Hezekiah.
For those of you who haven't yet checked out our Aleph Beta video from last year, we talked about the Hezekiah and the very first whispers of mourning, the very first whispers of the Tisha B'Av that come at this triumphant moment of his kingship. Hezekiah, of course, is contemporary with the Prophet Isaiah, huge actor in the Book of Kings and he got a seal right over there.
I remember it was Ariella, actually. We had gone the day before to the City of David. In the City of David, they had given out these little bookmarks for free and the bookmark had a little translation sheet where you could translate regular Hebrew into what's called ketav Ivri or Proto-Hebrew, which was in use at the time of King Hezekiah.
If you looked at the seal, the seal was not written in regular Hebrew, in Ashuri script, it was written in Proto-Hebrew. So Ariella was sitting there translating it. I remember that. Chezkiah Hamelech -- Chezkiah ben David Melech Yisrael, you can actually piece it together and there it is, it's Hezekiah's seal together with right in the middle of the seal was an eagle. That was the symbol of his kingship.
Anyway, in one room you have King Hezekiah and his seal with the eagle and in the other room, they had something which -- at least to my kids and me sort of had this -- we all had the same reaction. We were just kind of watching this and it was this spontaneous thing. You saw this and you just couldn't stop crying. It's like you had to have tissues right next to the exhibit. There in the glass case is a shofar and a prayer book, and it's the shofar of Rabbi Goren.
Rabbi Goren, of course, was the head rabbi of Tzahal(IDF). He was the head chaplain of the Israeli army. He actually comes in on the day that Jerusalem was captured, the moment when they actually captured the Kotel and he blows his shofar and he reads from his prayer book. He inscribes it later.
It's just this remarkable moment and he makes, spontaneously, this blessing, a blessing that we make today in Minchah (afternoon prayer service). "Baruch atah Hashem menachem Tzion u'boneh Yerushalayim." Blessed are you, God, who comforts Zion and who builds Jerusalem. That's really what we felt, that this is the moment where Jerusalem is being comforted, where the Tisha B'Av is sort of coming back and it's in that flipside I was telling you about before of Jerusalem Day.
Jerusalem Day, of course, we know as Jerusalem Day in 1967, but remember, Jerusalem Day comes in the Bible from "Al Naharot Bavel" itself. It's in that moment that that shofar is blown that we begin to have that flip from the tragic Jerusalem Day to the beautiful Jerusalem Day.
Anyway, so you're there in the Davidson Center and right next to the shofar and right next to Hezekiah's seal, on the other side of the room, there's something truly modern. It's this little paper from a scratchpad. I took a picture of it. Maybe we can even find the picture and post it up on this Facebook live so that you can see it. It's actually this scroll, this handwritten scroll in Hebrew script and it is the third -- actually the fourth stanza of Naomi Shemer's Jerusalem of Gold, written in Naomi Shemer's own hand and there's a story a behind it, just the scratchpad on which she wrote this.
Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, that haunting melody, as I mentioned to you, became the anthem of people before -- just before the Six-Day War. The song actually played a role, in a certain kind of way, in the liberation of Jerusalem. You know, you always play what-ifs and I don't know if there's a what-if to be played here legitimately, but public opinion was swayed by that song. There was a kind of longing for Jerusalem and Zion.
It was reawakened at the time because it wasn't really a foregone conclusion that the Old City was going to be taken. There was actually a lot of debate among the cabinet at the time. I think Levi Eshkol, if I'm not mistaken, was the prime minister. There was a unity government and Likud had joined and Begin was part of the government. There was this debate as to what would happen if we could actually take Jerusalem.
It turned out that the victories in the south had happened fast enough that there was a paratrooper brigade which was no longer needed in the south, which then came up north. That was the paratrooper brigade with Motta Gur. There was this question, would we actually -- would the paratroopers actually go into the Old City and take it, would the world abide it? Is it something that we could -- that you could do? Eshkol was kind of wavering and Begin made this impassioned speech which was reproduced in Yossi Klein Halevi's book, Like Dreamers, where he said we have to do this and if we don't take this opportunity, future generations will never forgive us.
When Jerusalem was ultimately -- and part of it, I think, in the background was the public relations fact that people were thinking about Jerusalem. Naomi Shemer's song was on people's minds. When the paratroopers got there, it's one of the first things they sang along with the Song of Ascents itself. Begin comes to the site and Begin recites the psalm, the Song of Ascents, the day after.
So I just wanted to go through one stanza of Jerusalem of Gold with you. Jerusalem of Gold that is pictured there is the fourth stanza. Now, the song originally only had three stanzas. If you think about the way the song originally ended -- I'll put it up here on the screen for you -- this is how it ended. "Eichah yavshu borot ha'mayim kikar ha'shuk reikah v'ein poked et Har Habayit b'Ir Ha'Atikah." It's this song of longing and it ends with this -- with a picture of a city in mourning.
Remember, before 1967 it was a city in mourning. Eichah, of course, comes from Lamentations. By the way, the fascinating thing about Naomi Shemer is that she really was -- I don't know how traditional she was or not traditional, but she really was a poet almost in the vein of the original medieval paytanim (authors of liturgical poems) inasmuch as she's using metaphors from the Bible to construct her modern poetry and you can recognize metaphors.
For example, how does the verse start? "Eichah yavshu borot ha'mayim" starts with Eichah. It's Lamentations. It's this lament for this city that is desolate. "Kikar ha'shuk reikah," that the marketplace is empty, "v'ein poked et Har Habayit," and nobody comes to Temple Mount in the Old City. "U'bame'arot asher ba'sela." Now, listen to this language and you'll recognize it if you've been thinking about the two psalms that we've been talking about, the Song of Ascents and "Al Naharot Bavel". I'm just going to read it and see if you guys can pick up which word it is here that appears, actually, in the Song of Ascents and "Al Naharot Bavel".
"U'bame'arot asher ba'sela," and in the caves that are in the rock, "meyalelot ruchot," winds are howling. The word for howling there are winds -- there's a mourning sense of it. If you think about that word meyalelot -- remember that word meyalelot, where is meyalelot in "Al Naharot Bavel"? It's actually in -- there it is, "v'tolaleinu simchah." Very good, Abigail got it.
"V'tolaleinu simchah" is where our captors tormented us. Remember, they tormented us by making fun of our anguish. We had these anguished cries, and they mocked those anguished cries by saying oh, can you sing us a song? Here it is, that word is showing up in Naomi Shemer's anthem, "meyalelot ruchot," the winds have their anguished cries as they fly through, as they howl through the cracks in the abandoned stones. "V'ein yored el Yam Hamelach," nobody goes down to the Dead Sea anymore, "b'derech Yericho," by way of Jericho.
"Ach bevo'i ha'yom lashir lach," but when I come to sing to you, she says, "v'lach likshor k'tarim," and to tie bows or to tie crowns for you, "katonti mitze'ir bana'ich u'mei'acharon ha'meshorerim," she sees herself as the last in a long line of those who've sung about Jerusalem going back all the way to those original authors of liturgical poems from the Middle Ages and from even before. "Ki shmeich tzorev et ha'sfatayim ki'neshikat saraf im eshkacheich Yerushalayim asher kulah zahav," and there she's quoting from Psalm 137, from "Al Naharot Bavel", if I forget thee, O Jerusalem, your name scorches the lips.
Now, this is where the song originally ends, with those three stanzas. What they have displayed in the Davidson Center is the fourth stanza. The fourth stanza was actually commissioned by Teddy Kollek. Do you guys remember who Teddy Kollek is? Teddy Kollek, of course, was the mayor of Jerusalem at the time. Teddy Kollek asks Naomi Shemer to come back after June 1967, and to write a fourth stanza. Remember, the song ends on this dour note. The song ends on this sad note where Jerusalem is still abandoned and she writes the fourth stanza which is, "chazarnu el borot ha'mayim."
It's interesting. If you go to the Davidson Center, you see the original thing. You'll see the original word chazarnu was a cross-out. It originally was "yesh lanu borot ha'mayim." She crossed it out to chazarnu. We've returned to the wells, we've returned "lashuk v'lakikar," to the marketplace and the square. "Shofar korei b'Har Habayit," now a shofar sounds on the Temple Mount in the Old City.
I want to come with you to an earlier verse here and just show you something neat. I don't know if you can see it on the screen because the screen is a little small. "Ube'tardeimat ilan v'even shvuyah ba'chalomah." She's talking about Jerusalem of old and Jerusalem in mourning and here's what she says in the second stanza. "Ube'tardeimat ilan va'even," and the slumber of trees and stones, "shvuyah ba'chalomah."
So I ask you here on Facebook live and you can write your little comments over here, what does this remind you of in the Song of Ascents? Does this remind you of anything? "U'betardeimat ilan va'even," in the slumber of stone and of trees, "shvuyah ba'chalomah," captured as if in a dream. What does that remind you of?
As you think about what that reminds of, Steve says in the notes my good friend was one of those paratroopers, Rabbi Dr. Gil Nativ. They had no idea what was going to happen. David Aron says it reminds you shvuyah ba'chalomah of the Covenant Between the Parts. Yes, that reminds you of Genesis Chapter 15, where there was that moment of that dream, that aching, nightmarish dream. Think about the Song of Ascents, what does "shvuyah ba'chalomah" remind you of, the slumber captured in a dream? Very good, Vadim, like dreamers.
Remember the beginning of the Song of Ascents. "Shir hama'alot b'shuv Hashem et shivat Tziyon hayinu k'cholmim." So listen to that language of the Song of Ascents for a moment. "Shir ha'ma'alot b'shuv Hashem," when God returns, "shivat Tzion." Now, notice that the word shav there is being used in two different ways. The shuv Hashem, when God will return, shivat Tzion, what does shivat mean? Shivat Tzion means the captives of or those who need to be returned. When God will return "shivat Tzion hayinu k'cholmim," we will seem like dreamers.
So think about those metaphors. "B'shuv Hashem," when God will return, "shivat Tzion," the captives, "hayinu k'cholmim," we will be like dreamers. Now, Naomi Shemer playing off of that, "shvuyah ba'chalomah," it's as if Jerusalem is captured as if in a dream. Going back to that nightmare image I was talking to you about, the dream of the Song of Ascents but the nightmare image of the Covenant Between the Parts, going all the way back to Genesis, that foretells exile.
You have Naomi Shemer's version of the nightmare, "shvuyah ba'chalomah," captured as if in a dream, as if in a nightmare. It's as if she's taking that imagery of the Song of Ascents which is hopeful imagery and when God returns the captives of Zion, it will feel like we were dreaming and she is speaking about a time of exile when Jerusalem had not yet been redeemed. But now, it feels like Jerusalem is a prisoner of that dream, "shvuyah ba'chalomah."
My next question for you is -- well, let's keep on reading. "Ha'ir asher badad yoshevet." Where does that come from? "Ha'ir asher badad yoshevet," the city that lies alone, that lies desolate and alone. Where is quoting from in the Bible right now? Anybody, "ha'ir asher badad yoshevet? That's right, Eichah. This is going to be Lamentations Verse 1. "Eichah yashvah badad," the city that sits alone.
If you think about it, there is a metaphor here and the metaphor is not original. It's not Naomi Shemer's metaphor. The metaphor is the city that has been stripped of all of her children is like a woman whose children are not around anymore. They've all been taken away, all been carted off and she sits all alone, "u'belibah chomah," and her heart is this wall.
So here she's quoting from Lamentations and I want to come with you now to the first verse in the stanza. "U'betardeimat ilan va'even," but in the slumber of stone and of trees, "shvuyah ba'chalomah," captured as if in a dream. Now, let's play this little game where have we heard this before. Tardeimah in the Bible, where is she quoting from now? Tardeimah in the Five Books of Moses. We'll ask our live audience here, but we'll also ask you guys on Facebook live. Where do you have tardeimah in the Five Books of Moses? Anybody, tardeimah?
The Fohrmans and Bergers are clustered around little Bibles trying to find this, but, guys, you guys can also cluster around your Bible. Where is this tardeimah? Tardeimah, by the way, that kind of slumber, a very, very deep slumber, a very unusual word in the Bible, appears only twice in the Five Books of Moses. Does anyone know where? Harold Fruchter, Barry Holzer and Diana all say Abraham and now, Michael Davies with Adam and Eve. You guys are correct; those are the two times. So you have it -- did you guys find it?
Rabbi Fohrman: No. All right, there it is. So those are the two times. You actually have two slumbers, two very deep slumbers in the Bible and those times are Adam and Eve and -- actually, Adam and not Eve -- Eve is a part of the story -- and Abraham. So first Abraham. Abraham in the Covenant Between the Parts, when he gets -- and we've been talking about that. We've been talking about dreams.
One of the very first dreams that we have mentioned in the Bible is that prophetic nightmare in which Abraham is plunged into that great -- that dark dread and he has this prophetic nightmarish vision and "v'tardeimah naflah al Avram," a deep sleep falls upon him and that's where he has the original vision of exile. Well, isn't it interesting that Noami Shemer is talking about that original vision of exile when she's painting that vision of exile in her own day and age when Jerusalem still sits as if captured in a dream and she's referencing that dark dream of Abraham? She's not just referencing that dark dream of Abraham. She's referencing something else.
The other time tardeimah is used is Adam and Eve. Where is there tardeimah with Adam and Eve? We all know the story. The story is -- how does Eve get created? Eve gets created when Adam is plunged into a tardeimah, this very, very deep sleep and out of that comes Eve.
Now, boys and girls, you knew this was going to happen. I'm going to ask you that question; what is the common denominator between the two occurrences of tardeimah in the Five Books of Moses? Why specifically there? What in the world does the tardeimah of Adam in which Eve is created have to do with the tardeimah of Abraham? How are these things -- how are these things at all the same? Is it just a coincidence that the word appears twice in these two cases or is there any common denominator to those circumstances?
So what I want you to think about -- and you guys can give me your reactions on your Facebook live comments -- is think about the circumstances that Adam finds himself in. You can almost put yourself -- Yael Unterman who lives in Efrat says Bibliodrama and what she'll ask you to do is inhabit the persona of a biblical character if you can't in first-person and just try to sketch out in your brain what that world is like for a minute.
So I want you to try to do that with these two biblical characters. Adam before Eve is created on the one hand and Abraham as you're going into the Covenant Between the Parts and tell me how these two situations are similar. If you're looking for it -- I'm going to look through it right now in my Bible. You can find it in Chapter 15 in Genesis. You can flip through it with me.
If you have a Bible, open up to Chapter 15 and just read a couple of these verses here with Abraham. Tell me what about Abraham's story reminds you of Adam's story. How are these guys -- if you would imagine being a first-person inhabitant of Abraham's shoes or a first-person inhabitant of Adam's shoes; how would you say these two people are in a similar situation? Is their situation similar?
Take a look at Chapter 15 here. I'll read a couple of these verses. "Achar ha'devarim ha'eileh," after these things, "hayah devar Hashem el Avram ba'machazeh leimor," and the word of God came to Abram in a dream and God says to him, "al tira Avram anochi magen lach s'charcha harbeh me'od," don't worry about a thing, Abram, your reward is going to be very great.
"Vayomer Avram Hashem Elokim mah titen li v'anochi holeich ariri," and Abram says, God, what can you possibly give me when I don't have any children, I've let go of Lot for the last time, "u'ben meshek beiti hu damesek Eliezer," the only guy I have left who could possibly inherit me is Eliezer; what can you possibly do for me?
God doesn't answer him, so Abram persists and says, "hein li lo natatah zara," you haven't given me any children, "v'hineih ben beiti yoreish oti," all I have is my servant, Eliezer. At that point, God comes and says, "lo yirash'cha zeh," he's not going to be your heir, "ki im asher yeitzei mimei'echa hu yirashecha," your own biological child is going to carry on your legacy.
He takes him out, shows him the stars and says can you count the stars. Your progeny are going to be like the stars, and Abraham believes in him. Then God says I am the God who took you out of Ur, "latet lecha et ha'aretz ha'tzos lerish'tah," to give you this land as an inheritance. Abraham says how do I know it's going to happen? So God plunges him into this tardeimah, "tardeimah naflah al Avram," and that's the scene -- that's setting the scene for when this tardeimah happens, when he has this vision of hundreds of years of servitude out of which he'll finally come -- as the nation will finally go free and will finally get the land.
So, boys and girls, men and women, of Facebook live and our group and our studio audience right over here, I ask you what is similar about the situation Adam finds himself in on the one the hand and the situation in which Abraham finds himself on the other? Let me read some of your Facebook comments and then we'll take some of the Fohrmans over here who have their hands up and can't even keep themselves quiet because they want to participate.
Let's see. All right, Zack Dean, creation of the firstborn, neither sees a future. Barry Holzer, no descendants, Abraham has no partner, Abraham has no child. Okay. Good. You're kind of getting warm. Fohrmans, what you do you guys say? Yes? (pause) Okay. So my daughter, Ariella, over here who you can barely hear because she said that very softly. Ariella, can you speak up because it's not nice to say things that are not loud enough for everybody else to hear. So I have to paraphrase it for you. Oh, my goodness.
So Ariella says that they're both standing on the cusp of something. Both of these men are -- there's going to be this great nation that comes from them. Now, the kids from Adam, it's not the great nation; it's all of humanity is going to come from him and from Abraham a whole nation is going to come from him. So what's similar in both cases, the common denominator of all of humanity coming from them and a nation coming from them would be what? In both cases, these are people who don't yet have X and are being promised X and X is? Children, descendants, legacy.
Now, there are two kinds of legacy. Actually, in this language, legacy is described as children, but legacy is also described as something else. I'm going to give you this land as an inheritance. You're also going to have land as an inheritance. Really, Abraham was promised land. Now, was Adam promised land? In what sense was --
Rabbi Fohrman: No, Adam wasn't promised land, but he was.
Fohrmans: Doesn't he get a whole world?
Rabbi Fohrman: He gets the whole world. In other words, if you think about Adam, what is he told? At the moment, he's told "p'ru u'revu," have children, there's a promise of children, he's also told "p'ru u'revu u'milu et ha'aretz v'kivshuha," go and conquer the land. The land is going to be yours.
So if you really think about Adam and you think about Abraham, they're, like, in exactly the same position. In both cases, here are these people that have been promised two great promises, and the promises are land and children. The question is how is it going to happen? How's it going to happen that you're going to have land and children? How will it be?
It's interesting, by the way, that Naomi Shemer, in referencing the tardeimah of both of these men, is talking about land as if it were a child. "Ha'ir asher badad yoshevet," the city that's missing its children. The city is land, but it's missing its children. The two kinds of legacy that we have are being put together in Lamentations. If you think about those first verses of Lamentations, "Eichah asher yashvah vadad," we're singing about a woman that has children, but the metaphor for that is she's bereft; her children are gone from the land. So these two metaphors slide in and out of each other.
Anyway, coming back to the common denominator of Abraham and Adam, here are these two people that are both promised land and both promised children. What else is similar about their circumstances? They're both promised land, they're both promised children and what? What issue do these two men have? What dilemma?
Fohrmans: One doesn't have a wife and one their wife isn't bearing children.
Rabbi Fohrman: They're both wifeless. They're both missing a wife. They're both missing any way of possibly having these children.
Fohrmans: Abraham has a wife, but --
Fohrmans: They're both childless.
Rabbi Fohrman: So they're both childless. In other words, they both can't imagine where these children are coming from. Now, the reason why Adam can't imagine where these children are coming from is because he doesn't have a wife yet. The reason why Abraham can't imagine where these children are coming is because his wife, it seems like she's too old to have a child, she can't be childless.
Now, if you think about it, both of these men also are at a stage of extreme frustration because this isn't the first time that Abraham has gotten this promise. If you chart Chapter 15, Abraham has heard about this promise from the beginning. All the way back from Chapter 12, God keeps on telling him don't worry, you're going to have land, you're going to have children, everything's great. Abraham, he's, like, waiting for it to happen. He thinks maybe it's going to be Lot, but Lot leaves him for the last time. Finally, it's like he's -- he's like, where is it going to happen? Where's my child already? Now, think about Adam, a very similar sense of frustration. What happened with him before Eve came along?
Fx: All the animals.
Rabbi Fohrman: All the animals. It was the big dating game. All the way up on the New Jersey Turnpike and first a date with a flamingo and then a date with a hippopotamus. I mean, it sounds a little gross, but that's what it was. "U'le'Adam lo matza eizer kenegdo." He's naming all of these animals and I don't know. The flamingo didn't have a good sense of humor. He was socially off. It just didn't feel -- I mean, it's very frustrating the whole thing.
Finally, what happens? God puts Adam to sleep and in that slumber, He's going to introduce him to the woman of his dreams. When he wakes up, who does he see? He sees Eve. Now, think about Abraham. When Abraham wakes up, who does he see in our story? Take a look at the end of our story when Abraham wakes up. If you have your Bible in front of you, back to the Bible, everybody. Chapter 15, look at the end, at the very end, you get to Chapter 16. How does Chapter 16 begin? Who's the first person we see in Chapter 16?
Rabbi Fohrman: There's Sarai. It's as if God has put Sarai "eishet Avram." It's as if God is presenting this Adam with a new wife. So both of these men are promised land and children. Adam is promised the whole world and all of humanity and Abraham is promised a slice of the world, Israel, and these children, but where will it come from? Who will be their mate is the great question.
Now, come back to Naomi Shemer's song. Naomi Shemer invoking with the "tardeimah ilan va'even," look what she's saying at the end of it. "Ha'ir asher badad yoshevet." What is Jerusalem missing? Jerusalem is missing a mate. What's the mate for Jerusalem? The mate for Jerusalem is the people. So the tardeimah is, again, as if she's talking about this long exile, "v'tardeimat ilan va'even," it's as if the trees -- not Adam, not Eve, not Abraham, but now, it's as if the trees and stones are in a slumber. What are they waiting for?
They're waiting for the same thing that Adam was waiting for, the same thing that Abraham was waiting for, which is someone who could be their mate, someone with whom they could have some children, somewhere that the loneliness would finally be over and the exile would finally be over and you could finally come home. They're wanting to come home and they want the mate to come home with. That's what tardeimah means.
Of course, the tragedy in which I'll end this little section with -- the tragedy is in the -- in the Abraham story, look what happens. "V'Sarai eishet Avram lo yaldah lo." What happens? Abram is finally being presented with his mate, but in frustration, what happens? "V'Sarai eishet Avram lo yaldah lo v'lah shifchah Mitzrit u'shmah Hagar," Sarai doesn't have any children, but she just happened to have an Egyptian maidservant by the name of Hagar.
Sarai says to Abram, "hineih na atzarani Hashem miledet," God has evidently held me back from having kids, "bo na el shifchati," why don't you consort with my maidservant, "ulay ibaneh mimenah," maybe I can children through her, "vayishma Avram l'kol Sarai," and Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. "Vatikach Sarai eishet Avram," and Sarai, the wife of Abram, took Hagar, "ha'Mitzrit shifchatah," took Hagar this Egyptian, "mikeitz eser shanim l'shevet Avram b'eretz Cana'an va'titein otah l'Avram ishah lo l'ishah," and at the end of all these years gives her to Abram as a wife.
There's something kind of tragic here because think about what we've just seen. Here's this moment where Abraham is missing a mate. He gets into the tardeimah and, just like Adam, he wakes up and who are you going to find? It's like the greatest surprise at all. What is God really revealing to Abraham by having Sarah be the first person he lays eyes upon when he wakes up from his tardeimah? The same thing He revealed to Adam about Eve, which is, surprise! She's been here all along. The woman of your dreams, through which you're going to have everyone, you never thought it was going to be her. She was too old. But guess what? It is. She's going to have a child. It's remarkable.
The tragedy of the story is this is the very moment that Sarah and Abraham conspire, thinking that Sarah can't have kids, to bring Hagar into the relationship. If you think about the language, the language is very shocking. If you look at that verse over here, you can follow me back into Genesis 16 now. If you look at that verse in which Sarai gives Hagar over to Abram, take a look at Chapter 16, Verse 3.
"Vatikach Sarai eishet Avram et Hagar haMitzrit shifchatah mikeitz eser shanim l'shevet Avram b'eretz Cana'an va'titein otah l'Avram ishah lo l'ishah." Now, you can express this verse -- I've just read for you in Hebrew, but you can express this verse kind of like a mathematical formula. The mathematical formula -- let's express it with X, Y and Z.
"Vatikach vatitein l'ishah." Where else in Tanach do you ever have that formulation? Each word alone, a very regular word, but in that exact order, where do you ever have that, "Vatikach," a woman taking, "vatitein," a woman giving, "l'ishah," to her husband? Sarah takes Hagar and gives her to her husband. What does that remind you; when's another time? Vatikach, a woman takes, vatitein, and gives to her husband. What are we looking at here, boys and girls?
Our studio audience of Fohrmans and Bergers; come on, guys. What do you say? Our Facebook Live audience. When else do you have, Vatikach vatitein l'ishah, a woman takes and gives to her husband? What would the answer be? Our Facebook Live.
It is, as Michael and Elinatan and Shoshana and Ayalah and Avigail and everybody. It's the fruit. It's the forbidden fruit. The original sin. This is it. It's like we're back in Eden. It's like one more time, except for now, Hagar is the forbidden fruit.
By the way, it's not just that; you have it in this language over here too. "Vayishma Avram l'kol Sarai," and Abraham, tragically, listened to the voice of Sarah. What does that remind you of back in the Garden? The punishment to Adam comes when God says to Adam, "Ki shamata l'kol ishtecha," because you listened to Eve and you took the forbidden fruit. One more time, Adam has listened and taken the forbidden fruit. So there's this tragic moment.
By the way, it's a moment which is tragic, because it leads to exile. How does it lead to exile? Take a look at this moment here in Lech L'cha; the moment we've been looking at. Read it one more time. "V'Sarai eishet Avram" -- we're back in Genesis Chapter 16, Verse 1. Folks, pick up your Tanach one more time and read this with me. Genesis 16, Verse 1. "V'Sarai eishet Avram," and Sarah the wife of Abraham, "lo yaldah lah," she didn't have any children, "v'lah shifchah Mitzrit," and she had an Egyptian maidservant, "u'shemah Hagar," by the name of Hagar.
Now, we talked about this in our Aleph Beta videos. I think -- would you remember which Aleph Beta, the video that's about this?
Rabbi Fohrman: It was Va'eira -- Va'yeira, second year. Our second-year parashah video. So you guys can all dig that up if you want to look into it. But just to encapsulate the main point, we talked about the following. Isn't it interesting what Hagar's name is? Hagar -- hei-gimmel-reish. If you just remove the vowelization, what does that, sort of, kind of, sound like?
Rabbi Fohrman: Hager, the stranger. Well, if you go back to Genesis Chapter 15, this moment of tardeimah (slumber) for Abraham; he was told about strangers. What was he told about strangers? "Ger yiyeh zaracha," your children will be strangers. Where? In the land that's not theirs. Where they were strangers then? It ended up being Egypt, but it could have been any land, but it ended up being Egypt. Isn't that interesting. What nationality did Hagar, the stranger, have?
Rabbi Fohrman: Oh, "v'lah shifcha Mitzrit," Verse 1 says. She just happened to have been Egyptian. We just happen to know her national identity. She just happened to be Egyptian. Fascinating? And what happens to her? What happens to her is, she gets exiled. Why does she get exiled? Because Sarah and Abraham, they're not nice to her. What's the verb for not being nice to her? "Vata'anehah Sarai," and Sarah oppresses her with inui. Well, what does that remind you of, guys?
Rabbi Fohrman: Oh, that's what God said to Abraham. "Ki ger yiyeh zaracha b'eretz lo lahem va'avadum v'inu otam arba mei'ot shanah." So here is this Tree of Knowledge sin, which is coming back to haunt them. Which after you eat from the Tree of Knowledge -- and by the way, look what happened to Adam. Exile happened to him too. He got kicked out of Garden. So here's this Tree of Knowledge sin that is creating this interpersonal crisis between Sarah and Hagar. The stranger, Hagar and pre-sin, we are destined to be strangers and we're exiled from our land. All the way.
Naomi Shemer here was just talking about another exile. Where she's talking about the tardeimat ilan v'even, the captivity and the slumber and the nightmare and the dream of the stones and the rocks. They're searching for this maid and she's, sort of, channeling these stories. So these were the kind of thoughts that were going through my mind, folks, when we were in the Davidson Center looking at Naomi Shemer's, sort of, modern version of these exiles. With the exiles of Adam, the exiles of Abraham, our exile and the exile that we're slowly starting to come back from.
Okay, folks. So here's what we're going to do. You guys have been with me for a while. It is 2:32. We've got another hour-and-a-half together at this webinar. I can't wait. I'm going to take you into a whole new piece. All this is stuff that got left on the cutting room floor. This, briefly, is our idea for this series. What got left on the cutting room floor that we couldn't tell you about in our video series on Shir Hama'alot? We talked about the two pieces so far. We've talked about Al naharot Bavel. We've talked about the modern version of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. We come back; I'm going to give you guys just 30 seconds to stretch your feet. I'm going to go for a little walk around the office.
Maybe Imu wants to come and entertain you all with his grandiose tales of Aleph Beta Land and everything that goes on here. Imu, see if you can think of something really interesting to tell our Facebook Live audience, while I get up and walk around. Oh, you want to take a walk too. All right, guys. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to take a 60-second break. You guys are going to get up and stretch your feet. It's not good to sit there and just sit in the chair. You've go to get up and get your 250 steps. We're going to come back in about -- say, let's call it two minutes, 120 seconds. Then I'll take you to Chapter 3 of this webinar. I'll see you in about two minutes.
All right, gang. Here we are; we're getting back and we are in Part 2 of our webinar. It is 2:30. This webinar goes until 4:00. If you're just joining us, you are joining the Aleph Beta Webinar. We're up to Chapter 3. This is the stuff that got left -- so here we are. We are back with an hour-and-a-half to go in our webinar here. I wanted to share with you some other stuff that got left on the cutting room floor. We're going to call it Chapter 3. I want to talk to you a little bit about Joseph's dreams and we'll see how far we can get.
This is, actually, probably, more than some material that will take us beyond where we'll be able to get to today, but we'll see how far I can take you. Let me share with you a screen. Let me see what screen I can share with you now. Why don't we try Sefaria? Let's see if we can find Sefaria. Okay. So let's try -- and you can follow on your Tanach if you want. I'm going to look for Genesis 41. Here we go. There's a problem, actually, with giving this to you in Sefaria is I can't make it that big. Can I? I don't think I can. Oh, there we go. Look at that. Yeah. These young whippersnappers, they sure know how to work the modern technology.
Okay. So here we are; Sefaria. I'm going to share with you my screen so you can see this. Let's see if I can get our zoom back. Here we go. Screen share and Sefaria. Okay. So can you guys see that? Hopefully you can see that. Thank you, Avraham Honig, for the system preference and stuff.
Let me take you into Genesis 41 here. Let us find the place and I'll make it big for you. That's about as big as it's going to get. Actually, I'll put some English in here too. By the way, a little plug for Sefaria. Sefaria is great. Sefaria.org. I managed to go to their dinner where they dedicated their new Talmud version. That, again, also by Ethan Davidson. But Sefaria is terrific for cross-referencing stuff. They have all the Tanach there together with all the commentators and it's really accessible. What you're looking right now is at Sefaria.
Here's what I want to tell you about. One of the loose ends that we talked about in the video series of Shir Hama'alot, was the great mystery of Joseph's dreams. Joseph has two dreams, as you know. The dream about the sun and the moon and the stars and the dream about the sheaves of wheat. I want to focus with you right now on the first of those dreams. Then, if we can, we'll get to the second one. Let's talk about the first of the dreams. We talked about this in our video series. By the way, folks on Facebook, if it doesn't look like I'm looking at you, it just means that I'm looking at the studio audience and not ignoring you here.
The question was what do these dreams mean? What does Joseph think the dreams mean? When does he know what the dreams mean? And when does everyone find out; when do the brothers know, when does Joseph know? What does everybody think at each stage? Here's something that we talked about a little bit on the videos. It's something which I discovered really after the videos were shot and after they we're being animated, so I couldn't put this in. It, kind of, got left on the cutting room floor. So let me take you through the thought process, if I can.
By the way, actually, before I get to this I just want to tell you one other thing I almost forgot. Which is one other thing that I discovered after the video was shot. I feel bad that I wasn't able to put this in. So I'm just going to tell you all now. I'm going to tell you by the way of a story. After we finished the principal photography or principal animation for these videos and all of the recording had been done, I had the opportunity to actually teach this material via a video conference, just sort of like I'm doing with you, to a crowd of teachers. These were teachers that were, kind of, new to my methodology. I think it was, sort of, the first time they had ever come across stuff that I had done.
One of the teachers raised their hand and said so, Rabbi Fohrman, this is all very interesting, but what's your source for all this? So I said the verses are my source. I mean, just look in the verses and that's where this comes from. I was talking about the notion that Shir Hama'alot echoes the Joseph story, which is essentially the main thesis of the videos. That you are getting two things happening at once. That Shir Hama'alot is portraying a vision of the future of what the ultimate return to Zion will look like, but it's portraying that in terms of the past. Which is to say what -- the first time there was any return to Zion look like, the very first captives of the Zion. How does Joseph come home to his family? It's using the story of Joseph as a touchstone in the past, for this future experience of Shivat Tziyon, of the return to Zion.
Anyway, so this teacher in the back of the room raises hand and says so what is your source for all this. Basically, I said the following thing. I said you may not be used to the kind of methodology that I'm doing and it's a little bit different than classical sources use. But the truth is it's the kind of methodology I firmly believe is used by the Rabbis in the Midrash. Sort of, the most ancient kind of commentary we have. It's not really the sort of methodology which is used so much by Acharonim, by later commentators, the last couple of hundred years. Not so much used by the Rishonim, the Middle Age commentators, the Medieval commentators. But going all the way back to the Rabbis about 2,000 years ago, of the Midrash Reb Chiya, those, kind of folks; it seems to be their kind of methodology.
I suggested that in my own research process it, sort of, works two ways. Sometimes I can actually go back to the Midrash and start with the Midrash and say, oh, these Midrashim, it's really strange what they're saying. I wonder what the source for that is from the text. Then work backwards and then you can see, uncovering the layers and meaning and the difficult text that they're talking about, how the Rabbis got to what they're seeing. Sometimes it works the other way around, where you can do all this textual work like in Shir Hama'alot and eventually you stumble across this Midrash and you say, oh, that's what the Rabbis were talking about; the Rabbis are actually talking about this.
So I was telling this to these teachers and these teachers are nodding all yeah, sure, that's right. That's crazy and I don't thing they believed me. It wasn't the best of sessions, unfortunately. It just felt too new. Lo and behold, four days later, after this course, I happened to stumble upon a Midrash that I want to share with you. I'm going to see if I can actually put it up on the screen; if I can. Oh, here it is. Okay. So hopefully you're screen-shared on this and you can see what I'm showing you. If not, I really apologize. I'm going to make this as large as possible.
Here's a Midrash that I just happened to bump into, which in two lines, basically, says our Aleph Beta video. So if you didn't have any time, you didn't want to watch our whole hour-long Aleph Beta video, you can just go to Midrash Tanchuma in Vayigash, 10, 1 and you could read three lines in 30 seconds and you'd have the whole video. Here is the Midrash. Now, when I saw this it blew my mind; it was exactly as I said. I wasn't the first person who came up with this, the Midrash did.
Here's what the Midrash says. The Midrash, commenting on the Joseph story, says the following. "Bo u're'ei," come and see. I'll just highlight this for you in Google Docs. Hopefully you guys can see this, I'm showing you the right screen. "Bo u're'ei," come and see, "kol tzarah she'ira l'Yosef," all troubles that once upon a time befell Joseph, "ira l'Tziyon," later on, actually befell the entire nation, Zion, as a whole. So Joseph really is a paradigm -- the Joseph story -- for the Zion narrative. Exactly as I was suggesting, sort of, in Shir Hama'alot. That's the main idea that there's a touchstone in the Joseph story for everything that happens to Zion.
Then the Midrash shows and explains what it means by that. It says, for example -- and I'm just going to skip a couple of lines -- "B'Yosef" --you just at the underlined lines over here. Let's actually do this one first because it'll just make better sense and order. "B'Yosef, 'Vayachalom Yosef chalom,'" with Joseph it says that Joseph dreamed a dream. "B'Tziyon," where was the dream of Zion? Oh, you know where that is? Psalm 126, "Shir hama'alot, b'shuv Hashem shuvat Tziyon," when God will return the captors of Zion, "hayinu k'cholmim," it'll be like we're dreaming.
So the Midrash here explicitly connects Joseph's dream to the dream of the return -- of the return of Zion -- which essentially was our thesis in the course. The very first captive of Zion ever to return is Joseph and his return is foretold -- or the possibility of his return -- is foretold in the dream, the dream about the alumot, the dream in where Joseph is being portrayed as one bid sheath and everyone is bowing to him. It is through that the return happens and I'll be talking to you a little bit about exactly what I mean by that in a few moments. But for now, just the idea that Joseph's dreams portend the dream of Zion.
Similarly, going back two verses up, two lines up in the Midrash. "B'Yosef," in the dream, what did it say in the dream? "'V'hinei anachnu m'almim alimim,'" here we were, we were gathering sheaves, "b'Tziyon," and with Zion, where do you have gathering sheaves? Again, the end of Shir Hama'alot, "'Bo yavo b'rinah nosei alumotav'." The man whose been crying will come in joy, "nosei alumotav," holding his sheaves of wheat. There it is, right there. I didn't make it up. It's right there in the Midrash. The Midrash sees it.
The truth is, the Midrash see something larger and if you like, for those of you who are, kind of, advanced students and want a little bit of a break here. I'm going to actually issue a challenge to you and if you find any stuff you can just put it into the Facebook Live feed or you can us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or anything like that. I'm eager to see what you find, but there's a lot more Midrash here. You see this Midrash goes a long way. The Midrash, actually, goes throughout Tanach and, actually, goes to all these different sections in Tanach and see them as things that happened in the redemption of Zion that are foretold, in some way, shape or form, by the Joseph story. And Shir Hama'alot is only part of them.
So the question what I actually suggest to you is, in this whole Aleph Beta video have we really glimpsed something which is much larger? Is there a much larger puzzle that we haven't seen yet? A puzzle that spans all of Tanach. A puzzle in which the Joseph story ends up become a paradigm for Shivat Tziyon with large, across all of Sifrei Tanach, as this Midrash says. Across of all these different books of the Bible as the Midrash is saying. Just to give a sense that this might be true, as you begin to see this Midrash, see some of the other things this Midrash says.
Here's another thing I noticed about five years ago. Fohrman's teen girls remember when we went to Charleston, South Carolina. Or maybe, I don't know if it was our first or second time. We spent that Shabbos in Charleston. Remember we were going on our way to a Pesach program, passing through Charleston, South Carolina. So I remember, I'm sitting there in Charleston, South Carolina and I noticed something in Jeremiah 38. Here is what I noticed. It's right here in the Midrash, by the way. At the time I wondered, is it just me? It wasn't me; it's this Midrash too. Look at this boys and girls, men and women.
"B'Yosef" -- we go to the end of this Midrash. "Vayimshechu vaya'alu et Yosef min habor." When Joseph is taken out of the pit, what does it say? "Vayimshechu," they pulled him, "vaya'alu et Yosef," they pulled him out of the pit. "B'Tziyon" -- when did that ever happen in Zion? When did it ever happen with the exile of Zion, having being pulled out of a pit? Lo and behold, it's in Jeremiah 38. "Vayimshechu et Yirmiyahu b'chavalim vaya'alu oto min habor." It turns out that Jeremiah was in a pit also, just like Joseph. And he was pulled out of the pit also by Zedekiah, the king of the time. It's like the story is happening and of course, what's happening in Jeremiah.
This is the moment of exile happening, almost like it's the Joseph moment of exile and before Israel as a whole goes into the pit or goes down into exile. Just like in the original Joseph story; if you think about what happened with Joseph. Joseph was this one kid who experiences an exile. That becomes a paradigm, that becomes a taste of the exile that the rest of his family and nation is about to experience. Because remember, who's the first guy that goes down to Egypt? It is Joseph. And after that the family follows. So the first person to experience the pit is Joseph, but pretty soon the rest of the family is going to experience the pit.
Well, the exact same thing is going to happen with Jeremiah. Jeremiah is writing the Chapter 38 on the eve of churban; when destruction is about to happen. What's about to happen? Everyone's about to go into exile. Jerusalem is going to be destroyed. But who's the first person to go into exile? In Jerusalem, who ends up in a pit? Jeremiah. Same thing as happened in the Joseph story. One person's experience becomes the paradigm for the nation's experience. "Vayimshechu et Yirmiyahu b'chavalim vaya'alu oto min habor." So Joseph is in the pit and Jeremiah is in the pit just like Joseph. And Jeremiah gets pulled out of the pit.
Similarly -- I mean, it's like the Torah is hitting you over the head with this. "B'Yosef, 'V'habor reik ein bo mayim'." We talk about this in the videos. With Joseph, what happened with that pit? The pit was empty; it didn't have any water in it. Very interesting. Look what it says in Jeremiah. "U'babor ein mayim," and in Jeremiah's pit, also there wasn't any water, "ki im tit," but there was mud. So it's like Jeremiah is going out of its way to align itself with the Joseph story.
So what I want to suggest to you is that the Midrash is giving you the tip of a large iceberg. For those of you who would like to write a Ph.D. thesis on this, you could do it all on this Midrash. Just go through all of the sources in this Midrash and you'll see each of them as the tip of an iceberg. The Midrash doesn't tell the whole story. The Midrash just tells you enough to get your research mind going. The Midrash told you about two connections between Shir Hama'alot and Joseph. If you watch our video you see those connections are the beginning of a grand picture. It's the same in Jeremiah. These two connections that the Midrash is referencing to Jeremiah are the beginning of a grand picture of how the Jeremiah story aligns with the exile story of Joseph.
I see you kids over here; you're young kids. We've got Noam, we've got Avigail, we've got Shoshanah, we've got Ayalah and we've got Ariella. You guys are the next generation. On Facebook Live we've got you guys of the next generations and you can learn how to do this. You can take a Midrash like this and you can research the heck out of it. You could do this in the waning hours of Tisha B'Av. I'm telling you, it's right over here on the screen; the Google Doc. Send us an e-mail and we'll try to share it with you. Well, actually, if we do that you'll overload our system over here. But you can look it up right here on the screen. You can find it in the Tanchuma. And you can go to Sefaria and find it. Just search for Vayigash 10:1 and just research this. There is so much here that's very fascinating.
Before we leave this Midrash -- which we'll call Chapter 3 of our webinar -- I want to leave you with one last buck, which is really mind-boggling. I'm not much of a gematria guy, but I want to share this with you. Gematria, of course, is the numerical system through which we believe that every Hebrew letter corresponds to a numerical value. Aleph, one; bet, the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, two; gimmel, three; all the way through 10, which is yud. At which point we count in tens; kaf becomes 20; lamed becomes 30. At which point we get to tzaddi that becomes 90 and then at kuf we go to 100s. Kuf becomes 100; reish, 200; shin, 300; tav, 400. So that's the gematria system.
Let's talk about the gematria of Yosef. Add up the gematria of Yosef, everybody. What do you get? So you have yud-vav-samech-pei. Yud is 10; vav is six -- we've got 16. Samech, everybody, is 60; we've 76. Pei is 80. So you have 80 together with 76 is 156. Tziyon. Tzaddi is 90; yud is 10. And you've got the vav; the vav is six -- 106. Plus, nun. Oh, isn't that interesting; 156. Tziyon, Yosef, the exact same numerical value.
Go back to this Midrash. "Kol tzarah she'ira l'Yosef ira l'Tziyon," whatever happened to Joseph happened to Zion. Joseph is the paradigm for Zion. It's the same. One 156, another 156 and it's all throughout Tanach. Throughout Isaiah, Psalms, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Ezekiel. It's all there and this is the Midrash. So the Midrash is just a cornucopia of wisdom, packed into just a few lines. We took one Aleph Beta video and took a couple of lines of this and without knowing just expanded it into what the Midrash was talking about. That these Rabbis, they knew their beans. They knew what they were talking about and the beauty and the depth they got to is really, really remarkable.
So I want to incur to you. Take a look at this Midrash. All be looking at it and I think there is much, much more here that we haven't seen yet that is there to see. I'm going to take a little break. I'm going to actually just read through a couple of your comments here to see if there is something -- Imu, have you guys been keeping a couple of comments? Is there anything you want to, in particularly, refer to over here?
So we have Leah Sirody (ph) out there. You guys remember Leah in Modi'in, right? So Leah says, Joseph and Jeremiah, a connection here, are both despised by their brothers. True. Both Joseph and Jeremiah, right -- if you if you think about the Joseph parallels, there are many of them. One of the parallels is both Joseph and Jeremiah have a similar relationship to their brothers. Of course, the brothers in the Joseph story are his immediate family, the brothers in the Jeremiah story are his national family. Neither of them like the Joseph so much.
By the way, in both cases -- Leah and everybody else on the Facebook Live -- what is it that they don't like about him? What is that Jeremiah is accused of that Joseph is also accused of? The answer is not being loyal. Having dreams of grandeur and not being in it for the rest of us. That, by the way, is the argument against Jeremiah. What he's accused of by the king and what he is accused of by others is of treachery; of being on the side of the Babylonians. So there's a very interesting similarity there.
Yes, Eli Nathan, that would help explain the use of the more particular Zion instead of Jerusalem or the Beit Hamikdash. It is remarkable that the 156, 156 parallel. Anything else here? Just, kind of, scrolling through your comments. I think that's it. But, guys, feel free to comment if you like it. I can't always see it, but we do have some Aleph Beta staff here. They'll look through your comments.
Imu: If there is something I'll call it out.
I know it's hard. But just actually think about this for the moment. If the dream foretells the moment in which Joseph actually feeds his brothers and you had to make up a dream like that, what would it look like?
Say Joseph is being portrayed as this big stalk and the brothers are portrayed as these bowing stalks, because they're desperate for all the wheat and we want to portray the idea that Joseph is feeding the brothers. (pause) Yeah, wouldn't it be like there's this big stalk and then the big stalk starts ripping off little stalks from the stalk and starts throwing them out to the other stalks. I mean, that's what it would be if he was feeding them. But it doesn't say that in the dream. That wasn't the dream. What is the dream? The dream is -- it doesn't say anything about him feeding them. The dream is there's this big stalk and then these desperate stalks were bowing to him and that's it. So when does the dream actually come true? The dream actually doesn't come true at the moment of reunification.
So the question is, first of all, when does the dream come true and what did the dream mean if it wasn't foretelling reunification? And why doesn't the dream foretell that Joseph is going to feed the brothers, if Joseph is really going to feed the brothers?
Here, folks, I want to talk to you about a fascinating philosophical idea and, kind of, throw it out there, that I think this touches upon. It's a puzzle that has puzzled me ever since I was a teenager, but I think it puzzles any thinking person. It certainly has puzzled philosophers throughout time. Which is the interaction between what we call bechirah and hashgachah, which is to say freewill and divine providence. How can it be that on the one hand humans have freewill; we can choose to whatever we want, do whatever we want and God, providentially, has His own story? God's going to do His own thing. God is going to make sure certain things happen. If humans can do whatever they want, so, you know, if God foretells something's going to be done, that will get in the way of our freewill? How do those thing match?
That becomes an issue in spades, really, if you think about Joseph's dream. If Joseph's dream foretells something about the future, does that get in the way of human choice or not? So let me ask you this question -- I'll put you this question out. And I want to struggle with that with you for a moment. So I'm going to put out this question on Facebook Live. Which is when do you think the dream is actually realized? When does it actually happen?
So Eli Nathan says he thinks the dream is realized in 42:6. So let's see 42:6 and see what Eli Nathan thinks. Oh, look at that. I agree with Eli Nathan. Okay. Here we go. Let's look at 42:6, Genesis 42:6. If you're following out in Hebrew it's going to be Mem-Beis, Vav. You can see it right here on the screen. I'll try and highlight it for you. It's this verse right over here. This is the moment right before the brothers come to see Joseph. Really, the moment they very first see him. This is the moment the dream is realized. We see it right here.
"V'Yosef hu hashalit," Joseph is the ruler over all the land, "hu hamashbir l'chol am ha'aretz," he's the one who is providing food for everyone. So in other words, in the words of the dream, what is Joseph now? He's the big wheat stalk. Because they get dependent on the wheat stalk, because he's got all this wheat. "Vayavo'u achei Yosef," and the brothers of Joseph come, "vayishtachavu lo apayim artzah," and they bow in front of him to the ground.
Now, if you just think about that one verse, if you know nothing else. If you think about that, that's the dream. The first part of the dream is Joseph, the second part of the dream is the brothers. Joseph is the wheat stalk standing up tall; "hu hashalit al ha'aretz, hu hamashbir l'chol am ha'aretz," he's the one who provides wheat for everyone. And the desperate brothers? "Vayavo'u achei Yosef vayishtachavu lo apayim artzah," they're bowing before him. This is the moment the dreams seem to be fulfilled. But here's the trick, boys and girls.
Just because the dream is being fulfilled at this moment means that you know the dream is being fulfilled. It means that Elinatan, writing on Facebook Live, knows the dream is fulfilled. It means that Noam listening right over here knows the dream is fulfilled. It means that I know the dream is fulfilled. But, the question is what about the principals in the story; do they know what we know? The narrator is telling you that the dream is being fulfilled, but does Joseph know it? Do the brothers know it?
So the next question that I have for you is, when does Joseph know it and when do the brothers know it? Okay. When does Joseph figure it out? Let's set the scene. Avigail?
R: When does Joseph know it? Okay, you talk about that. Okay. All right. So when does Joseph know it? When do the brothers know it? And how do they figure it out? Let's see. Let's set the scene. We talk about this a little bit, I think, in our videos.
Rabbi Yoel Ben Nun, in the first issue of Megadim, makes this argument that Joseph could've been -- seemingly was -- under a tragic misimpression. He deals with the question of why Joseph never writes home; just a little postcard? If he loves his father so much. Hey, Dad, I'm here in Egypt. Loving it. Wish you could be here. Love, Joseph. Why does he never do that? The answer Rabbi Ben Nun suggests is because Joseph suspects that he's been kicked out of the family. It's not like it never happened before, getting kicked out of the family. It happened two generations ago with Ishmael. It happened a generation before with Esau.
All of a sudden, Dad says, hey could you check on your sheep in Nabulus. Why don't you go check on Nabulus? Joseph says I knew it was this dangerous mission. I said hineini, just like the Akeidah. It seemed scary, but I went anyway. Before I knew it, I was kidnapped, I was sold off in Egypt. My whole life changed and there was never any search party. Was I kicked out of the family? He doesn't know, but he suspects. He spends many years in prison, in Potiphar's dungeon, only to eventually get called out by Pharaoh. To become second in charge of the leading economy in the world. Joseph is flying high. When he does, he marries and he has two kids, who he names Menashe and Ephraim. But listen to the tragedy in those names.
Menashe, "Ki nashani Elokim mikol amali u'mikol beit avi." Thank God that I've finally forgotten about all of the misery of my father's house. It's Joseph turning over a new leaf. "Ki hifrani Elokim b'eretz anyi," Ephraim. I can finally have children and start a whole new life. It's just after he has those kids that who shows up at his door, right when he is willing to move on, but his brothers? When his brothers show up they're the last people he wants to -- they are the last people that he wants to drag with. The last people he wants to have anything to do with.
Now I want to play a little Sesame Street game with you. The game is what happens next?
"Vayar Yosef et echav." What we're going to do is we're going to just read through this now. What happens? I'm going to pause at a certain point and I'm going to ask you if you didn't know what happened next, what would you expect the next thing to happen would be? Let's look at Verse 7 and 8 together. "Vayar Yosef et echav vayakireim" and Joseph he sees the brothers and he recognizes them. "Vayitnaker aleihem" but then he estranges himself from them "vayidaber i'tam kashot" he speaks angry words to them "vayomer aleihem" and he says to them "mei'ayin batem" where are you from "vayomru mei'Eretz Cana'an lishbor ochel" they said we're from Cana'an. We've come to get food. "Vayaker Yosef et echav v'heim lo hikiruhu" and Joseh he recognized his brothers, but they didn't recognize him.
Now if you just stopped right here, if you got called away and this is the last you saw of the Joseph story and you didn't know any more of the Joseph story, what would you think Joseph would do? He sees his brothers, he estranges himself. He says I'm having nothing to do with you. He tells them mean things. He says why are you here? They say we're here to get some food. He just sees them and he recognizes them, but they don't recognize him and he's being mean to them, what would you expect the next thing to happen?
Guys, what do you say? Facebook Live. Talk to me. What do you think is the next thing that should happen?
I would think that at this moment if I'm Joseph, this is the moment that I shut the door, I close my kupah, I say move on, I'm having nothing to do with you and I never reveal myself. I tell the brothers to go good bye. But now you get to Verse 9. And this seems to be the moment that Steve and Kowarsky (ph) and the rest of you on Facebook Live are commenting about. This seems to be the moment where Joseph begins to understand the dream. Look at Verse 9.
"Vayizkor Yosef et hachalomot" Joseph remembers the dreams and remembering the dreams changes everything for him. But how? First of all, why is it that Joseph remembers the dreams? What just happened to make Joseph remember the dreams? Why should he be remembering the dreams?
The answer is just before he kicks them out, just before he says good bye to them for the last time, something happened that made him remember the dream because go back to Verse 6. What happened in Verse 6 that Joseph now remembers? The brothers bowed to him. Joseph comes back and right before dismissing them, thinks oh my gosh, what just happened? They just bowed to me. Okay. That was that stupid dream when I was 17 years old, the one that got me thrown in a pit, that's when they bowed to me. The dream is happening.
Now the second Joseph realizes that the dream is happening, how does that change things? What does that do to him that he realizes that the dream is happening? First of all, he begins quickly to put two and two together. We were wrong. When I was 17, what did we think the dream meant? We thought the dream meant that little shnook, he's 17 years old. Joseph, when he is all into himself, has this dream of grandeur that everyone's going to bow before him. That's what it seemed like the dream meant. I didn't know if the dream was divine or if the dream was just a product of Joseph's mind. Who even knows but who cares? It seems to foretell little 17-year-old Joseph in charge of his family. But Joseph now realizes one second, the dream never meant that. The dream never meant 17-year-old Joseph is in charge of his family.
The dream meant that now. The dream is talking about 20 years later. The dream is talking about here's this moment when we're here in Egypt and now Joseph says I finally understand something. We were cattle ranchers. We were shepherds. We were ro'ei tzon. So why in the dream was I all of the sudden portrayed as this big sheaf of wheat? Oh, I get it. Because look at me. I'm what the verse before says I am. I am the "mashbir l'chol am ha'aretz" I have all this food. I provide the food for everybody. I'm the big stalk of wheat. So it all makes sense. Of course. That's why we're all stalks of wheat. They're desperate for wheat and I have all this wheat. That's what the dream is talking about.
If the dream is talking about that, let me ask you something. Why doesn't the dream go further? If the dream is going to foretell the future, we're going to foretell this moment that everyone's bowing to Joseph and that Joseph is the big stalk of wheat, why doesn't the dream foretell that Joseph is going to feed the brothers because that's what happens at the end of the story? Why don't we have this big happy ending dream? What's the answer to that? Why does the dream not foretell that?
The answer is it can't foretell that because it depends. The future is undefined. It depends on what Joseph chooses to do. You see the dream as it actually stands doesn't mess with Joseph's free will. It just says, Joseph, here is the circumstance that one way or the other you are eventually going to find yourself in. There will come a time where you will be this great sheaf of wheat, where you will be in charge of all this wheat. There will come a time that your brothers are desperate for wheat. This is God signing out. That's all I'm telling you. You will then have a choice to make. What you choose, I cannot tell you. It depends on you.
It will not foretell Joseph's choice because it's a function of Joseph's free will and the divine plan will not interfere with Joseph's free will, will not foretell Joseph's free will. It could go either way.
So why does Joseph have this dream then? Why even have the dream? The dream doesn't even offer him any guidance because if you're thinking you're Joseph -- if you're Joseph you could say well there's two possible responses to what G-d might want from me. Why is God telling this? How could respond? I could offer to give them food. That's one possible response. What's the other possible response? I could not give them food. I could say this is the moment the divine plan has conspired for me to finally have some payback. These were the ones who threw me in a pit. I'm finally getting payback about them. I don't know what the meaning of the dream is. Joseph actually can go either way at this point.
By the way, which way does Joseph go? Which choice does he make in interpreting the dream? Well on the one hand, what does he do? Immediately after he remembers the dreams, look at Verse 9. "Vayizkor Yosef et hachalomot" he remembers the dreams "asher chalam lahem vayomer aleihem" and he accuses them of being spies "lir'ot et ervat ha'aretz batem." He knows it's not true. What's he doing with them? It's a little bit of payback. As a matter of fact, what had the brothers accused him of doing?
AX: Being a spy.
Rabbi Fohrman: Being a spy. They were mad at him for spying on the family and now he's going to turn it around and accuse them of spying the land. It's payback. So there's a part of Joseph which is payback. Now you could say, yes. Joseph is just trying to get Benjamin down to Egypt. And maybe all that's true. But it's hard to resist the conclusion, like the Ramban suggests, that on some level Joseph is getting back at his brothers. He's mad at them. He's angry at them and maybe he sees in the dream the possibility of justification that there's going to come this moment where they'll need me, this moment where I can do payback. But there's another possibility in the dream too, which is the dream means that you're supposed to take care of them. That as angry as you are at them, you still have to take care of them. They are your brothers no matter what they did to you.
What does Joseph also do? Joseph always sends them back with food. He always sends them back with food. Why does he do that? It's almost like Joseph is -- this is I'm going to argue -- for those of you who do physics, it's Schrodinger's cat. It's Heisenberg uncertainty theory. It's like Joseph isn't sure and he is pursuing both mutually exclusive tracks of the interpretation of the dream at the same time. It's payback, but I always send back food with you because maybe the dream means that too. Maybe the dream means that too.
Now the question so why does God give this dream, this dream that has no guidance? The dream that just foretells this moment? The answer is just foretelling the moment is itself just enough guidance to get Joseph over a hump because think of what happens without the dream. Without the dream, Joseph sends the brothers home never to see them again. Without the dream, Joseph never comes home, never reunites to this family, never even stays in contact with his brothers enough to even know, to be able to finally hear Judah's anguished speech, the speech in which Judah comes and says you're father never forgot about you all along. You were never kicked out of the family. When Joseph breaks down and cries and reunites with his brothers.
What does this dream do? Because think of what happens without the dream. Without the dream, Joseph sends the brothers home never to see them again. Without the dream, Joseph never comes home. Never reunites with his family. Never even stays in contact with his brothers enough to even know. To be able to finally hear Judah's anguished speech. The speech in which Judah comes and says, your father never forgot about you all along. You were never kicked out of the family. When Joseph breaks down and cries and reunites with his brothers.
What does this dream do? It lets Joseph know something. Joseph doesn't know what God is telling him as far as how he should act. But he does know one thing for sure. The thing that he knows for sure is that this moment; his whole life boils down to this moment. This moment; this moment is going to be everything. This moment is going to be the choice that he's going to make that everything is going to ride upon. This moment was predestined. He had to come down to Egypt. He had to. It was all part of God's plan. Now, if you know that, that is was all part of God's plan, if you're Joseph, you put yourself in Joseph's shoes. How angry can you really be with your brothers? Why are you angry at them?
Hey, how are you doing? We've got one of our board members that's entered the world. Hey, welcome to Steve Wagner (ph) who's joined the Fohrman kids and the Berger kids and Neo, Ben and Mauve and our growing studio audience. Facebook Live guys, you can all come on in. From Modi'in and Sri Lanka and Australia. It's one big family here.
So anyway, but here's the fascinating thing. Just by suggesting that -- just by God with a wink and a nod, letting Joseph know that this moment is foretold. That one way or the other you had to come down to Egypt. That itself changes Joseph's attitude towards he brothers. Because why is he so angry at them? If you think about the fury that Joseph must have felt, that moment that he first saw the brothers. That moment when he speaks harshly to them. That fury that could overtake him. That if that fury doesn't abate -- he's so angry.
Here I remind you, by the way, of our Tisha B'Av videos, Kamtza, Bar Kamtza, baseless hatred. Where we talked about the dynamics of anger. Go look at that. But if you look at the dynamics of anger on a scale from one to 10, Joseph is so seething angry that the only possibility at that moment he can see, is revenge. What gets him -- moves him away from revenge as being the only possibility of what God wants? That God could want another possibility, too; to feed your brothers.
The knowledge that the real reason I'm so angry, you ruined my life, you brothers. I had a good life. I was 17-years old. I was a shepherd in Canaan. I was a shepherd and king and I was at the head of my father's household. Everything was going good and you ruined it. You changed it. You made everything go down south.
However, how angry could I really be with you anyway? It was all part of God's plan. One way or the other this had to happen. Therefore, Joseph's anger drops from a nine to a seven. And when his anger drops from a nine to a seven, it drops just enough that Joseph can see another possibility for what the dream can mean. And it's not just maybe about revenge, but maybe it's also that I have to feed my brothers. Maybe I have to stay connected to them. And he always sends back food. As angry as he is with them, he always sends back food. And he stays connected with them. He stays connected to them -- to them. And as he does, he overhears a conversation. And the conversation he overhears is a fascinating conversation. Let me show it to you.
We're in Genesis 42. Joseph comes up with an idea. He says in order to determine whether you're spies or not, I have to see your other brother. "Shilchu mikem echad", you guys go send one person back and the rest of you are going to be imprisoned here. That one person is going to go back and bring your younger brother and if it's true, we'll see your younger brother and we'll know it's true. So he puts them into jail for three days. At the end of three days, he says, "you know what? You guys can all go home. I'm just going to take one of you as a slave."
Then the brothers start speaking amongst themselves and here's what they say. Verse 21, "Vayomru ish el achiv", so one man, the brothers, say to each other -- and you have to remember this conversation that is happening now; this conversation happened in Hebrew. They don't know Joseph is listening. So the brothers, in Hebrew say, "Vayomru ish el achiv", one person says to another; "aval asheimim anachnu al achinu asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho b'hitchanano eileinu v'lo shamanu." They say -- they profess their guilt. They say amongst themselves, we are guilty for our brother. We saw his pain, "b'hitchanano eileinu", when he pleaded to us, "v'lo shamanu", and we didn't listen, "al kein ba'ah eileinu hatzarah hazos," that's why this pain, that's why this trouble has come upon us.
Then, "Vaya'an Reuven otam", then Reuven, the oldest brother, speaks up. And he says, "halo amarti aleichem leimor al techetu bayeled", I told you guys not to do this, I told you not to sin against Joseph; "v'lo shamatem", and you didn't listen, "v'gam damo hinei nidrash," and now the divine plan is coming after his blood. "V'heim lo yadu ki shomeia Yosef," but they didn't realize that Joseph was listening this whole time, "ki hameilitz beinotam," because a translator was between them. They didn't know that Joseph knew Hebrew.
"Vaya'an Reuven otam --", then Reuven, the oldest brother, speaks up and he says, "halo amarti aleichem leimor al-techetu vayeled --", I told you guys not to do this. I told you not to sin against Joseph; "v'lo shamatem", and you didn't listen. "v'gam-damo hinei nidrash," and now the Divine Plan is coming after his blood.
"V'heim lo yadu ki shomei'a Yosef," but they didn't realize that Joseph was listening this whole time, "ki hameilitz beinotam," because the translator was between them. They didn't know that Joseph knew Hebrew.
"Vayisov mei'aleihem vayeivk", Joseph turns away from them and cries, "vayashav aleihem", and returns to them, and speaks to them and takes Simon; and imprisons Simon.
Now, here's the question: Why Simon? There were 11 brothers. Why did he imprison Simon? Simon is the second oldest brother. And, by the way, the fact that Simon is the second oldest brother should be a clue.
Why doesn't he imprison the chief? Why don't you imprison Reuven? Now, remember, Joseph listened and understood, in Hebrew, what they were talking about.
Joseph just heard Reuben, remember that was Reuben who spoke right over here in Verse 22. Reuben said, I told you not to sin against him. So what does Joseph know? Joseph knows Reuben was on his side. You're not going to imprison Reuben. He's going to imprison Simon, the second in charge. Because Simon is the first brother who wasn't loyal to him; who betrayed him.
Well, it's actually deeper than that. Pay attention to the senses in these verses. Listen to the senses. "Vayomru ish el achiv", back in Verse 21, "asheimim anachnu", we are guilty; "al achinu", for our brother; "asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho", we saw his pain; "b'hitchanano eileinu v'lo shaman," we saw his pain, but we did not listen.
Seeing and hearing. We saw but did not listen. Then again, "Vaya'an Reuven otam leimor", I told you not to do it, "v'lo shamatem", and you didn't listen.
Seeing and listening. Think about the brothers and their names. Reuven, how did Reuben get his name? Why did Leah name Reuben, Reuven? And why did Leah name Simon, Shimon?
When Leah named Reuben, Reuven; she said, I am suffering. My husband doesn't like me. My husband doesn't love me. I feel hated. "ra'ah Hashem b'anyi ", God has seen my suffering.
Shimon, "shama Hashem ki sinu'ah anochi", God has heard that I am hated. These two kids, Reuben and Simon are named for these two senses; seeing and hearing. Now, if you were Reuben or you were Simon, how would you interpret your name in light of the events?
Go back to the moment of the pit. If you were at the pit, right? And you were Reuben; put yourself in Reuben's shoes. First person Reuben. What is it like to be Reuben at the moment when Joseph is going to be thrown into the pit?
Joseph is being treated by his father as the bechor, as the firstborn. But he's not the firstborn. You are the firstborn. Your kavod is being usurped. Your honor is being usurped. It's a disaster. And, finally, your brothers have rallied to your cause. Finally, they are gathered around the usurper and they are going to throw him into a pit. And you remember your name.
You remember how your mother named you. Your mother named you for the fact that God Himself has seen her oppression. That's your name. God has seen my mother's oppression. Now it's happening. The oppressor, Joseph, the one who's -- the usurper who's being treated as the firstborn is about to be thrown into the pit. Whose side do you take?
Here then, is Reuben's heroism. Reuben doesn't interpret his name the way you would expect. You might expect Reuben to say, well, if I was named for the fact that God saw my mother's oppression, then, my job in life is to vindicate my mother's honor! My job in life is to stand up for the oppression of my mother. If that means throwing my half-brother into the pit, then that's what it means.
That's not what Reuben does. Reuben conspires to try to get Joseph home. Tries unsuccessfully, but tries to convince his brothers -- you see it here -- not to do it. How does Reuben interpret his name?
He interprets his name to mean, if I was named for the fact that God saw my mother's pain, then my job is to see other people's pain. Which is exactly what Reuben says. "Vayomru ish el achiv...asheimim anachnu al achinu asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho", we saw his pain.
There is one problem. We didn't listen. The seeing person identified with the pain of Joseph, but not the hearing one. Simon, the hearing brother, interpreted his name differently. If I was named for "God has heard how hated" my mother is. Then it is up to me to vindicate my mother's hatred and to turn a deaf ear to the cries of the usurper. That is Shimon. "Ra'inu et tzarat nafsho v'lo shamanu."
By the way, the word tzarah is interesting because in Mishnaic Hebrew what does tzarah mean besides trouble? What does tzarah mean besides trouble?
Audience Member: The other wife.
Rabbi David Fohrman: The other wife. It's the word for a second wife. Can you see the pain of the child of the second wife? That's what it is. That's what it's all about with the blessings. As a matter of fact, if you think about the dream, about Joseph's dream, it's all there in Joseph's dream. Here's a crazy thing about that dream, the first dream. Think about the dream. The dream with the sheaves of wheat.
How did the dream work? The dream works like this. It sounds like flutes. This guy is -- -- it sounds like we have some Fohrman thoughts over here. Fohrrman has any thoughts? Berger thoughts. Noam, Ayelet, no?
Audience Member: What was Simon supposed to do?
Rabbi David Fohrman: What was Simon supposed to do?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Simon could have said -- if Simon goes along with Reuben then it's all over. He's out of the pit, right? Reuben's trying. That's what really convinced him. It just doesn't work.
Audience Member: Because Joseph is the son of the other wife.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Because Joseph's the son of the other wife.
Audience Member: So he didn't do his job.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Right. So Simon doesn't do it. So Simon stops him.
Think about the dream. There we were in the fields. We were all bundling wheat. There's a metamorphosis that happens in that dream. In the beginning of the dream people are people and wheat is wheat, but at the end of the dream the people are gone and the only thing left is wheat. There is a big sheaf and it's the Joseph sheaf and there's bowing sheaves and it's the other sheaves. And suddenly people are hiding behind wheat. That's what the story is about. The real story is can you see your brother hiding behind the wheat.
It's almost like if you could interview Joseph and you could interview the brothers, the moment they first meet, what would they tell you the other one looks like? If I could interview the brothers, right, if you put yourself first person experience. Here are the brothers, they see Joseph. What does Joseph look like? He's this high Egyptian official. He's a little socially off. He just doesn't even understand; we're explaining we have this problem, we really need food, we have this money, why won't you take it?
No, you're spies. We're desperate, we're crying, he doesn't care and, of course, we think to ourselves we know Joseph does care, but the brothers don't see that. The brothers see a completely unfeeling person. If you look at how the brothers -- if the brothers would have to create like a modern art painting of Joseph. Joseph is the guy who stands between them and what?
Audience Member: Food.
Rabbi David Fohrman: Wheat. So who is Joseph? This big stalk of wheat. He's not a person really. He's just someone I need to manipulate, control, cheat, steal, whatever it takes to get the wheat out of the guy. You're just a big stalk of wheat. That's all you are. The problem for the brothers, the reason they don't even recognize Joseph -- why don't they recognize him? The answer is they disenfranchised themselves from him back in the original story. They didn't see him as a brother. They turned their back on a brother. Now, they don't see him as a brother either. It's a brother masquerading as wheat. All they see is one big wheat stalk.
How does Joseph see them? Joseph physically recognizes them, but the second he physically recognizes them he un-recognizes them. "Vayitnaker eleihem," he treats them as strangers. So if you're going to have to interview Joseph, say Joseph, how do you view your brothers right now? They're just shnorrers. They came from Canaan. They're wheat shnorrers. All they want is they want wheat. They're just beggars. They're little bowing wheat staffs.
The challenge for both of them is can you see the brother behind the wheat. And this really is the challenge.
Anyway, so here is Reuben and here is Simon. What's fascinating about it and what I want to bring back to you is that Reuben and Simon are playing out for Joseph two ways of relating to their name. Here's the amazing thing about the name Reuben and Simon. The name Reuben and Simon tell Reuben and Simon. It's almost as if God is speaking to them through their names and the names Reuben and Simon are telling Reuben and Simon everything they need to succeed or fail in the Joseph story.
It all depends on how they interpret it. There is Divine providence and there's human free will and it's going to be up to Reuben and Simon to make a choice. What do you think God wants from you? If your name is God saw the pain of my mother, what do you think God wants from you and your brother's in pain? The child of the other mother. Does God want payback or does God say as hard as it is you have to feel his pain. It's the same thing for Simon.
Now, what's fascinating is that Joseph is watching this and that's why he imprisoned Simon. He imprisoned Simon because Simon made the wrong choice and Reuben made the right choice. But what's fascinating about this and crazy is that Joseph is struggling with this very same issue in his dreams at the very moment that he is watching the brothers struggle with the meaning of their names.
What's fascinating is just as the brothers got names, which foretold that their lot in life, their choice in life is all going to boil down to how you deal with the anguish of your mother that God sees, but now it's up to them. Do they come to the aid of the threatened half-brother or do they see this is the moment of payback. They have to figure that out.
Joseph is watching that struggle playout with them and understanding -- why is he understanding it? He's understanding it because he's the third party. Because he has no self-interest. He can watch what happens with Reuben and Simon and understand which one chose correctly. Reuben chose correctly, not Simon. What does that do for him?
Now, as he comes back to his own struggle, am I going to feed my brothers? Am I going to take revenge against them? He says it's not -- I'm not the only one going through the struggle, they went through that struggle and Reuben made the right choice, but Simon made the wrong choice. How can I really choose payback? I have to feed them and he stays connected. And he stays connected, until what moment? Until the moment he finally hears from Judah.
The moment he finally hears from Judah that father never disenfranchised you. At that point, in a gush of tears, he reveals himself to his brothers and chooses, finally, categorically one meaning of the dream over the other. It was never about revenge, he finally tells them. Let's go to the text. Where is this? Genesis 45 or so. I'll try to fast forward it.
Here we go. "Vayomer Yosef el achiv ani Yosef, ha'od avi chai," is my father still alive? What's the first thing he says? He says, "v'atah al tei'atzvu," don't be angry, "v'al yichar b'eineichem," don't be upset, "ki machartem oti heinah," that you sold me here, "ki l'michyah shlachani," it was all so I could feed you. Right? He says before, he says "v'atah lo atem sh'lachtem oti heinah," and it wasn't even you who sent me, it was God who sent me. How do I know? It was the dream. This is the moment. The moment that he finally reveals himself to his brothers. The moment right after he hears Judah's speech that he embraces one meaning of what God wants for him.
The Reuben meaning and leaves behind forever the Simon meaning. Leaves vengeance behind. Of course, it was never about vengeance, he says. It was only so I could take care of you. It was all part of God's plan. I know it because that's what the dream means.
I want to share with you one last little piece in this chapter, on the webinar, before we move on.
Michael Davies (ph) thinks we're giving Reuben too much credit. He's concerned about appearances based on his name. That's why his claims, arguments never amount to anything because there's nothing underneath.
You could say that, but I'm not sure we're giving Reuben too much credit. I think you see here a side from Reuben that's really heroic, a tragic kind of heroism because Reuben is not successful. Right? Reuben is not able -- Reuben's failure, I think, is not a moral failure it's actually a failure of leadership.
I once read a book by who was it -- I always forget -- it's called Presidential Power, by Neustadt, Richard Neustadt, I think. In which he argues that the definition of presidential power is not revealing regulations. It's not statuary power. It's not anything else. It's the power to persuade and it's really in that kind of leadership that Reuben is lacking. Reuben can't persuade. He can't get anybody to follow him, but his moral vision is there. It's just he can't execute on it.
Judah, by the way is the opposite. Judah has the ability to get brothers to listen to him. They were going to kill him, but Judah said let's sell him instead. Its' the moral vision that was lacking there for Judah, but the leadership was there.
Anyway, the point I want to show you -- I'm just checking your comments over here -- all right. Well, you guys at Aleph Beta land, you'll let me know if we have any comments we need to look at them. In the meantime, I just want to share with you one thing over here which didn't make it into the video. It's very, very sad. But it was really quite remarkable.
Personally speaking, for a moment, Joseph's dreams have always connected to me in a very personal kind of way. For those of you going back to Aleph Beta Land, who remember our parashah videos. If you haven't seen these parashah videos, I strongly encourage you to see them. It was our second year Joseph series, on the Joseph parashot. This was on Vayeishev, Mikeitz and Vayigash and Va'yechi. If you look on those four videos, we did a whole piece on the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream.
If you look at our Va'yechi video, I told you a personal story back then which I called my tap on the shoulder story. You can listen to it. But it was really -- my argument there was that Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, which is to say Pharaoh's dream holds a key for Joseph how to interpret his own. And Joseph goes back and hears in Pharaoh's dreams a resonance of events that have taken place in his own life. It's almost as if God is tapping him on the shoulder when he hears Pharaoh's dream. And he's saying, oh, this is like -- as Yogi Bear would say -- déjà vu all over again; like, I remember this. This is like, oh, there's the Rachel cow and the Leah cow and rolled together. And it's this little tap on the shoulder.
I talked to you, in Va'yechi, about my own tap on the shoulder moment, where I almost felt like -- you know, some of you don't know what God is saying to you, but you know God is saying something to you. That's what I mean by a tap on the shoulder moment. I shared with you a story about what happened to me when I was actually speaking about Joseph's dream before an audience and had one of these crazy tap on the shoulder moments. I want to share another such tap on the shoulder moment, again, having to do with Joseph's dreams, with you. I was chatting, I think with my daughter Avigail about this, so she would have heard this before, but the rest of you I'll be filling you in.
So here's the deal. You saw -- I think I shared with you one of my Google Docs. When I put notes together, I put notes together often in Google Docs. If I even have the Google Doc; I would share it with you know, but let's just keep it simple, let me just show it to you. So I had basically copied all this text. Let's go back to Genesis 42 for a moment. I copied all this text into a Google Doc and I was highlighting stuff, like I often do. And when I take notes – the problem with Google Docs is, once I started using Google Docs and the problem with it is that -- which you don't want to do. You want to keep the difficult text exactly as it is and you don't want to put up the original Biblical text. But if you're on Google Docs, if you actually use the backspace, you can corrupt the underlined text, which is exactly what I did.
I want to show you this line that I was working with. And I noticed that I have just erased the space between these two words. It was right over here, the beginning of 42. It was in this verse. Oh, I'm sorry I'm wrong. It was 45. So let me take you to 45. It this verse, here we go. 45:1. This is the moment when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Now, we've been talking about this moment. This is the moment, basically, when he tells the brothers, look, it wasn't you who sent me down to Egypt. When he comes to this realization that it was all providential. It was part of God's plan.
So here's what had happened. When I was playing around with this and underlining stuff. So you see where here it says, "V'lo yachol Yosef l'hitapeik," Joseph couldn't hold himself back anymore, "l'chol hanitzavim alav," in the presence of all those who were standing upon him. We noticed that -- I talked about in the video how nitzavim is a word from the dream, because, "kamah alumati v'gam nitzavah," when he has this big stalk of wheat it stands up straight. So Joseph is revealing the dream and saying it was all part of God's will.
Anyway, "Vayikra," he says, "hotziu kol ish mei'alai." Well, all of these people -- they're all of my attendants -- get rid of every other man. Because there's only one stalk that's nitzav, not all the others; he's getting rid of them. "V'lo amad ish ito b'hisvada Yosef el echav," and no one was around when he finally made himself known to his brothers. So what happened is that you see the word in Hebrew ish over here and the word mei'alai. What had happened was I had actually erased the space between ish and mei'alai and I noticed that. So I was about to put the space back with this inadvertent backspace, when I read the word together.
When you put ish and mei'alai together, what does it spell? Yishmael. So there's a double entendre here. Hotziu kol Yishmaeili, it spells. Yud-shin-mem-ayin-lamed -- kol Yishmaeili. And it's crazy. It's like, oh, my gosh. What is happening here? There's a hidden reference to Ishmael in this text. Why? Because, ask yourself, who was responsible for taking Joseph down to Egypt? There's, like, three answers. God. But if it's not God, who else was in it? It was the brothers that threw him in the pit, but who actually brought him down to Egypt? It's the caravan of Ishmaelites.
So it's almost like he is about to tell the brothers, what? He is about to tell the brothers, guys, don't worry about it. It wasn't really you who brought me down to Egypt, it was really God. But before he tells his brothers that, he has to tell himself something. What does he tell himself? The minute as he's ushering people out, in the act of ushering everyone out, saying I want -- "Hotziu kol ish mei'alai," he's also saying to himself, "Hotziu kol Yishmaeili," get rid of the stupid Ishmaelites. It wasn't the Ishmaelites; they were just a red herring. He has to convince himself that that one torturous road of the Ishmaelite caravan, where he's handcuffed to the side of the caravan, that wasn't -- it was God. It wasn't the Ishmaelites; it wasn't his brothers; it was all God. It's just another aspect of what Joseph is telling himself.
So it's, kind of, remarkable. Coming back now to the, sort of, bone-shaking truth of Joseph's first dream, I want to share this thought with you. I was chatting yesterday by videoconference with somebody in Australia who made this point, Donna Ho and another, who actually, who were in Brisbane, Australia. They mentioned this point which I'll share with you. You know, there's something funny about that first dream. Which is that that dream, in a way, gets Joseph put in the pit. The brothers get angry with that dream. "Havo navo, ani v'imcha v'achecha l'hishtachavot" -- are we all going to come bowing to you? Because of that they throw Joseph in the pit. But in the end that was a misinterpretation of the dream.
Again, the dream never meant that Joseph's going to rule over all his family. The dream meant Joseph will rule over civilization; he'll be in charge of all the wheat, 17 years later. Now, the truth is, had the brothers been exceedingly object about the time they could have checked themselves from throwing Joseph in the pit. How could they have done it? If they had been really objective. The problem was they were so jealous, they were so angry, that they jumped to an interpretation of the dream. The dream means that God thinks, that little shticky Joseph is supposed over us now when he's 17 years old.
What could they have seen in the dream that would've told them that that interpretation isn't true? Even if they didn't know what the interpretation is, there was enough to know that that wasn't the interpretation. But they missed it. What did they miss? They missed the wheat. Why is he a sheaf of wheat? We're not wheat farmers. They should've gotten that. That was the tip-off that there was more to the dream than you could possibly imagine. They missed that and because of that they misinterpreted the dream.
If you misinterpret the dream the worst thing of the world is misinterpreting what God is telling you. You have to have the humility to know that God's talking to me and I don't have all the evidence yet. I don't know the whole truth and maybe one day I'll find it. So the dream misinterpreted, becomes the dream that throws Joseph in the pit. The dream misinterpreted becomes the dream, that in a cascade of errors, causes not just the brothers to err in their interpretation of the dream to throw him in the pit, but Joseph to err in thinking that his entire family, including Father, has disenfranchised him.
Now, it's a disaster. Will the family every get back together? But fascinatingly, with God's wisdom and his hashgachah, he puts something in the dream that would be just enough to allow Joseph to crawl back and at least give him a fighting chance to make another choice. That is that when the time would come, when Joseph could finally put two and two together and so, oh, so they're bowing before me. Oh, that's why I'm a sheaf of wheat, because it means I'm in charge of all this. We got the whole thing wrong. They got it wrong; I got it wrong. None of us realized what this meant. Then, at this moment that I was in charge of all the wheat, the dream was there to take away Joseph's anger. To realize that, no, that moment was foretold.
It's right at the moment that Joseph needs to know it, because at that moment, if he's too angry, he banishes the brothers and he never sees them. He never comes home and there's never any shivat Tziyon for there to be a Shir Hama'alot about. There's never any captive of Zion that comes home, because he damages them and he never has anything to do with his brothers. The dream is the instrument that brings him home. Not because it messes with his freewill. Not because it tells him what he has to do. But just by being the tap on the shoulder, that just at the right time that he needs to know, he comes to the understanding that this moment is foretold. Even if I don't know God wants me to take revenge or God wants me to feed them; I don't even know, but I know that one way or the other I had to get here and how angry can I be with them.
That's just the little push he needs. It feels almost as if there's this scale of Joseph's emotions and the scale is that at the moment he sees his brothers he's so furious with them because of this cascade of errors. But the scale is like this and God gently puts His hand on the scale by giving him that, the meaning of the dream. It's like, oh, my gosh. I remember they were bowing before me. Oh, my gosh. It's this moment. Now I know why we're sheaves of wheat. All of a sudden God is, like, putting his hand on the scale and equalizing the scale and saying, you know what? You've got to balance your anger with the other possibility. With the possibility that maybe you're supposed to take care of them. Now I leave you to figure it out. It's up to Joseph.
It's almost as if Joseph -- this is an idea we had in our Exodus book, the idea of God interfering with freewill, but actually actualizing your freewill. God did it with Pharaoh. But God is doing it here with Joseph, which is I'm giving you the tools to be able to see enough of the plan that you actually have a choice. Now, you've got to choose. What do you think I want from you? You think I want you to take revenge? Maybe I want you to feed them. Look in your heart and figure it out. Now, you have the choice.
Later on, by the way, for those of you who are real Aleph Beta aficionados; which other Aleph Beta video does this remind us of? Noam was doing some research over here in Parashat Nitzavim. In fact, in our video in Parashat Nitzavim we talked about parashat hateshuvah. Parashat hateshuvah, by the way, also struggles with this issue; the parashah that deals with repentance and how does it work. We talked about the strange interplay between divine providence and human freewill in Nitzavim.
Imu, do remember that moment? That was the strange phrase, "U'mal Hashem et levavcha v'et levav zaracha." That when you come to repent God will help you. God will circumcise your heart. How can God help you? Repentance is the greatest choice that you have. It's the greatest freewill choice. God can't help you. If God helps you that takes away your freewill and you can't do that. That's not fair. Go watch our Nitzavim video from our first year; our three-part series of the end of the Torah, of Ha'azinu, Nitzavim, Vayelech and V'zot Habrachah. We really talk about that. But it's exactly the same thing. It's God putting His hand on the scale to equalize the scale so that there is a real choice. To bring freewill back into the picture, rather than extinguishing it. That's what it's really all about.
Guys, we're down to our last four-and-a-half minutes of this webinar. We've just gone through four chapters. We talked about Al naha'arot Bavel. We talked about Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. We talked about the meaning of Joseph's first dream over here and we talked about something else, that's escaping me, in Chapter 3. We talked about a lot of stuff. There's a bunch of stuff that we didn't get a chance to talk about. So I'm going to harangue our Aleph Beta staff so we schedule another one of these, because they're great fun and it'll be a chance for me to share with you the other stuff. But think, guys. I haven't been wasting your time; we've being doing real stuff for three hours.
This is three hours of stuff that didn't make it into our hour-long video. This is what we do in Aleph Beta. This is the heartbreak of working here in Aleph Beta. You've all this stuff and you can just cut out this little piece of it and share it with you in a video, but there's so much more. This three hours isn't even it. There's a lot more. Here's the stuff we didn't get. I mean there's a whole stuff we didn't get to.
Noam, over here, my little cousin, has been researching Parashat Nitzavim, which I've just referred to you, in light of all of this. The nitzav themes and the dreams. "Kamah alumati v'gam nitzavah." Isn't it interesting that there is a parashah called Parashat Nitzavim? A parashah that is actually the moment of truth for when Joseph finally comes home. If you think about the dream, Joseph's first dream, foretelling the homecoming moment of Joseph; the moment that Joseph reunites with his family.
There's something strange about that, because, you know, Joseph really isn't a perfect example of shivat Tziyon, is he? Because it's true that, like Shir Hama'alot says, Joseph is the first captive of Zion that comes home. But only so in the sense that Joseph comes home to his family. He doesn't come home in other senses. He never comes home to his land. He dies in Egypt. When does Joseph come home to his land, folks? When does he finally come home? When the Jews finally leave Egypt, what do they take with them? The bones of Joseph. His bones finally come home.
When, in the Torah, are they poised, the bones of Joseph to finally come home? At the precipice of the Jordan River, that the Jordan will split, they'll come home. It's in Parashat Nitzavim. "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem." And now, everyone is a standing sheath. Just like the sheaves that were standing; "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem."
What Noam, sort of, discovered as we were talking about it together, is that as you go through Parashat Nitzavim it's all replete with the imagery of two dreams. Jacob's dream, the ladder and the dream of the sheaves of wheat. It's fascinating, because it seems like this is the moment that the other meaning of the dreams come true. Not Joseph coming home to his family, but Joseph coming home to his land; the rest of the story.
It begins to seem, as well, as if Joseph's dream and Jacob's dream are connected. Because Jacob's dream also had something that was nitzav. It was a ladder that was mutzav artzah, that was attached to the ground. If you think about all of the elements of the dream; in the dream there's this vertical element, the ladder and then there's all of this progeny, "zaracha k'afar ha'aretz," they're down below on the ground, all these people down below on the ground. What does that remind you of? A big vertical thing and then everyone else down at the ground. It's Joseph's dream. There's this big stalk coming from the ground and then all of the other progeny, all of the brothers are bowing before him.
Now, the question is, is Jacob's dream connected to Joseph's dream? Father and child had a dream. It's almost as if Joseph's dream is a kind of interpretation of Jacob's dream. The only difference between them is, in one dream there's a ladder and in the other dream there's a stalk of wheat. A stalk of wheat replaces the ladder. Now, what can that mean? These dreams are connected. Nitzavim is the parashah where both dreams come true. There's a whole kaleidoscope of things that, personally, my mind got opened to through this Shir Hama'alot video. Stories in the book of Joshua, Chapters 9 and 10, that now take on an entire new meaning. Parashat Nitzavim and Parashat Vayechi all look very, very different for me now.
So we'll have to schedule another one of these to be able to get a chance to spend the time to do it with you. So in the meantime, I want to thank all of you guys out in Facebook Live Land. Really, you're not in Facebook Live Land. You've got to think of yourself in Aleph Beta Land. You're basically with me in an expansion of our offices here. It was great having a chance to talk with you and the chance to have us talk with our studio audience here; everybody that came. Thank you.
So guys, stick around and send in your comments. Can the comments continue on this, by the way, afterwards? Comments can continue afterwards. So we'll monitor them and on our Facebook Live feed we will continue to answer; put up video responses, audio responses or just written responses. So keep the discussion going. It's been great spending some of Tisha B'Av with you and I look forward to the chance to do this again with you soon.
For the meantime, this is David Fohrman signing out, wishing you a very meaningful rest of your Tisha B'Av. Until next time, see you.