Shiny New Things Meeting (May 24 2021)
Shiny New Things with Rabbi Fohrman
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
Enjoy this recording of Shiny New Things with Rabbi Fohrman.
Rabbi Fohrman delights in finding wonderful patterns or other ‘aha’ moments in Biblical text that are the beginning to a process of discovery. That process might culminate in an Aleph Beta animated video or audio series -- but it starts with that shiny new thing.
And that's where you come in. When Rabbi Fohrman comes across 'shiny new things,' he wants to show them to interested folks, and get a chance to talk with them about it. Through learning with you, other dimensions of the pattern that were missed usually begin to emerge, and the meaning of the pattern often begins to come into focus.
You are an integral part of Shiny New Things, and we hope you'll be able to join!
Shiny New Things is an exclusive weekly event for Producers Circle members. This is an incredible opportunity to be a part of Rabbi Fohrman's learning and writing process, to offer feedback, and genuinely impact the direction of future ideas. Not to mention a chance to hear the extra “bonus” material that doesn’t make it into a book or video.
Shiny New Things meets every Mondays, 12-1:30 pm ET. Sign up for Producers Circle to attend.
Already a Producers Circle Member? Check your inbox -- the Zoom link is emailed out every Saturday night.
Rabbi Fohrman: Welcome to everybody. Let me get underway. What I wanted to do with you today is actually share with you one of my latest, shiny new things that I've been working on. This is -- I'm going to share with you some -- full disclosure. This is something which actually my son first notice, concurrently with some other Aleph Beta scholars, Beth and Ami, last year. I wrote some notes on it pursuant to a family discussion that we had around the Shabbat table. Then I promptly put them away and forgot about them.
As it came time to roll around and sort of think about what we were going to do, maybe put together a Tisha B'Av video, I remembered talking about this at some point. I shared the notes with Immanuel Shalev. We spent some time fleshing them out together. Ultimately, we did a Tisha B'Av video. We just finished scripting out a new Tisha B'Av video on it.
In the process, you know, Tisha B'Av videos are the kind of thing -- any video that we put together in Aleph Beta usually only has about 15 percent or so of the material that we researched. So it's a rewarding and frustrating process. So there's a lot of loose ends here. I want to try to go through some of this material, if I can, and kind of nail down -- not nail down, but sort of explore some of those loose ends with you and see where it takes us.
I guess maybe let's begin, if we can, this way. When we sort of began considering this stuff, we were talking about a famous comment that the Sages make, that Chazal make, about Tisha B'Av. They seem to find an antecedent to Tisha B'Av in the story of the spies in Sefer Bamidbar, in the Book of Numbers, Chapters 13 and 14.
What the Sages say, their language is kind of interesting. The language -- I think it's a Gemara in the Tractate of Ta'anit -- is that when the people cried after they heard the report of the spies in the kind of panicked crying, so God, so to speak, said, that "atem bachitem bechiyah shel chinam, af ani kovei'ah lachem bechiyah shel dorot." That you've cried tears for nothing, but there'll be a crying for generations in the future.
So it struck me that there were two interesting words that they chose there, and those words are bechiyah l'chinam and bechiyah l'dorot, two kinds of crying, two kinds of tears. Both of them are kind of interesting. In other words, if I would use this in sort of English nomenclature, I would say you cried for nothing, I'll give you something to cry about. But neither word means that. The word chinam doesn't mean nothing, exactly; it means free. You cried for free, which is a strange sort of language, a little bit. Then bechiyah l'dorot is not the same thing as I'll give you something to cry about, but there will be everlasting tears, tears for generations.
So I was just wondering where that language came from. So here's what struck me. What struck me is that if you look at the story of the spies, the way that God decrees the sort of punishment that comes to the spies is that He says that the generation that cried needs to all die out. The consequence is phrased in terms of a generation. So I think the language is hador hara hazeh, something like that.
So Chazal, the Sages seem to be picking up on that language. What they're saying is that it wasn't just a single generation that bore the consequences of the sin of the spies, but that whatever happened with the story of the spies reverberated for generations, plural. So they seem to be picking up on the idea of generation, and then expounding on that.
The second thing which I thought was interesting is the word chinam. So I just happened to see this, but it seems to be true. Where does the word chinam come from? So the word chinam never appears in the story of the spies. Interestingly, it appears in a story right before the story of the spies. It appears all the way back in this week's parsha, Parshat Beha'alotecha. Let me see if I can locate that, and I'll actually show it to you on the screen if I can call it up here in Sefaria.
So it's Chapter 11. Let me get English and Hebrew on the screen and I'll show it to you. Okay, so it's right over here. "V'hasafsuf asher b'kirbo hit'avu ta'avah," this is Numbers 11:4. The riffraff, good translation, in their midst felt a gluttonous craving. Not really -- it's interesting you could translate it that way. Another interesting way to translate hit'avu ta'avah is they craved a craving. Another way to read it is they really had no wants, but they wanted to have a want. Everything was taken care of for them. They had the manna, they had everything.
"Vayashuvu vayivku gam Bnei Yisrael vayomru mi ya'achileinu basar," and they cried and they said, who can give us meat to eat? "Zacharnu et hadagah asher nuchal b'Mitzrayim chinam," there's that word, right here. We remember the fish, we remember all the things, "et hakishu'im v'et ha'avatichim," we remember all these things that we used to eat for free in Egypt. Of course, it wasn't free; they were enslaved. Now we don't have anything. All we have is this lousy manna, right. All we have is this lousy manna.
It's actually kind of interesting, if you just look at linguistically the word chinam and the word haman, there's only the smallest of things that separate those words. You've got a Nun and a Mem in both cases, and you've got a Hei instead of a Chet. Almost as if the word haman is a play off of the word chinam. We used to eat all of these things for free, and now all we've got is this lousy manna.
Now, when you look at these events you might say, well, all right, but that was a long time before the spies; what does that have to do with the spies? What's interesting is if you think about the progress of Sefer Bamidbar, the Book of Numbers, and Rabbi Soloveitchik famously points this out in his famous shiur in Parshat Beha'alotecha. Everything seems to be going well in the Book of Numbers, up until this point. Up until Numbers Chapter 11. They seem to be preparing to march into the land. It's an 11-day journey to the land. They'll come into the land, everything is going to be great. All of a sudden, something happens.
What happens is this. This is the beginning of the end, this story. This is the beginning of a catastrophic series of complaints and problems which culminate in the story of the spies and the destruction of an entire generation.
Now, what's interesting is that the story of the spies, the culmination, the point where God decrees it's the end of the line of the generation, is when they cry. They sit and they cry. But there's another time where they sit and they cry and it's over here in Numbers 11. The language which we just saw is "vayashuvu vayivku gam Bnei Yisrael."
As a matter of fact, as far as I know -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong -- I think these are the only two times that we know that the people acted that way, that they sat and they cried. There are times when the people complained, there are times when the people are mad, but sitting and crying, just giving in to anguish, seems to happen twice. Once here at the beginning of the problems in the Book of Numbers, and once over here at the end of the problems, or the culmination of the problems, the story of the spies.
What's interesting is it feels to me that the Sages kind of picked up on that when they borrowed the word chinam to describe the tears of the spies. It's almost as if (inaudible 00:09:38). It's almost as if they're blurring the story of the spies with this story of the people who complain about the manna as if to say that when they cried, that the tears of the spies were almost like a continuation of the tears of the complaints against the manna. Together, those were tears that were free. Those were tears that shouldn't have been cried. It feels like they're connecting these two narratives in an interesting kind of way.
So that's kind of one thing that stuck in my head. But then I found something else which was kind of remarkable in the story of the spies. Before I show you the remarkable thing, I want to just go back to the story of the spies for a moment with you and just sort of revisit some of the basic, obvious textual questions that most folks should ask when you look at the story of the spies.
The Ramban (Nachmanides) actually does a good job of kind of rounding up these questions for us in his commentary on this. There's a famous Ramban where he offers his theory of the story of the spies. Some of these questions are versions of the Ramban's question. I would ask them slightly differently than the Ramban, in some cases. So maybe it's not exactly as the Ramban would put it, but if you want, it's a good place to look.
So one of the number one questions you would ask on the story of the spies is that famously, if you look at the way the story of the spies is told in the Book of Numbers here, you also have to bear in mind that it's told again in the Book of Deuteronomy, in the beginning, in Deuteronomy 1. The account in Deuteronomy 1 differs in some respects from the account in the Book of Numbers.
One of the most obvious ways it differs is as to who sent the spies. If you look in Sefer Devarim, if you look in the Book of Deuteronomy, is sounds like it was Moses's idea to send the spies. If you look in the Book of Numbers, it sounds like it was God's idea to send the spies.
So let's just stay with Numbers for a moment, since we're looking at the original episode. If it was God's idea, as the Book of Numbers seems to suggest: "Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe laymor, shelach lecha anashim v'yaturu et Eretz Canaan." It sounds like God is saying to do it. If it was God's idea, why would God do this? Why would God say, go send spies? The Ramban asks this question, and this is where the Ramban and Rashi and a whole bunch of others come up with the idea that really it wasn't God saying you should do it. Really, it was God saying you should do it if you want to do it, but really it was Moses's idea. They find various different ways of reconciling it.
If we just take it at face value, it sounds like it's God's idea. The problem is, of course, that if it is God's idea, what in the world would God be thinking? In other words, if you're God, the last thing you need is spies. Do you really need spies? It's like, did you ever play a video game in God mode? Playing a video game in God mode means you can't get destroyed, you have ultimate power, you can do whatever you want. It's not very fun to play a video game in God mode because it's no challenge. So if you're God, you don't really need spies for military reconnaissance. It's the last thing that you need.
Now, the Ramban ultimately asks this question as well. This is one of the main questions that the Ramban entertains. Now, the Ramban's answer will ultimately be that well, God wanted to minimize the role of divine intervention in conquering the land. You're not supposed to make a neis, a miracle any bigger than it has to be. Therefore, if it's the normal thing for an army to do, when they're waging war, to send out scouts and scout something out beforehand, then that's what God felt should happen. You should send out scouts, you should send out spies because that's what armies do. That's the Ramban's answer.
Personally, I'm not -- you know, maybe. The issue, it strikes me -- there are a couple of issues with that answer. One issue is that, okay. So if the way we conquered the land was kind of like the war of 1967, the Six-Day War, so I get it. There weren't any obvious miracles. It's not like lightning bolts came out of the blue. But, you know, God helped us behind the scenes to vanquish the enemy. So then sure, I understand, go send spies, we want to minimize the miracle.
But that's not the way we conquered the land. We conquered the land with straight out, flat out miracles, the likes of which have never been seen any other time in history. The Jordan River split. The Jordan River didn't have to split. Have you ever seen the Jordan River? It's not really huge. You know the Jordan River near Jericho where all the Christians go for baptism? It's not really huge. It's not scary. A little pontoon bridge and you're over it. You do not need to split the Jordan River. That was extra. That was God coming out and saying, this is God.
The walls of Jericho did not need to come tumbling down after they blew those shofars, if you were really trying to hide divine intervention. It sounds like the same God who authored the 10 plagues and the same God who split the sea coming out of Egypt, was going to split the Jordan. It was a continuation, in some way, of the miracles of the exodus. So it seems difficult to argue that all of a sudden, God wants to minimize His divine footprint in the world when He's willing to have seemingly gratuitous miracles in the conquest of the land.
So that's one difficulty I have in the Ramban. So let's just remain back at the question we had before, which is why in the world would God send spies, then, if God has no need of military reconnaissance?
Now, pulling on that thread a little bit more, let's actually look at the charge that these spies get. Let's look at Numbers 13:17, and I'll just throw it up on the screen for you. Let's kind of evaluate this in terms of military reconnaissance. "Vayishlach otam Moshe latur et Eretz Canaan vayomer aleihem alu zeh ba'Negev va'alitem et hahar." Go up from the Negev and go up into the mountainous regions. "U're'item et ha'aretz mah hee," and go look at the land. "V'et ha'am hayoshev aleha hechazak hu harafeh," and take a look at the people and see if they're strong or if they're weak. "Hame'at hu im rav," if there's few of them or if there's many.
Now, if I asked you is that a legitimate military reconnaissance aim, I think most of us would say sure. I want to see the relative strength of the enemy. I want to know how strong they are. I want to know how many they are. So far so good, it sounds like a regular military reconnaissance mission.
Now we get to, "U'mah ha'aretz asher hu yoshev bah hatovah hee im ra'ah," but what about the land they're sitting in? Is it a good land or is it a bad land? I mean, that doesn't really seem like military reconnaissance. It's almost like I could just imagine the generals throwing up their hands and saying, you know, that's not really our job, boss. You've got to decide whether you want this land. If you want the land, we'll tell you the best way to conquer it. We'll tell you the relative troop strength of the enemy, but we're not going to make judgments as to whether it's a good land or a bad land. That's really out of our -- that's really not up to us. So that's a little strange.
"U'mah he'arim asher hu yoshev baheinah habemachanim im b'mivtzarim," and how well encamped are the cities, how strongly fortified are they? That's a legitimate aim. I obviously want to know how strong the cities are. But then you get to, "U'mah ha'aretz hashmeinah hee im razah," and then look at the land. Is the land fertile or is the land parched and dry? "Hayesh bah etz," how are the trees doing in the land? "Im ayin," or if not. Then, most bizarre of all, "v'hit'chazaktem," make yourselves strong, "u'lekachtem mipri ha'aretz," and take from the fruits of the land, "v'hayamim yemei bikurei anavim," it was the days when the grapes were just coming into season.
What's that about? Like, the blueberries were coming into season, make sure to bring back some blueberries for everybody? What's that about? It's like, sir, I'm sorry, we have enough on our hands trying to make a stealth mission to go and to assess the troop strength. We really can't be worried about the blueberries right now. No, please make sure to bring back some blueberries. What is that about? There's no military justification for wondering about how the fruits taste and bringing back fruits for everyone so that they can taste the fruits.
Especially this little gratuitous thing, "v'hayamim yemei bikurei anavim," and it was the days when the grapes were just ripening, so there would be really good grapes that they could bring back. Like, what is that? It's just the strangest thing in the world to say.
So there seems to be this really weird kind of intermixing. Like, what is it, are there two agendas in sending the spies? Is there a military agenda? Is there another agenda? Is there one big agenda that would make sense of both these things? How do we understand that?
Now, it strikes me that there is a word here that might actually be the key to help us understand the answer to this puzzle. The word is chazak. Let me show you the word. First it appears where you would think it should appear, like right over here. "U're'item et ha'aretz mah hee v'et ha'am hayoshev aleha hechazak hu harafeh." Go see, are the people strong or are they weak. Again, that's a regular military reconnaissance mission. Are the people strong or are they weak?
What's really interesting is that that word is going to reappear here, when it comes to the fruits. "V'hit'chazaktem u'lekachtem mipri ha'aretz." Now, that charge is really strange. I mean, if I was writing Verse 20, I would take out the word v'hit'chazaktem, wouldn't you? You would say and now, when you go to the land, check it out, see if it's plentiful, see if it's fertile or if it's not. And "v'hit'chazaktem," make yourselves strong, "u'lekachtem mipri ha'aretz," and take from the fruits of the land. You see how the English translator over here on the right had such a difficulty with that, that they didn't even translate v'hit'chazaktem the way you're supposed to translate it. They translated it as, and make sure to take pains to bring back some of the fruits of the land. It doesn't mean, make sure to take pains. It means, make yourself strong to take back the fruits of the land.
Now, what does that even mean, make yourself strong to take back the fruits of the land? Like, why? So you might say, well, when you actually see, they cut off this whole grapevine, it took two people to put the grapevine in. They carried it with bamot, they carried it with -- I don't know what they call that, but this thing that two people had to drape over their shoulders and they have the vine. But okay. Whether that's supernatural or it's not supernatural, even if it's just some nice, luscious grapes, grapevines are big things. Maybe you would have to be strong to shlep a whole vine back for everyone to see.
But still, why do you have to say, and make yourselves strong, u'lekachtem mipri ha'aretz? It's like, would you say, and make sure to take a power saw with you so that you can saw off the vine, make sure you take screwdrivers and wrenches so that -- make sure you take everything you need to cut down the vine. Like, why would you say that, v'hit'chazaktem u'lekachtem mipri ha'aretz?
It seems to me like the v'hit'chazaktem here is connected to the hachazak here. There's something about strength which seems to unite the two missions here, which is to see something about the fertility of the land and to see the people of the land. Somehow, this is all revolving around chazak. You need to be chazak with the fruits somehow. It's weird, but maybe in that word there's some sort of answer to our question.
So the general question is, what was the agenda for the spies? Why bother sending them? What I'm questioning now, and where I'm really getting at is okay, so if you're God, you really have no need for spies because there's no military agenda that you, as God, need. But now, as we're looking more carefully and we're looking at their charge, it's unclear if it even was a military reconnaissance mission. Maybe, the possibility is maybe it wasn't a military reconnaissance mission.
So now the question is, what was it? What single mission could explain the mission of the spies if it's not military reconnaissance? Or maybe it's two missions. How does chazak have to do with it? What's it all about?
Okay, so these are some of my background wonderings about the story of the spies. One other musing, while we're at it, is the spies ultimately fail because they bring back what's called dibat ha'aretz, they bring back bad reports about the land. Now, let me ask you a question. Let's say you were writing a fictional story, and you wanted spies to fail because they brought back bad reports about the land. Give me a model bad report about the land that you could put in the spies' mouth. What might they say that's bad about the land, if it were you?
David: We can't conquer it. The people are too strong to -- we won't succeed militarily in the conquest.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, possibly. Although the real truth is, David, I don't even know if I would consider that dibat ha'aretz, would you?
David: Oh, you're saying what's dibat ha'aretz, or are you saying what would be a bad report?
Rabbi Fohrman: No, dibat ha'aretz. I'm not saying what was dibat ha'aretz; I'm saying if you were writing the book from scratch and you knew that you wanted to make the spies come back with "dibat ha'aretz," bad reports about the land, give me an example of something bad you could say about the land.
Avi: Sure. How about, we couldn't find any fruit?
Rabbi Fohrman: We couldn't find any fruit. You could say it's a crummy land, it doesn't have any fruit. You could say it was really parched or something like that. So let's actually look at the text and see what the dibat ha'aretz actually was. When they come back and they bring their dibat ha'aretz, they say, in Verse 32, "Vayotziu dibat ha'aretz asher taru otah el Bnei Yisrael laymor, ha'aretz asher avarnu bah latur otah eretz ochelet yoshvehah hee, v'chol ha'am asher ra'inu b'tochah anshei middot. V'sham ra'inu et hanefilim bnei ha'anak min hanefilim vanehi b'eineinu kachagavim v'chen hayinu b'eineihem."
So a couple questions for you. A, what strange dibat ha'aretz is that, these first four words, otah eretz ochelet yoshvehah hee, it's a land that devours its inhabitants. I don't even know what that means. Like, what does that even mean? It's a land -- really? A land that devours its inhabitants? I mean, that's a pretty strange thing to say about a land, that the land devours its inhabitants. Were they in a position to even see such a thing?
So there are these Midrashim that they saw these funerals, and God was killing off the people to distract them, and they concluded that the land devours its inhabitants. But just in peshat, in the simplest way of understanding, it's just a strange thing to say.
What's doubly strange about land is you might say that to some extent, all land devours its inhabitants, doesn't it? When does land devour its inhabitants?
Carole: When you're buried.
Rabbi Fohrman: When you're buried in it. I mean, that's what land does. Land is very good at devouring its inhabitants. But that's not really a bad thing about land, it's just what land does. So is that what they're doing? They're seizing on the idea of land, like, this ordinary thing that land does, which is that it consumes bodies of people after they die, and blowing that out of proportion or something? Like, what does it even mean, eretz ochelet yoshvehah hee? If it doesn't mean that, what would they have even seen?
Then the next part of it is, how do you read this verse? "Vayotziu dibat ha'aretz," they said these nasty things about the land. What were the nasty things? Listen to the rest of the verse. Seemingly, the way you read it is there were two nasty things. A was, "ha'aretz asher avarnu bah latur otah eretz ochelet yoshvehah hee," the land that we have gone to see is a land that devours its inhabitants. But there's a B, there's a part B. The B is -- Carole, that's a good point. We'll get to that in one moment. Actually, why don't we get to that now, before -- let me just finish the thought.
The B is, "v'chol ha'am asher ra'inu b'tochah anshei middot. V'sham ra'inu et hanefilim bnei ha'anak min hanefilim." All the people that we saw there were very large people. We saw giants there, bnei anak min hanefilim, these real giants. We seemed like grasshoppers in their eyes.
Now, is that really dibat ha'aretz? Like, what does that have to do with the land? It has to do with the inhabitants of the land. It's not really bad things about the land, because there's strong people there. It's not really a bad thing about the land. I wouldn't characterize it that way. You might say the people scared off the nation from wanting to conquer the very good land. You might say that. But you wouldn't say it was something bad about the land, that there were these really strong people in the land.
What's also interesting about all this -- Avi, I'll get to you in one second -- is it comes back to that chazak thing, doesn't it. In other words, the dibah ba'aretz is specifically that they're talking about the strength of its inhabitants. There comes that strength thing back, except they're putting this twist on it. It's really kind of interesting.
Yeah, so let's get to Avi's point and then Carole's point about Korah. Avi?
Avi: So I was going to note that maybe one idea is -- the spies weren't trying to -- didn't think that as a result of their report, suddenly Bnei Yisrael are going to wander in the desert for 40 years. This wasn't an all-or-nothing thing. They assumed they would still go in. So the problem is, if you want to, I guess, say something negative, you need something that will stand up against the first impression.
You can't say there was no fruit, because two days later Bnei Yisrael walk into the land, they see this fruit, they're going to say, you're liars. They can't say the land is parched because first of all, they're going to see it isn't. Second of all, God already took care of that. God promised that He's going to provide rain if the Jews are good. He promised He's going to get rid of the bad enemies.
So what's left is to say, yeah, that's all true. But you see this land? Once you go in and God gives you the land, you're still in trouble because this land's going to eat you alive. You can see as proof for that, only the strongest people can survive it.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So one second, Avi. You're saying in order to cover their tracks, they can't disparage the land for having poor soil. All they can really do is they can say the people are strong. But how is that dibat ha'aretz?
Avi: Because they're saying the land will come and get you in the end, which ironically is actually true. That's what God says also, "vataki ha'aretz et yoshvehah," that the land will devour them if they're not good. That's actually correct. But that's the long-term thing that isn't going to be -- like, they're not going to walk in three days later and say, you're all liars.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, good. So I actually think that Avi is right about that, that they're getting to actually a truth about the land when they say that the land devours its inhabitants. God Himself says the same thing. So let's keep that in the background and we'll get back to that.
In the meantime, I want to get to Carole's point, which I think is also really interesting. Isn't it interesting that right after the story of the spies, we actually get a crazy story where land does devour its inhabitants? Notably, the story of Korah. Literally, the land opens its mouth and devours people, like, actually. That's really weird. So that's strange. It makes you kind of wonder, was there a connection between these stories.
Now, what's interesting about it, and here I want to credit -- I forgot his name. David, he's from your neck of the woods, in Efrat. Who's the guy, whenever I lectured out in Efrat, it was at his house. Remind me his name? It's not David Weinberg. Okay, I'm blanking on his name. I forgot. But there's a guy in Efrat, a very bright fellow, and he suggested this theory to me. I want to give him credit, even though I forgot his name just now. I'll try to remember it. This idea was his, not mine.
He said that isn't it interesting that if you look at the story of Korah -- let's actually go to the story of Korah for a second to make sure I don't mangle this. Where is Korah? It is a little bit later here. I'm not remembering all of his evidence over here.
Carole: Numbers 16:30 talks about God creating a new thing.
Rabbi Fohrman: I see. Right. Hold on. So if you look at the Korah story, one of the sub-themes in the Korah story is a sub-complaint by Dathan and Abiram, the children of Eliab from the tribe of Reuben. You can find that in 16:12. I'll just share the screen with you.
"Hame'at ki he'elitanu mei'eretz zavat chalav u'devash lahamiteinu bamidbar ki tistarer aleinu gam histarer." It's not enough that you brought us out of Egypt, which was itself a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this desert because we're not going to be able to get into the land, but you also want to have rulership over us? "Af lo el eretz zavat chalav u'devash havi'otanu," you didn't bring us to any land of milk and honey to give us "nachalat sadeh vakarem." Moses became very angry with them. That's the story.
Now, he wants to argue -- I forgot why he made this argument. He wanted to make the argument that when the land actually opens its gaping mouth to swallow up everyone, that it was only Dathan and Abiram that died in the maw of the ground, and it wasn't Korah. I don't know why he said that, because I'm not seeing it here in the text right now.
Avi: He's not saying it because of here. He's saying it because later, when they died, it said they died there in the fire. In fact, that's why there's a Midrash that says that he died and that happened simultaneously, he died in the fire and then his head rolled into the pit, to address that question.
Rabbi Fohrman: Ah, that's it. So where does it say that he died in the fire?
Avi: That's coming up. So in the next story, which we assume happened roughly in parallel.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, go ahead.
Avi: Sorry, I can get a Chumash.
Rabbi Fohrman: The makrivei haketoret?
Moshe: Verse 35.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right, but it doesn't mention Korah there. It says in 16:32, "Vatiftach ha'aretz et piha vativla otam v'et bateihem v'et kol ha'adam asher l'Korach v'et kol harachush," which sounds like Korah perished. Then there is the fire that takes all of the ketoret.
Avi: So my understanding, based on a thing I've heard, is -- a couple things. One, he was a kohen so it would make sense, but also that essentially there were sort of two different complaints, right, two parallel rebellions. Korah was sort of a part of both of them. The Datham and Abiram complaint as well as the Cohenite complaint. So the question is which he was punished by. (Inaudible 00:36:27) could say both.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. I hear you. Anyway, for the purposes of our discussion, it's just interesting that right after the story of the spies, where the complaint of the spies was that it's a land that devours its inhabitants, there actually is a story in which land did devour its inhabitants. What's also interesting is that a sub-category of that story is the complaint of Dathan and Abiram which was a complaint, or could be construed as a complaint, against the Land of Israel.
What was their complaint? Their complaint was Egypt is the eretz zavat chalav u'devash, Egypt is the land flowing with milk and honey. You never brought us to a land of milk and honey. I don't see anything. So in essence it could be construed as this sort of rejection of the land and like, we don't even want to go there anyway. We want to go to Egypt.
Isn't it interesting that the land would open up its mouth to swallow them, which is exactly what the complaint was against the land. Almost as if to say the land really does have that capacity, almost as if the land in the desert was acting in solidarity with the Land of Israel, and took offense at the disparagement of its cousin and opened up its maw and devoured people. I don't know. It seems interesting and strange.
Let me now get to the pattern which I thought was kind of remarkable which I wanted to show you, which I think can shed light on all these questions that we have about the spies. The pattern -- let me stop this share so I can see you guys again. So the pattern actually goes to another story which is kind of interesting me. It turns out that when the people come back -- put it this way.
It turns out that there's a story in Genesis which the story of the spies sort of reminds you of. What story is that? Anybody? A story in Genesis.
David: I'd say maybe you're talking about Joseph.
Rabbi Fohrman: David, why would you say maybe I'm talking about Joseph?
David: Well, there's dibah. That's the only other time the word dibah appears. Joseph is swallowed up by the earth, in a sense; he's thrown into the pit. Those are the two things, off the top of my head.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right. So it is the story of Joseph.
Avi: He accuses his brothers of being spies.
Rabbi Fohrman: He accuses his brothers of being spies, of all things. That's pretty remarkable. So let's start from that last point, from Avi.
David: Also (inaudible 00:39:24), 10 out of 12. That's even more specific.
Rabbi Fohrman: Right. Okay. So you've got four connections. Let's go through -- let me ask you for the most obvious connections between Joseph and the spies. The reason why I want to do that is because I'm interested in establishing whether this is really true or a figment of our imagination. So let's start with the things that hit you over the head.
Avi: One thing, Rabbi Fohrman. I realized there is another proof for what we were saying before, I had just forgotten where it was. About that he died in the fire, potentially. So later it says, "Zikaron l'Bnei Yisrael lema'an asher lo yikrav ish zar," so it says later in Numbers 17, when he commands that Aaron should take those machtot as a memory for people. "Lehaktir ketoret lifnei Hashem v'lo yihiyeh k'Korach v'cha'adato asher diber Hashem b'yad Moshe lo." That's clearly talking, it would seem, about the machtot.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, I hear you. Okay, I'll take that. Let's stay with Joseph and the spies, though, for a moment. So Joseph and the spies. What are the most obvious connections you can find for the Joseph and the spies? Give me what you think the most obvious ones are. I'm polling the group. From your knowledge of the Joseph story, your knowledge of the spies story, give me your number one connection with Joseph.
I'll give you the number one. The number one is going to be the word meraglim (spies). The word meraglim, believe it or not, doesn't appear in the Book of Numbers in connection with the spies. They're actually not called that. They're called the anashim that are sent latur et ha'aretz, to spy out the land. It's actually later on in the Book of Deuteronomy, I believe, that they're called meraglim. Even there, they're not really called meraglim. They're just told that they went leragel et ha'aretz, as a verb, they went out to spy out the land.
Interestingly enough, we call them the meraglim. We call them the meraglim because in Rabbinic literature that's what they're known by, in Gemara. The Gemara calls them meraglim. But what's interesting is that the only people in the Torah, in the Five Books of Moses who were ever called meraglim is actually Joseph's brothers. Joseph makes the accusation when he sees them, his immediate accusation is "meraglim atem lir'ot et ervat ha'aretz batem," you've come to see the nakedness of the land. So that's kind of remarkable.
But it takes more than one connection to establish that the Torah -- right, it could just be a coincidence -- to establish that the Torah really wants to show us that it's connected. So give me another one. David, your one about swallowing in the earth I think is great. However, it's more poetic so I don't think that counts. In other words, it counts but it's a middle piece or an edge piece; it's not a corner piece. In the larger picture of it, if you can establish the connection, it's a furtherance of the connection but it doesn't establish it.
What do you say? Go ahead? Ari.
Ari: Challenge of leadership.
Rabbi Fohrman: Explain.
Ari: Well, again, in both. The brothers are -- Joseph is saying that they are going to bow down to him, a form of leadership. The brothers are, obviously, challenging that as we have here in the -- again, connected to -- it's more the case of Korah, but I think here in the case of the meraglim as well you have a case of them challenging Moses. They were going into the Land of Israel and they're coming back and saying no, it's not conquerable.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So maybe, although I see that more as a middle piece also, because even though you can establish challenge of leadership in the spies, specifically when they cry and they say "nitnah rosh v'nashuvah Mitzrayimah," let's find ourselves a leader and take us back to the land. However, it's not the overall complexion of the story. It's an ancillary part of the story. You don't think spies' challenge of leadership the same way you think of it there. So it could be.
I think it may well be a connection. I'm really interested right now in the most obvious connections. So just to tip off, the most obvious connections, so the connections which in my book count most as corner pieces, are actually going to be words and phrases that are very unusual. So can you think of any words --
Moshe: (Inaudible 00:44:00).
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, good.
Moshe: That has to be a strong one, yeah.
Rabbi Fohrman: Definitely the strong one is going to be the word dibah, right. Dibah ra'ah. So it turns out that the word dibah actually only appears twice in the Torah. It's a very unusual word for bad speech, for bad reports. It's the word that describes the bad reports that the spies come back with, and it's also the word that describes what Joseph says to his father at the beginning of the story, that "vayavei et dibatam ra'ah el avihem," he brings back the bad reports to their -- hold on for one second -- to their father.
Okay. What's next? Okay, besides dibah. Anything else?
Carole: The 10 and 12, the 10 and 12 that somebody already mentioned.
Rabbi Fohrman: The 10 and 12. Ten and 12 is pretty strong, even though it's not a word, but it's remarkable enough that I'll count that as pretty strong. It's the two stories, when 10 ganged up on two. Ten seemingly gang up on two in the story of Joseph, even though it's not explicit, but we can assume Benjamin, the other child of Rachel, was in Joseph's camp. The 10 ganging up on two is explicit in the story of the spies, even though the breakdown isn't the same.
Now, what's interesting is the breakdown -- the breakdown is kind of interesting, if you think who were the 10 and who were the two. We'll come back to that, because that is really interesting. It's only interesting once you establish that the connection is real. It's not obviously the same ones, right.
Who are the 10 and who are the two in the spies? It's Caleb and Joshua. So what's interesting is which tribes did they come from? Caleb comes from Judah. Joshua comes from Ephraim. Now, Ephraim is Joseph. But what's interesting is Judah is not on Joseph's team in the first story. So what's interesting is if we're right, there's actually an interesting switch between the 10 and the two. In both cases, there's a Joseph person in the minority, but the identity of the -- in the Joseph story, the identity of the minority is filled out by a fellow child of Rachel, but not in the spies story.
Interestingly, in the spies story it is the ringleader of the anti-Joseph crew, Judah, at least in the beginning of the story, who then is in the minority in the story of the spies. This is kind of interesting. What's interesting also is that Judah is ambivalent in the story of Joseph. Even though he's the "ringleader" against Joseph, that's only true in the beginning of the story. In the end of the story, he's actually the hero who, in a way, says I might have been one of the 10, but I'm also one of the two. In essence, when he says take me instead of the -- I don't want two to be lost, which is the Benjamin-Joseph alliance, take me instead. So it's kind of interesting where Judah fits in over there.
Parenthetically, while we're thinking about 10 versus two, I will give you one other thing which might suggest that the Gemara, at some level, or the Sages, picked up on the possible connection between the spies and the Joseph story. The Gemara wonders where the idea of minyan comes from, where the idea of a quorum comes from. The Gemara picks Korah, but then coming out of Korah to define what the number of an eidah is, has two sources. The Babylonian Talmud in Ta'anit gives the source actually of the spies, the 10 against two. It was 10, so 10 is the minimum size of minyan.
What's interesting is that the Jerusalem Talmud actually goes to Joseph and his brothers for the 10 against two. So it's interesting that you have two sources for minyan, coming out of Joseph and coming out of the spies, both of which make you not really want to be the tenth person at the minyan, does it? Both of them are not the best stories. This is a very strange beginning to Jewish community, in these stories that are so pernicious.
Okay, but we still haven't proven our point. Still, all of this is just suggestive. I mean, it's more than suggestive. Meraglim plus dibah is pretty significantly suggestive, right. The 10 and the two is suggestive. Is there anything more that really hammers the case home? David?
David: I know you might view this as kind of cheating, but I happened to take a look at the TorahLab comparison.
Rabbi Fohrman: Oh no, then you cheated on us. Okay.
David: But there were a couple of really strong things. I'll paste the links in the chat. One was the phrase, "Vayomru ish el achiv" was, like, exactly the same in both. And in terms of --
Rabbi Fohrman: So wait one second, let's just stop. Let's do these one at a time so we (inaudible 00:49:33). So one of the strong corner pieces, even though you wouldn't have thought it was, unless you had something like TorahLab behind you, is "Vayomru ish el achiv." The reason why you never would have thought that without all of TorahLab behind you is because it sounds like such a pedestrian phrase, that it's probably everywhere in the Torah, and one brother said to another. The fact is it's not. It's a very unusual phrase in Chumash.
Interestingly, it doesn't appear twice, but it appears almost twice. It appears three times. Two out of the three are Joseph and his brothers, and the story of the spies. What's really interesting is what the third is. Guess what the third is. It's not just some random other place.
Moshe: "Nitnah rosh v'nashuvah Mitzrayimah?"
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, that's in the story of the spies. So it's the spies, it's Joseph. You know where the third is? It's in the original story of the manna, "Vayomru ish el achiv mahn hu." Now, what's so interesting about that is, go back to how we started all this. The Sages don't see the spies as a story in and of itself. They see the spies as nothing but a continuation of the story of the complaints against the manna.
Now, let me ask you. When did the complaints against the manna start? So you might tell me, the complaint against the manna started in the Book of Numbers, in Parshat Beha'alotecha. You don't find complaints against the manna before that. The manna is first introduced in Parshat Beshalach in Exodus. There, everything seems fine. It's manna. They didn't know what it was, but it was fine. You would normally think that the complaints get introduced in Parshat Beha'alotecha when they were all upset about the manna, we can't stand it, we'd rather go back to Egypt.
But now, if we're right about this, I think there's a triumvirate of "Vayomru ish el achiv." It's almost as if the Torah wants to tell you something with this phrase. It has a certain coded meaning. What was "Vayomru ish el achiv" back in the Joseph story? What did one man say to another? Mrs. Shalev, you are muted.
Dina: I thought it had to do with the pit, hava nehargeihu, something?
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. Everyone remember?
Moshe: Back on to the dreamer boy.
Rabbi Fohrman: "Vayomru ish el achiv" is here comes the dreamer boy. "Hinei ba'al hachalomot halazeh ba," that's at the Joseph story. Now let's go to the spies story. What's "Vayomru ish el achiv" in the spies story? It is "nitnah rosh v'nashuvah Mitzrayimah," let's go and go back to Egypt.
Now, let's just stop there. What would you say the common denominator of the tone of "Vayomru ish el achiv" is those two "Vayomru ish el achiv," the one in Genesis and the one in the spies. What do you get from the tone here? Any common denominator in the tone? Or in just what's happening? What's happening?
Moshe: The intro for something nefarious.
Rabbi Fohrman: An intro for something nefarious. Now, let's get a little bit more specific. Can you be more specific about the nature of the nefariousness?
Dina: Going against God's will, no?
Carole: Rejecting leadership.
Rabbi Fohrman: Interesting. Rejecting leadership. Actually, rejecting the leadership which you should have. Rejecting some sort of proper leader that you're ambivalent about. In one case, Joseph. You're worried that he's a bad leader, so you're going to make fun of him and you're going to say that he's a ba'al hachalomot (dreamer), and you're going to reject God as taking you into the land and you're going to say, let's go back to Egypt.
David: It's also rejecting a dream in a sense, no? In the sense that like -- a dream of something that isn't necessarily -- you have to believe it's going to happen. In other words, Joseph had this vision of him, you know, whatever his visions were going to be, and people rejected that. Then in the story of the spies, they were rejecting this idea that they would be able to conquer the land, which wasn't a given. They had been told by Moses all this time that God's going to bring them back, and they rejected this sort of dream, so to speak.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah. Okay, I'll tell you what. Hold on for one second. This is actually -- what we're actually on the cusp of right now with "Vayomru ish el achiv" is a very deep piece. So I actually do want to talk about it with you, but it's subtle and it's deep. So I want to actually finish what we were doing before, which was trying to establish the reality of the connections before we dive into this.
So here's our agenda for our final 15 minutes. Let's try to finish the reality of these connections, see if we can at least establish that they're real, and then let's explore the "Vayomru ish el achiv" more deeply. But for now, let's at least say that it certainly is suggestive that two out of the three "Vayomru ish el achiv" in the Torah happen in the story of the spies and happen in the story with Joseph.
What else? Now, David, even though I know you cheated and you've looked at our TorahLab which again, gives you an array of the computer algorithms, connections between these stories. What, in your mind, is the most significant of those connections? We're not interested in just a whole potpourri of things. I want the most significant. So far we have meraglim as our -- we're playing Family Feud right now. Remember Family Feud, our survey says? We're looking for the top five, our survey says.
So we've got meraglim in our number one spot. We've got dibah on our number two spot. We've got 10 versus two in our number four spot. We've got vayomru ish el achiv in our number five spot. We're missing our number three spot. Did we say a number three spot?
David: You could say vayeshvu le'echol and ochelet yoshvehah, that was -- I saw -- I'm not sure how similar it is.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. So first of all, I think that's absolutely correct, but it is poetry so it's only going to count -- it's a play on words. It's definitely very interesting and provocative. I wouldn't say it's number three, but it's up there. Isn't it interesting that --
David: Good answer, good answer, like if you're going the Family Feud way?
Rabbi Fohrman: Yeah, good answer, good answer. I think it's real, I just don't think it's the thing that would convince me, if I wasn't convinced. But once I was convinced, then definitely it's part of it. So let's hold that in abeyance for when we get to it, which is it seems that it's possible that eretz ochelet yoshvehah is a play off of vayeshvu le'echol lechem in the Joseph story.
Now, if these stories really are connected, isn't it interesting that the people sit down to eat bread, and in the story of the spies the land eats its sitters? They sit to eat, and land eats its sitters. That is kind of interesting. What that would mean, I don't really know, but it's too psychedelic to count as a corner piece. It might be real, but only within the context to establish it.
So help me establish the paradigm. I'm almost there. The dibah is very strong, the meraglim is very strong. The 10 against two is pretty strong. Give me another knock-out punch.
Moshe: Is it the whole shelach, vayishlacheihu and (inaudible 00:57:46)?
Rabbi Fohrman: Good, good. Also, very strong pieces, strong edge pieces. All right, I'll tell you what I think the last corner piece is. In my view, the last corner piece is the response of the spies, "vayashivu otam davar," the spies came back with word. Listen carefully; where do you have that in the Joseph story? "Vayashivu otam davar."
Moshe: What Jacob tells Joseph to bring back word.
Rabbi Fohrman: Exactly. When Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers, the uncanny language that he uses for that is "hashiveini davar," bring me back word. That's pretty interesting. Hashiveini davar, bring me back word; vayashivu otam davar, and they came back with word.
Pair that with Jacob sending Joseph with the language, "lecha v'eshlachacha aleihem," let me go and send you to them, "v'hashiveini davar," and bring me back word. Pair that with the command to the spies which was "shelach lecha anashim," send for yourself people. Just like "lecha v'eshlachacha aleihem," let me go, I am going to send you to them.
So the language of sending is the same, and the language of what you should do once you're sent is the same, bring me back word. Put that together with Joseph's accusation that they are meraglim, put that together with the dibah that comes back. The only two vayashivu otam davar that you ever have in the Torah are the spies and Joseph. The only two dibahs you ever have in the Torah are the spies and Joseph. The only meraglim in the Torah is in the story of Joseph. Two out of three of the vayomru ish el achiv is Joseph and the spies.
If you add it all up, it sure sounds like something real is going on. Now, once you see that it's something real, the next stages you need to do, and we'll pick this up next week, so I'll tell you what the agenda is next week but I'll go to (inaudible 01:00:01) will be first, because I promised I would get to that.
The next things to do are two things at the same time. It is expand the evidence, while using the evidence to enhance and crystallize your interpretation. Right now, we have zero in terms of interpretation. In other words, if I would ask you what in the world does this mean? You would throw up your arms and say, I don't know, I'm just following the data. I don't know. I have no idea why the spies should be connected to the Joseph story. Beats me.
So what we have to do is figure that out. How do you figure that out? Basically, you figure that out with two ways, and this is just a little methodology here in terms of in my brain, how I work in a situation like this. If you, as a Tanach researcher, every find yourself in this situation where you throw up your hands and say, I don't know what to do. I have no idea what this means. How am I supposed to know what this means? Spies, Joseph, what do I even do? I see it. I don't know what it means.
So here's what you do if you find yourself in this position, staying up at night wondering about this and not knowing what in the world it could possibly mean. You do two things. The first thing you do is you turn off the part of your brain that is consciously looking to interpret this, and instead you stay in your scientific mode and you look for further evidence. Why? Because it's not that you need to prove your theory anymore. Your theory is pretty much proven.
You already passed the bet-your-house test. That's the basic test you want with this things, to know whether it's real. Would you bet your house? If somebody gave you the opportunity to put your house on the line and there's a red phone up to God, and you get to ask God one question, God, did you have in mind the Joseph story when you were writing the thing with the spies? If God said oh man, I can't believe you found that! Then you double the price of your house. If your house is worth $1 million, you have $2 million in the bank now. But if God says, are you crazy, the spies? What are you even thinking? You must be smoking something. Then you lose your house. So the question is, would you bet your house?
For me, I would bet my house at this point. I have enough evidence that I'm comfortable with that bet. I'm not sure, but I'm comfortable. It feels to me to be an easy way to make $2 million. But just because I would bet -- so you would say, I'm betting my house, what do I need more evidence for?
The answer is, the evidence now is not really necessary to help you be sure of your theory. Your theory is true. It's going to help you interpret your theory. Because each piece of evidence is ultimately going to help you within the interpretation. The more you see of evidence, the more data points you have to help understand how one story maps on another and what the interpretation is.
To use another analogy, you're doing a jigsaw puzzle. The more puzzle pieces you have in place, the more the overall picture becomes clear. You see what's going on.
Usually, whenever you've found -- usually, you can be sure that however smart you are and even however much you're convinced the two stories map onto each other, you haven't seen the whole picture. Usually there's more that you haven't seen. You have to go back a few times and you need to look at it. Usually no one person can find all of them because we have different biases.
So it's helpful to share with friends, groups like these where people come out and find things that you wouldn't have seen. Talk about it a little bit. You aggregate your data. Try to find more. Then, ask yourself what it means once you have more data. That's tip number 1.
Tip number 2, in a situation like this, is to play a game that I find very, very helpful. That game is cast of characters. The way cast of characters works is that whenever you have two stories, if they're narratives or if one of them has a narrative. What you then have to do is, as you map one story on the other, you have to ask yourself, who matches up with whom, in these stories? And that's very interesting.
So let's begin, and we can play cast of characters. If we play cast of characters, we say: Okay. Joseph is coming back with dibah to his father. Who's his father? His father is going to be -- who does he match up to?
Kaya: Either Moses or Bnei Yisrael.
Rabbi Fohrman: Either Moses or the people. The center of the spy story. But now, who does Joseph match up to? If Joseph is coming back with bad reports, who does he match up with?
Dina: The meraglim.
Rabbi Fohrman: He matches up with the meraglim. Now isn't that interesting? That's very interesting. It's interesting for two reasons. One reason it's interesting is, and this is where you have to ask yourself -- once you start playing cast of characters, you then have to ask yourself, how cast of characters surprises you?
In other words, you then have to say, what would I have thought before I played cast of characters? And what changed after I started playing cast of characters? Before I started playing cast of characters and before I even saw these connections between the Joseph story and the meraglim, if you would have come across the phrase, that Joseph came back with dibah ra'ah -- brought back dibah ra'ah to his father, how would you have interpreted that dibah ra'ah? What would you have said Joseph is guilty of?
You would have said, ah, Joseph, he's tattling on his brothers. He's a little bit of a tattletale. He's saying some lashon hara. It's not so nice. That's what he's guilty of.
But now that you've played cast of characters? What's Joseph actually doing?
Dina: He's telling the wrong thing to his father.
Rabbi Fohrman: It's more than he's telling the wrong thing to his father. What was he doing before that?
David: I would say, he's undermining his brothers.
Rabbi Fohrman: He's doing more than undermining his brothers.
David: His brothers had a role in the land. They were actually involved in the land.
Rabbi Fohrman: All right. But just one second. The most conservative interpretation about Joseph's activity before coming back with dibah is, what was he doing? What were the meraglim doing?
Rabbi Fohrman: He was spying. He was spying in the family. Now you have to ask yourself that. Right? Joseph wasn't just saying some lashon hara. He was spying on his brothers. Do you understand? That darkens Joseph's actions by a few shades.
It's not just like, oh, yeah, you know, I'm saying some bad things. No, no, no. When you were shepherding with them, you weren't shepherding with them. You were spying on them. That's a much darker accusation that you wouldn't have had without these connections. That's really interesting.
So that's implication number one that's surprising. Implication number two that's surprising is whoa, whoa one second. If Joseph was spying on his brothers -- one second, I lost the train of thought.
So Joseph is spying on his brothers. He's bringing back bad reports about his brothers. Rats. I lost my train of thought there.
Okay. So number one problem is he's spying on his brothers. Oh, I'm sorry. Yeah. Let's talk about spying for a moment. What's wrong with spying on your brothers? Let's talk about what's wrong with spying on your brothers.
David: You assume that they're not capable of doing on their own -- they won't be (inaudible 01:08:37) what they're doing. There's something that's not accurate about what they're doing. It has to be revealed by you. It's something that opens -- it's not exposed to the public. It's not -- you have to discover, reveal something that you're hiding.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. It's sounds like they're doing something surreptitiously bad. That's one possibility. Something privately bad. Okay. That's a good point. So it must be they're doing something bad. And it must be private. But that doesn't say there's anything wrong with that.
Dina: He's excluding himself.
Rabbi Fohrman: Yes. What Mrs. Shalev is saying is correct. In other words, normally, the activity of spying targets whom? Who do you spy on?
Rabbi Fohrman: An enemy. What does that tell you about Joseph's relationship with his brothers?
Moshe: They didn't get along.
Rabbi Fohrman: In a big way. It sounds like Joseph is actually treating them as enemies.
Why would you spy on your brothers? Why would you target them? Seeking to undermine them. You wouldn't spy in the family. Spying is not something you do in the family. It's really not. Spying is something you do when you define an enemy that's outside of you.
Was that what was going on? Did Joseph really see these brothers as enemies? That's what it sounds like. So that's strange and problematic. That's deeply problematic.
Okay. Now, along with David's point about spying is also where you uncover a pernicious, private evil.
The next question also is, what was the dibah? Now, Chazal speculate what it was. We don't know what it was. Imu, in my learning with him, has -- he's actually Mrs. Shalev's son -- has a very interesting theory about what the dibah is. Which he's developed. Which I will suggest to you next week.
That it comes from a previous story. The Torah is telling you what the dibah might be. You might be able to figure it out if you follow David's idea. It's got to be something by its nature private and surreptitious which you wouldn't know. As you go through the text, yeah -- but let's not even go there. We'll maybe save that for next time.
Let's get now to Barry's point. Barry wrote in the chat. Did I pronounce your name correctly, Barry? Where's Barry? If you can unmute there for a second. All right. Barry's point was, but the father sent him to spy. That's the next question.
So let's continue playing cast of characters. Cast of characters. It's got to be Jacob. Now here's the problem. That dibah, in the story of the spies, is all the way at the end. Okay. When the spies come back with their report, that's all the way at the end of the story.
In the Joseph story, dibah is all the way at the beginning of the story. The very first thing you hear about the story is, when Joseph was 17 years old, he brings back dibah ra'ah el avihem. He brings back dibah to their father. So dibah is in the wrong place in the story. Everything else, by the way, fits up in these connections.
They're all remarkably, more or less in order, these connections. The one that's out of -- and we can plot them. As we actually go through the evidence next week, we can plot the connections. You'll see how they're in order. But one of the ones that's out of order is dibah.
It's strange. What's dibah doing at the beginning of the story? Now, take just the other connections we've seen. Just in the corner pieces. Without even getting to anything fancy with middle pieces we haven't discovered yet, or edge pieces that we haven't talked about, which are all there. Trust me. Just the corner pieces.
Isn't it interesting that -- let's play out the story. Joseph brings dibah to his father. Things go from bad to worse. He starts having these dreams. The brothers hate him. Father loves him. Loves him more than them. Joseph starts having these dreams. He starts telling his brothers these dreams. As he tells the brothers these dreams, they start to hate him. He has a second dream. He tells the brothers the second dream. They hate him even more.
Now, what's interesting is, as the brothers' hatred elevates itself, or escalates, at a certain point, father clearly becomes aware of the tensions in the family. Why? Because although the first dream, Joseph was careful to only tell his brothers, it's clear in the text that he told the second dream to both his brothers and his father. Seemingly, because his father was part of the dream. The second dream included the father. It included the sun and the moon and the stars that were all bowing to him.
So he decides that it would be a really good thing to tell father about it. So he says, hey, Dad, I had this dream. Father then is angry and publicly chastises him. "Havo navo ani ve'immecha ve'achecha lehishtachavot lecha artza?" Are we all going to come bowing down to you? Even so, the text then says, "Ve'aviv shamar et hadavar."
Which, the way all of the commentators understand it, it's not the way I would've understood it. But the way all the commentators understand it, is that father was basically okay with it, but he had to put on a public show of chastising him because it was such a divisive thing to say in the family.
The bottom line is, it's clear that Jacob understands at this point. The text says, "Vayikanu bo echav, ve'aviv shamar et hadavar." That the brothers were jealous. The father kind of tried to keep a lid on things. Father saw what was happening. Was kind of okay with it. But he -- "Vayigar bo aviv."
Now, if you were Jacob, at this point. Just put yourself in Jacob's shoes. Your beloved son is the victim of jealousy amongst his brothers. You become aware of the jealousy. You've heard the dream. You, yourself, have castigated him. In the dream you sort of think, Wouldn't it be nice if he was one day the leader? But you also realize how seething with jealousy the brothers are.
What are you thinking in your head at this point? Right? You're thinking, I've got a problem in my family. You're thinking, how am I going to de-escalate things? Maybe you're thinking something like that.
What's the very next thing that Jacob does? Now is where you get, Jacob decides, this would be a really good time to send Joseph, unguarded, to go on this mission to check on his brothers in Shechem. To go into Shechem, of all places, this bloodbath territory. To go check on the welfare of the sheep, maybe. And the welfare -- check on the shlom of the brothers and the shlom of what do you call it?
If that weren't bad enough, if that weren't bad enough, that's all without these parallels. Now let's add in the parallels that we've seen. Now, playing cast of characters, let's just understand what's actually happened.
Who is Jacob playing when he says, "Lecha v'eshlachacha aleihem," let me go and send them to you. Who is he playing when he says, "hashiveini davar," and bring me back word? That's Moses sending spies. That means, why is he sending Joseph? To spy on his brothers. The very thing that got him into this whole mess in the first place.
Are you crazy? Why would you do that? You saw how bad it was. You know how bad it was. You know that what got him onto trouble was the dibah in the first place. Now, are you putting your head in the sand? Why would you send him to spy?
It's clear. You are sending him to spy. The Torah's telling you, with these connections, you have just sent Joseph to spy. Why would he do that? That is a huge question. What is happening there?
The final question I'll leave you with -- then we'll take a break and we'll continue this next week -- is, isn't it interesting that, years later, when the brothers come down to see Joseph in Egypt. The first thing Joseph says, when he recognizes them and they don't recognize him. The first accusation that comes out of his mouth is: "Meraglim atem." You are spies. How's that for a nice bit of projection?
Is Joseph just feeling so guilty about his own spying endeavors that he can't -- he just accuses them of what he was doing? Is that what we're to make of that? Or is Joseph not crazy? Does Joseph have the view of the story that the brothers were actually spying on him? Is that a legitimate view?
In other words, even though, in p'shat, "Lirot et ervat ha'aretz batem" means you're spies because you're coming now to see the nakedness of the land. Is there some world in which Joseph thinks, it's legitimate to see them as spies. Maybe he saw them as spies once before.
In which case, what do we make of this? It sounds, if we just follow the evidence, like there might be, might be, no less than three episodes of spying in the Joseph story. The original episode, when Joseph brings back dibah to his father. A second episode when the father actually sends him to spy on his brothers and Joseph gets thrown into the pit. And a third possible episode where Joseph somehow interprets the brothers as spying on him in some way, shape or form. Even though it's not obvious in the text. Is that how Joseph sees it? And why would he see it that way?
These are the puzzles that cast of characters starts to throw our way. But in terms of meaning, even though we're a long way from understanding the meaning of that. What we need to do now is figure out, how did these three episodes of spying connect to each other?
It's not just three episodes of spying. Episode 1 somehow connects to Episode 2. Jacob wasn't crazy. It must have been that his sending Joseph as a spy related in some way to Joseph already acting that way, in his first episode of dibah ra'ah. It's likely that if Joseph accuses the brothers of spying, that somehow connects to all of this, also.
How are we to understand this? It seems confusing. We'll come back to that next week.
The final thing is, without knowing much more, one of the things we might say, is that, spying at some level might have been the original sin of the Joseph story. Right? It's the first thing that gets Joseph in trouble. There's a cascade of spying gone wrong in this story which lands Joseph in a pit. But it doesn't just land Joseph in a pit. It lands all of us in Egypt. The whole long exile of 400 years begins with the Joseph story, begins with the story of spying. Isn't it interesting then, that after those 400 years have expired, as we come into the land. Who would have an idea that it is a good thing to spy, but God? What might God be trying to do?
If you think about the beginning of the Joseph story, the leader of the pack is Jacob. What does the story say? The story says, "Vayeishev Ya'akov be'eretz megurei aviv." Jacob had settled in the land that his fathers were only sojourners. If you interviewed Jacob at that moment, he thought it was over. He thought he was just establishing his nation in the land.
He had already been in Laban's house. The brit bein habetarim was over. He had spent his time as a slave. It was time to set up the tribes. It was time to actually have a people in the land.
Then there was this 400 years detour. Well, after that detour is over, where are the people going? They're going to the land. To which land? The land of Canaan. The land that Jacob went into. What are they doing in the land of Canaan? They're going to settle there.
They're doing the same, "Vayeishev Ya'akov" that Jacob did. That's where they're going. They're going to actually settle the land. To finally actualize the promise that Jacob thought he had actualized right before this detour happened in the Joseph story.
It's almost like God says, hey, if you're going to settle the land and you got detoured by 400 years because of spying in the family. Don't you think that in order to actually settle the land, you kind of have to deal with something else before you settle it? You've got to deal with the spying thing? I think maybe you should send spies. See how that works out.
It doesn't work out well, interestingly. It causes another detour. This time not 400 years, but 40. Forty more years. Right? Forty and 400. Possibly another connection between these stories.
It sounds like there's a second -- it's almost as if there's a fourth failed attempt at spying. If there were three failed attempts at spying in the Joseph story, the fourth might have been in an attempt to be redemptive. But that failed. That might be the story of the spies.
If that was in fact a redemptive attempt, the last attempt. The reason why God said to send the spies. We might have an answer to why God would want to do it. It wasn't for military reconnaissance. It was trying to redeem something that went wrong the first time. Which leads you to another question. So maybe there were other attempts at redemptive spying. Maybe it was that God was the first one to try to redeem bad spying.
Now, here's an interesting possibility. When Jacob sent Joseph to spy, after Joseph brought bad reports back. Maybe he was trying to redeem things, too.
Now the question is, is there a kind of good spying? And a kind of bad spying? What would good spying look like? And how would that even play out?
All right. So these are some of the things which we're going to want to come back to. Together with what I didn't come back to although I promised you which was the "Vayomru ish el achiv" which relates to all of this. So we've got a lot of balls in the air. Feel free to play with this in the intervening week, and I will see you next Monday.
As I said, there's a lot of stuff. Not all of this can make it into a Tisha B'Av video. Precious little of it actually did. But this is the chance to try to see the larger picture and see what we can make of it.
So I'll see you, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Okay?
Dina: Thank you.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay. See you. Bye-bye.