(Yaakov settled down)
GENESIS 37:1-40:23

A short summary

(36 Chapters down, 14 to go; life goes so fast; Only 384 shopping days left to our next happy Chanuka!)

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A synopsis and analysis of the reading by Yaakov Fogelman, who lectures on Torah and Religious Zionism; sets and disks of these studies, as well as his audio and video tapes, are available at TOP. See In the Service of God, by Shalom Freedman (Jason Aronson), for his views, together with those of 20 other teachers of Torah, on Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish People today.

WHAT'S UP FOR CHANUKA, DOC? - A guide for Jerusalemites, and an implied suggestion that exiled non-Jerusalemites come here soon!

If, for the sake of a crowded audience, you do wish to hold a lecture, your ambition is no laudable one, and, at least, avoid all citations from the poets, for to quote them argues feeble industry (Hippocrates, one of Rambam's Rebbes). My response: when a message is really important, it's a crime and waste to limit it to a small crowd, and not to write, tape and video it for a much larger and widespread potential audience, including future generations. Quoting others' wisdom fulfills our duty to spread knowledge, and demonstrates humility-- Ben Zoma said: "Who is wise?-- he who learns from everyone". The more advice, the more wisdom (Avot 4:1, 2:8).

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE, AND IN JERUSALEM, ARE OFTEN FREE (AND CO-ED): Rav David Aaron is Dean of Isralight, a leading religious Zionist Carlbachian spiritually-oriented co-ed beginner's program; he explores The Art of Spiritual Growth-- Psychological and mystical insights, Tuesdays 8 PM at Yad Harav Nissim, 44 Jabotinsky, opposite Van Leer (based upon his forthcoming Simon & Schuster book, Endless Light; #15 bus). Sample Isralight lectures at 25 Misgav Ladach, Jewish 1/4, right above the Wall and Aish; call 627-4890 or TOP for their schedule. Their Chanuka Maleve Malka, 12/7/96, 8 PM, features Music and Munchies. Rav Mordecai Gafni directs MILA, the cultural ulpan (6 King George, 623-3164); he delivers my own favorite class, an exciting spiritual-psychological exploration of the weekly Torah reading, on Sundays, 8:30 PM, at the Ezrat Yisroel Synagogue, Hildeshimer 17; it's repeated Monday in Hebrew-- tell your Israeli friends. Rav Gafni, a trained actor, is engrossing even to those secular folks, especially intellectuals, who are usually turned off to Torah (so is Rav Aaron, especially for spiritual searchers); a number of his recent insights appear in this study. Every night of Chanuka, there will be candle lighting and entertainment at the Dan Pearl Hotel, featuring Cantors Binyamin Munk and Jonathan Blum, beginning at 6pm. An especially pleasant ambiance for Shabbat prayers is Cong. Beit Yisroel at the bottom of Yemin Moshe (Sat. 8:20 AM). Their rabbi, Chanoch Yeres, teaches talmud in English Tuesdays, 8 PM. They're having a Chanuka Meleve Malka, Sat. Dec. 7, 8 PM. Rachel Kosofsky will discuss her experiences in leading Israeli youth groups to Poland.

As in most other synagogues, those prayers sung to the tunes of Shlomo Carlebach are especially inspiring; his huge contribution to our relationships with both God and Man should never be forgotten. Even non-Jews from Germany, Portugal, Texas, etc. feel something resonate within when they hear his tapes or watch his videos at TOP. Chief Rabbi Lau noted that such a soul, "a sweet singer in Israel", descends into this world only once in a few hundred years-- cf. David and The Besht. Rav Gafni begins and closes his talks with Carlebach's niggunim, adding spiritual and emotional depth to his insightful and inspiring ideas. Most of his large audience (over 200) gladly joins in, but it takes some spiritually constipated, howbeit highly intelligent, folks, lone rangers, a while to loosen up and timidly join in; their tightly clasped arms are crystal clear body language. Chabad's Chanuka Farbrengen, featuring highly articulate Rav Uri Kaploun, is Sunday, 12/8, 8:30 PM, at Chabad House, 31 Chabad, Jewish 1/4, across from TOP (581-2872). Immanuel Bernstein teaches Parshat Hashavua, continuing his famous father's tradition in his own unique fashion, 8:30 PM Mondays at HaTzvi Yisroel Synagogue, Chovvei Tziyon 14 (in back of the Laromme Hotel); the synagogue's own lecture series is on Wednesdays, 9:30 AM; South African Rav Harris Gedaliah is currently teaching Samuel.

BUT SOME THINGS COST LOTS OF MONEY TO PRODUCE-- THOSE WHO BENEFIT SHOULD SHARE THE BURDEN, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT HELPS GOOD CAUSES: The JP Toy Fund presents the 2nd annual evening of Jewish music, featuring The Ramatayim Men's Choir, The Zamir Chorale and Pirchei Efrat-- Monday, 12/9, 8 PM, at The Israel Museum; donation 40 Sh. The Shlomo Carlebach Center, firebombed out of the Jewish 1/4, apparently by haredi thugs, invites all good folks (also those not yet such good folks) to a grand Chanukah celebration, featuring Yitzchak Miller and his band-- Thursday, 12/12/96, 8 PM, in the Jewish 1/4's Sephardic Educational Center; 30Sh, 20Sh for students and soldiers. For info, call 643-6771 or 641-8291. Nishmat, a high level women's yeshiva, directed by Rabit, Rabbanit and great mom Chana Henkin, has monthly study evenings for married couples, led by Nishmat teachers; Sat. 12/14, 8 PM, Rav Yehoshua Berman will discuss Making Korbonot Relevant Today, at the home of Jo and Dr. David Morrison. Suggested Donation: 15Sh per person; call 642-1051 if you're coming.

Every people has its own melody.... But Israel sings all of them, in order to bring them all to God (Avraham Yaakov, q M. Buber, Tales of the Hassidim, ii.71).



Men do not understand books until they have had a certain amount of life, or, at any rate, no man understands a deep book, until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents (A, B, C of Reading, by anti-semitic Ezra Pound, p. 88; cf. traditional yeshivot, studying intricite laws of farming and business, without getting anywhere near either)


DIPLOMACY is to do and say-- The nastiest thing, in the nicest way (The Reflex, Isaac Goldberg, 1887-1938)

Ch. 36 ended with a cursory review of Esav's kings and chiefs, Dallas & Dynasty, whose noisy activity masks shallow souls. The quiet deep family devotion of Yaakov and those who will join his seed, e.g. Tamar I and Ruth, is contrasted with the incest and adultery laden line of Esav (Ramban). Esav, who mocked and threatened Yaakov 20 years earlier, now leaves the holy land to the new Yaakov, renamed Yisrael-- Yaakov now blends this world with that beyond; only in Israel can he fully experience "days of heaven upon earth", foreseen in his dream of a Divine ladder. The Torah now records the internal threat to his mission in Israel, possibly a spinoff of his wives' rivalry-- internecine warfare among his sons; their slow maturation toward unity amidst diversity, in Egypt, is the final theme of Genesis. In Exodus, the reunited family slowly evolves into a potential model nation, to redeem all of fallen mankind. This week, we relive the "GOINGS OUT" into life, and the leadership struggles, of Yaakov's 12 sons.

A little hurt from a kin is worse than a big hurt from a stranger (Zohar, Gen. 151b)

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B. WHAT'S IN A NAME?, an attempt to extract messages from the names of the readings in Genesis, will be postponed for a forthcoming issue, due to space limitations-- there's a limit to how much even I can squeeze into one study.


Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil (N. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, The Custom-House).

YAAKOV SETTLED DOWN IN THAT AREA (Sporno; or LAND) OF HIS FATHER'S SOJOURNINGS, IN THE LAND OF CANAAN (37:1). Yaakov SETTLED DOWN in Chevron, undisturbed; but Yitzchak had to wander thru Philistia, underdog to Avimelech. Perhaps only Yaakov, whose family will eventually (tho slowly & painfully) develop into 12 tribes of Israel, can really settle down, at rest, in Canaan; Yitzchak, with an unredeemed son, Esav, who leaves dad's tradition, as Avraham, Yishmael's dad, hasn't really "settled" Israel as Israel (cf. Dizengoff & Eilat). Esav realizes that Seir's easy fast lifestyle suits him better than sacrificial Israel; the holy land expels inhabitants who profane it. Once his father dies, Esav no longer even maintains an Israeli home. Test your spiritual state-- which do you enjoy most?-- fast-paced NYC, quiet deep Jerusalem, or sensuous Paris and Rome?-- early secular Zionist leaders couldn't stand old Jewish Jerusalem (and Judaism!; they were turned off by the old Yishuv's poor, primitive, weak, and unworldly broken males). Yaakov's descendants prove that he's a successful master educator, continuing grandpa Avraham's vocation-- "For I know him (Avraham), that he'll command his children and his household after him, and they'll keep God's way, doing charity and justice..." (Gen. 18:19, per Rav M. Lowy). Yet, just as Rashi's grandsons, e.g. Rashbam, they may spend lots of their time disagreeing with many of their ancestors' particular conclusions, WITHIN their shared mission-- Rav M. Gafni.

Ease destroys bravery, trouble... creates strength (Rambam, Guide for the Perplexed, 1190, 3:24).

Yaakov may have sinned in wanting to settle down in peace & quiet back home, after all his troubles. The righteous must look forward to new developmental challenges and continued accomplishment, until their very last day in this temporary world of achievement (cf. the Calvinist and Lion King work ethics); far higher peace will be theirs in the future world. Thus God's response to Yaakov's retirement plan is Yosef's tragic disappearance, a sad, but necessary, prelude to Israel's purifying exile, predicted to Avraham (Mid. Agada, Rashi). So Hirschian Dayan and lawyer Isadore Grunfeld, z"l, quite ill for over 20 years, was committed to use every moment God would give him to expound His Torah. He finished his final work, on Jewish Laws of Inheritance (including the saga of his life), just a week before his death on Rosh Hashana; his grandson, circumcised the next day, was named after him. Yaakov's troubles flow from his actions, per Or Hachayim and Rav Gafni; does Avraham's awesome Sacrifice of Yitzchak too? In Gen. Raba 84, however, it's not God, but Satan, who opposes the tranquility of the righteous! (cf. Job, whose troubles are instigated by Satan; so he stirs David to sinfully count the people-- ICh21, but see 2S24 and Rashi on Ex. 30:12).

Yosef's sale pulls Yaakov out of his Israeli over-absorption in Torah! The tzadik must be part of this painful world; then he feels others' pain even more than they do, and successfully prays for them (R. Elimelech, per Rav C. Brovender). Even the best man may be subject to all the cruelties of a non-redeemed world, if ANY person is still under INNER Satanic or id (vs. Yid) influence. Yaakov won't have true peace until his descendants bring the whole world back to Eden from Zion-- AFTER they straighten themselves out! They must develop even Esav's latent potential for peace (Esav = 376 = Shalom).

Only the righteous have such tough Divine standards-- cf. Ecc. 7:16: "Be not overly righteous or excessively wise-- why become desolate?"; one shouldn't impose upon himself more than God's Torah demands (Sporno; see M.T. Daot 3:1). Excessive piety alienates one from his friends, leaving him desolate (Mtzudot Dovid); when did ashkenazic haredim begin to limit themselves to uniform black clothing, rather than emulating God Himself, who makes almost everything in his world colorful and beautiful?-- perhaps they emulate His darkest nights, with which they equate our era. Black's only for mourning in the talmud, whose sages otherwise wore white (Shabbat 114a, Hagiga 16a, Midot 5:4, B.M. 59b, Kidd. 30a, M.K. 17a); Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Ch. 3 associates black with humility and modesty, and refers to Jews who wear black shoelaces. Danzger (supra, pp. 133-4) sums up: "When one considers that there is less talmudic authority for wearing a head covering, universally accepted among Orthodox Jews, then there is for wearing white, and avoiding black, clothing, then the peculiarity of wearing black is all the more striking. Other than that black clothing was sometimes mandated by hostile authoriies, as a way of stigmatizing Jews, there seems to be no basis for this custom". Leon of Modena claimed that much of ritual pietistic practice is in inverse proportion to Torah learning and intelligence-- cf. Mea Shearim and Bnei Brak with Bar Ilan and Yeshivat Hakotel.

Vayeshev opens: THESE ARE THE CONSEQUENCES (Rashi) or GENERATIONS (Ramban) OF YAAKOV: YOSEF WAS 17; A SHEPHERD WITH (or OF) HIS BROTHERS; HE HAD AN ADOLESCENT (or SUBSERVIENT) PERSONALITY (Rashi: he overstressed his appearance-- from an orphan's sense of insecurity?) (HE STAYED) WITH THE SONS OF BILHAH & ZILPAH, HIS FATHER'S WIVES (rejected by Leah's arrogant sons-- Rashi). Yosef TOLD HIS FATHER OF THEIR BAD REPUTATION (37:2; of Leah's sons, per Rashi; of all the sons, per Ramban-- see Ber. Raba 40:5; otherwise why wouldn't his other brothers help Reuven save Yosef from Leah's sons?-- perhaps they feared them). YISRAEL LOVED YOSEF MORE THAN (or OF) ALL HIS SONS, AS HE WAS THE SON OF HIS OLD AGE (or A SON OF ELDERLY DEMEANOR or A HELPFUL SON, IN HIS OLD AGE); HE MADE HIM A ROYAL GARMENT (37:3; cf. 2S13:18; OR a colorful, striped, illustrated, embroidered or fine coat-- see A. Kaplan, The Living Torah); some identify it with Adam's Divine garment in Eden, passed down thru Nimrod and Esav. It's "many colors" represents Yosef's variegated talents and personality.

Abarbanel's unique interpretation: Yaakov pursued family and career day and night in Aram; back in Israel, covenantal land of his fathers, he again SETTLED DOWN in the tents of Torah study (cf. 25:27); he left his affairs to his sons, still seething with the ambitious blood of youth. But those truly noble try to raise all others up to their own level; Yaakov tried to raise all his sons to be sensitive intellectual beings; he succeeded only with Yosef, who could transcend gut reactions, and respond nobly and appropriately to quite varied situations. Yosef, only 17, acted as SHEPHERD TO HIS BROTHERS, their advisor and leader; yet he acted as an equal, a youthful companion, A LAD, WITH THE SONS... of the maidservants; he called their mothers wives, to raise their self-esteem; he told only Yaakov of bad rumors about his brothers, hoping he'd correct them and improve their reputation.

Finally, only Yosef was a serious wise companion-- A SON OF OLD AGE- to Yaakov, tho Benyamin was younger, and Yissaschar and Zevulun only slightly older. Only Yosef is a true heir to Yaakov's learning and ideals, his very image in face and spirit. His beautiful form and appearance reflected Rachel's. Little Benyamin, orphaned at birth (as Rambam, who was left without even paternal or sibling love), never absorbed her personality. ALL 12 tribes would have come from Yosef, were he not tainted by sinful inclinations, before rejecting Mrs. Potiphar (Ohr Hachayim). Esav's angel wounds Yaakov's thigh, perhaps a sign of Yaakov's descendants' (of his 4 wives and his thigh) weakness for temptations of the thigh (e.g. Shimonites, Samson, Eilat, Israel's profane TV).

Abarbanel continues: Yosef is called "Righteous", due to his disciplined abstract intellect and principles, as opposed to natural emotion and imagination. Abarbanel, as Rambam, may negate women (see Gen. 1:27), perhaps due to this preference for thought over feeling. Per Maimonides, only one great holy intellect in each generation or two fulfills God's plan for man, justifying his existence; everyone else lives just to run the world for him and prevent his insanity, due to loneliness (Introd. to the Mishna; cf. Greek elitist philosophers, M.T. Isurei Biah 12:10; so Rambam's own dad, an automatic model for his later concept of Divine likes and dislikes, finally liked him only when he became a little genius, after years of non-achievement in study). Pupils of the Besht, who stressed holy emotion over abstraction, warmth and nurturing over keen dialectic and intellectual rigor, put women on a much higher plane; their model was often an ignorant, but saintly, old couple (cf. R. Nachman's 7 Beggers). Ohr Hachayim rejects the older teachings above, that only Yaakov truly settled down in Canaan-- he claims that Yaakov, JUST AS HIS FATHERS, "SETTLED AS A STRANGER" IN CANAAN. Israel was still THE LAND OF CANAAN; only Yaakov's descendants will finally conquer it, after long exile.

HIS BROTHERS SAW (had insight) THAT THEIR FATHER LOVED HIM MORE THAN ALL HIS BROTHERS-- THEY HATED HIM AND COULD NOT SPEAK TO HIM PEACEFULLY (cf. Islamic hatred of Israel!). So Leah felt "hated" when Yaakov preferred Rachel. Unloved, or less-loved, mates and children can avoid rancor by realizing that, in any event, they eventually lose their mate or parent-- their only true eternal connection is to God and His Torah. This approach might even make them act more pleasantly to their mates and parents, thereby indeed gaining more love and respect from them.

Rav Dr. Moshe Koppel contrasts attitudes of Kierkegaard and Rav J. Soloveichik to holiness and worldly involvement. The Great Dane urges inner abandonment of all self-affirming definitions, relationships and activities to achieve this: "Man's anxiety is a function of his sheer ambiguity and of his complete powerlessness to overcome that ambiguity, to be straightforwardly an animal or an angel. He can't live heedless of his fate, nor can he take sure control over that fate and triumph over it, by being outside the human condition... The self must be destroyed, brought down to nothing, for self-transcendence to begin. Then the self can relate itself to powers beyond itself. It has to thrash around in its finitude, it has to "die" in order to ? that finitude, to see beyond it". To what? Kierkegard answers: "to infinitude, to absolute transcendence, to the Ultimate Power of Creation which made finite creatures... if you admit you're a creature... you demolish all your unconscious power links or supports" (from The Psychoanalyst Kierkegaard, 69, 89). His attitude resembles mussar and chassidic bitul, self-negation-- Rav Y. Ginsberg views the latter as a prelude to more vital life involvement; the value of such "spirituality", as other escapes from "reality", e.g. philosophy, music and drugs, may be measured by one's subsequent ability to love and work (cf. Freud).

But Rav J. Soloveichik seems to link real holiness and God-connection with full involvement in life, with validating human creative power and relationships, themselves gifts and desiderata of God (except on Yom Kippur and Av 9?). "When man (not just Jew?) gives himself to the covenantal community, the Halacha (Israeli haredi too?) reminds him that he's also wanted and needed in another community, the cosmic-majestic, and that when it comes across man, while he's involved in the creative enterprise of the majestic community, it does not let him forget that he's a covenantal being, who will never find self-fulfillment outside of the covenant, and that God awaits his return... (The Lonely Man of Faith, 82-3)". Rav Mordecai Gafni finds the Rov's outlook similar to that of mainstream hassidut, e.g. that of Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, which finds God within Man himself and his life experiences-- "From my flesh, I'll see the Lord" (Job 19:26).

Per Abarbanel, Yosef's brothers viewed his dreams as self-aggrandizement, and his reports of their bad conduct a plot to make Yaakov disdain them-- one finds his own faults in another (Kid. 70a, D.E. 1-- cf. "projection"). Jews who use Torah to make money assume that others do likewise. Midrash Raba sees some good even in Yosef's brothers' hatred-- true, hating their brother was terrible; yet their inability to speak peacefully to him shows that they weren't two-faced, hiding hatred under politeness (cf. England, Japan and King Hussain with the Wild West!). Rashi cites this midrash; but Ramban urges his son to speak softly at all times and look down toward the ground in humility, etc. So Rashi stressed holy earthiness, labelling Nazarites sinners, while Ramban urged asceticism, in awe of Nazarite heroes; both reflect Talmudic opinions, each selecting that view most in keeping with his own personality and worldview (see our Naso study).

PAINFUL TRUTHS: Should X indeed tell Y that he can't stand him? (X might be able to simply avoid conversation with Y). While he hurts Y's feelings, it will put Y on guard (not enough re Yosef!). She also might respond to the causes of the hatred and eradicate it: HATE NOT YOUR BROTHER IN YOUR HEART. YOU SHALL SURELY REPROVE YOUR BROTHER, AND NOT BEAR SIN DUE TO HIM (Lev. 19:17). As Midrash Raba, we should seek one's good side, even amidst terrible conduct (e.g. groups hostile to outsiders may exhibit love within their own camp; almost everyone tries to appear "good", to justify his actions; vegetarian Hitler was nice to cats).

So Rav Nachman of Breslav urges us to emphasize the positive, deemphasize the negative; positive reinforcement of the good brings more good, automatically diminishing the strength of evil. Torah Jewry's best image is "God's Peace & Love Corp", not "God's Militant Army" (cf. bans on import of non-kosher meat and Shabat entertainment). But we may not ignore aggressive evil and allow it to run rampant-- cf. pacifist Quaker tolerance of Hitler and the PLO. True, Shchem was evil and undisciplined in raping Dina; but did her fierce angry brothers, whose next "guilty" victim was Yosef, ignore his better side?-- he truly loved her and wanted marriage (cf. Shimon's descendants subsequent orgy with Midianite floozies). Dina might have straightened out Shchem or Esav. Amnon hated and expelled Tamar II, his father David's daughter, after raping her-- she reminded him of his lowness. She told him that this was worse than the rape; he could have married her (she was born after her mother's conversion, thus not considered his sister for legal purposes-- see M.T. Kings 8:8, San. 21a). Rashi notes that she too, as Yosef, possessed a coat of many colors, a sign of royalty; Rav Gafni posits that Rashi's trying to compare the two rapes-- in both cases, the father (Yaakov and Dovid) seems apathetic, causing over-reaction by the sons-- Yaakov's sons may feel that his apathy reflects his dislike of Dina's mother, Leah, and take their revenge on his favorite (Rachelian) son, Yosef.

Yosef dreamt that his brothers' sheaves bowed down to his upright sheaf IN A FIELD; the sun, moon, and 11 stars-- suggesting his family (including Bilha, Rachel's alter ego and Yosef's de facto mother, who raised him)-- bowed to him in a 2nd dream. He told his brothers, showing his friendship and trust. This backfired (cf. the effects of "Who Is A Jew" legislation)-- they despised him, now convinced that his tale-bearing was only an act of pride and arrogance-- lower souls rarely appreciate finer souls and their motives. When the former persecute the latter, they often do so in the name of religion or some higher ideal, e.g. Jewish Pride, The Koran, or Workers' Solidarity. Mediocre students may lash out at much greater men, who disagree with their own rebbe or ideal.

One of history's worst examples was the Catholic Inquisition, where the forces of evil united to destroy all that was good and decent in the name of Christianity. Two historical novels truly convey the experience of its victims-- The Anointed, by Halevi, a prolific writer on kabala ($12 from TOP), is the easy-reading tale of a Buberian-Baeckian kabbalist-converso who tries to build links of humanity and spirituality between those of different faiths. But it's hero doesn't reflect traditional Jewish values, in putting one's heartfelt feeling above God's law, e.g. in intermarriage, and in venerating Jesus, whom the Rambam considers evil (Letter to the Jews of Yemen), tho Yaakov Emden felt that he and Paul were good Noachide missionaries (see end of Sefer Hashimush). Halevi's hero puts him in the same class as Moshe, Dovid, Esther, etc., "Meshiach Personalities" for thir age. But he may just be portraying his hero's converso rationalization, not his own views. Sacred Sword (Abramowitz, $35 from TOP) is a great Spanish saga, full of historical detail, about the fate of Samuel, the son of Don Isaac Abrabanel-- he was a famous converso Marrono, like his great-grandfather and namesake.

A similar Inquisitorial spirit prevails in much, tho not all, of what, in many ways, is Satan's fiefdom in Israel-- Meah Shearim. From the violent tactics of the perverse "modesty patrols" (see Sotah, Naomi Regen) to the burning of garbage containers and tires in Kikar Shabat; from the equations of Nazi and Zionist ideologies, scrawled on its walls, to the recent attacks on the Women at the Wall; from the beating of Dalia Batzon, as neighbors stood by, for the crime of sheltering a mother of 12, in the process of being divorced from a prominent rabbi, to the stoning of cars on Shabbat-- alienated Jews are constantly becoming more alienated from Torah via this allegedly pious community, masking as The Heavenly City.

Prof. Mark R. Cohen of Princeton discussed Jews and Muslims: Is the Past Prologue to the Present? for ICCI, directed by Dr. Ron Kronish (672-6430), and Mishkenot Sha'ananim (625-4321) this week; its worthwhile to get on both mailing lists. Cohen showed the political uses and distortions of history; ashkenazic Jewish historians of the 19th century stressed the golden age of harmonious relationships of medieval Jewry and Islam, an implied rebuke of, and model for, anti-semitic European Christian culture, which perpetuated the spirit of the Inquisition and the Crusades. Modern Arab propogandists constantly quote these Jewish scholars to show how well Jews would fare in an Arab Palestine! They excuse all the Palestinean massacres of Jews as an over-reaction to Zionism, which took away their sovereignty; of course, they ignore Mohamad's own destruction of 3 Jewish tribes in Medina, and the constant degraded and persecuted status of Jews in Arab lands thruout the ages; at the other extreme, revisionist historians, e.g. Cecil Roth, especially among Right Wing Zionists and Sephardic Jews, who lived and suffered under Arab domains, equate the Jewish experience under Islam with the terrible Christian Crusade and Holocaust laden history of their European brethren.

The truth lies somewhere in-between, recognizing all the wrongs done by Moslem Arabs to Jews, and the dangers should they, God forbid, control Israel, while simultaneously recognizing how far worse was the Christian persecution. Cohen was optimistic about a new modus vivendi between Jews and Arabs here, if moderate factions, who can understand and respect the feelings, thoughts and needs of the other side, lead both communities; religious fanatics on either side condemn us to eternal hate and warfare.

An interesting question raised was why Ashkenazic and Sephardic populations, roughly equal 400-500 years ago, later diverged so greatly that pre-WWII European Ashkenazim numbered about 8 million, while there were only about 1 million Edot Mizrach Jews. Some tried to attribute the difference to the growth of science and public health, leading to greatly increased infant survival, in Europe, unlike the primitive Arab lands, affecting both Jews and non-Jews. But others questioned this fact vis-a-vis Eastern Europe, where most European Jews lived. I noted the Hagada's equation of Jewish suffering, far greater in Europe, with Jewish miraculous multiplication. Ruth Fogelman questioned the accuracy of censuses in both areas, but Israel and the Zionist Movement conducted their own censuses in bringing our people back to their land. In both European and Middle Eastern Jewish communities, not many converted to the dominant faith; Jewish converts to nascent Islam gave it its Jewish ambiance, akin to halacha, often a source of surprise to Arabs today. We're open to suggestions about this population problem.

Rav J. Soloveichik (THE RAV SPEAKS-- Yosef and His Brethren) sees Yosef's dreams as prophetic visions. Dream #1 shows the family transferred to a developed agricultural land, led by Yosef. In Dream #2, Yosef leads them into the intellectual and cultural life of high-tech astronomic civilization-- sun, moon, and stars-- without their losing their Jewish essence. Rav Soloveichik calls the Mizrachi religious zionist movement the "Yosef of 5662". Religious zionists and religious modernists saw Europe's old Jewish life tottering from internal and external devastation (cf. Yaakov Emden's hebrew dairy, Megillat Sefer, $20 from TOP); East European Jewry was the last western community to abandon the medieval mindset, based on authority and compulsion. Mizrachi strove to perpetuate Judaism WITHIN rapidly expanding new worlds of knowledge and opportunity; Jewish nationalism was to restore Israel and begin the 3rd Commonwealth. Their religious brethren of lesser vision reviled them. Unlike Yosef's brothers, many of the physical and spiritual descendants of anti-Zionist "g'dolim" still won't admit their error! The Rav's certain that the anti-Zionist Torah giants themselves would have admitted their tragic error, which engendered so much death and pain, had they survived WWII. Rav Yissaschar Dov Teichtal indeed did so in AM HABANIM SMACHA ($20 from TOP; English synopsis $5).

Yaakov anticipated Yosef's greatness, but kept quiet about it to maintain peace and quiet-- Rashi; he sent Yosef FROM THE VALLEY (lit. DEPTH) OF CHEVRON to help his brothers, shepherds in Shchem (37:14; that he not appear so privileged-- Abarbanel). But ancient Chevron was not in a valley, but at the top of a hill, today's Tel Romeida neighborhood! Why mention Yosef's departure point at all? Thus Rav Chanina b. Pappa said: "Thru the deep counsel of that righteous one who is buried in Chevron (Avraham; the Cave of Machpela is in the valley, as is modern Chevron), as it is written (15:13): `Know indeed that your children will be strangers in a foreign land'" (Sota 11a). Yosef's trip is the beginning of the ultimately messianic exile predicted to Avraham; Yosef was sent from "the spiritual Chevron", howbeit unconsciously, from the very same spiritual DEPTH of the vision of future generations as Avraham's-- probably never imagining that his mission had such profound significance, until much later, when he says to his bothersome brethren: "God has sent me ahead of you to save lives... Now it is not you who sent me here, but God" (45:5-8). This is Hashem's way of ruling the world: man makes his own small calculations and Hashem makes them into His great calculations, directed at generating the light of Meshiach from all geographical valleys and spiritual depths (Rav Azriel Ariel in "B'Ahava U'b'emuna; their fine Torah study should cite sources and speakers, rather than just writing: "Chazal explain..."; all Chazal didn't say this, only Rav Chanina; w/o the book and page, its hard for their readers to explore further.

Anyone who says something, citing the author, brings redemption to the world (Avot 6:6, Meg. 15a, P'dRE 50). Anyone who cites his teacher brings redemption to the world (Kallah 2). Anyone who utters a word of wisdom, even non-Jews, is called wise (Meg. 16a). Anyone who says something without citing its source brings curse to the world (Madmash 6,16).

Yosef told a mysterious man (angel?): "I SEEK MY BROTHERS" (i.e. reconciliation, 37:16). He forwarded Yosef to Dotan. As usual, they SAW HIM FAR OFF (not close enough to appreciate him-- v. 18). THEY SAID, A MAN TO HIS BROTHER (Shimon and Levy are so called in 34:25)... LET'S KILL HIM... WE'LL SAY A WILD ANIMAL CONSUMED HIM, AND WE'LL SEE WHAT WILL BE OF HIS DREAMS (19:20). Yosef seemed to be a rebel, seeking to usurp Reuven, their weak firstborn leader; Reuven didn't defy his brothers-- he just told them to cast Yosef into a well (or pit or cistern), hoping to save him later. When Yosef came, his brothers stripped him of his coat, took him (lit. "he took", the ringleader, perhaps Shimon-- Gen. Raba 84), and threw him into the well. The well was empty-- THERE WAS NO WATER IN IT (37:24; an unsuccessful dry well-- Tzavaat Zvulun 2:7). If it was empty, of course there's no water! But the extra phrase implies that it only lacked water, but contained snakes and scorpians (Rav Natan b. Minyumi, quoting Rav Tanchum, Shabbat 22a). The Vilna Gaon expounded this passage: There can never be a vacuum! Where there is no Torah, compared to life-giving water, space is filled instead by snakes and scorpians-- evil personality traits, incorrect opinions, etc. So assimilated Hasmonean Jews substituted tawdry Greek superficial secular values, e.g. superficial beauty, theaters, circuses and sports, for Torah light; so in today's assimilated secular Israel of discos, Betar Yerushalyim, and Miss Israel. The moment we deatch ourselves from Torah, from our original culture, and are not illuminated by the light of Torat Yisrael, God forbid, darkness, the total absence of light, rules us (Rav Mordechai Nagari in B'Ahava U'b'emuna, again only quoting amorphous "Chazal", rather than the author and source).

Nature abhors a vacuum (heretic enemy of Judaism Baruch Benedict Spinoza, perhaps rightly excommunicated, despite the protests of fellow heretic David Ben Gurion, in Ethics, I.15). Whatever philosophy may determine of material nature, it is certainly true of intellectual nature, that it abhors a vacuum (Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, p. 403).

His brothers enjoyed a good meal (37:25; probably while Yosef cried, perhaps their worst callous sin). Yosef had merely RELATED his dreams, didn't ACT upon them (cf. 42:21). Now, following Yehuda, they sold Yosef to a passing caravan for 20 silver coins. Reuven broke down when he returned; they dipped Yosef's coat in blood of a goat (cf. Yaakov's similar act, "getting Yitzchak's goat") and sent it to Yaakov for I.D. He mourned inconsolably, convinced that a wild animal (or human equivalent) killed Yosef, leaving the inedible coat.

Excessive mourning is rejection of Divine Will; but Yaakov took Yosef's early death as a sign of God's anger; he mourned his own sinful state to avoid more deaths, tho he had 12 other children (Abarbanel). Midrash Raba claims that Yaakov mourned his sin-- sending Yosef to his enemies; so R. Yochanan overly mourned Resh Lakish-- his harsh words might have killed him; Rambam couldn't function for a year after his half-brother, perhaps his only "intimate other", was lost at sea, while supporting the family. Rav J. Soloveichik reacted similarly to the loss of his wife.

Ishmaelites and Midianites took Yosef to Egypt (are the Midianites brokers? Per Abarbanel, they're an Ishmaelite subgroup); he was sold to Potiphar, Minister of Executions or Meat Processing. Reuven deposed, Yehuda and Yosef now struggle for leadership. Each has ups and downs; someday, they'll DRAW NEAR and recognize each other's unique Messianic gifts. YEHUDA WENT DOWN FROM HIS BROTHERS... (38:1)-- deposed (Rashi) and dejected, he turns to non-Jewish Chira to rebuild. One can make yerida without leaving Israel-- he can bring Israel down with him, turning it into a tawdry replica of alien cultures-- e.g. Eilat, The Arad and Jerusalem Festivals, the Shabat sports fetish, Israel TV, Sylvester parties, and pagan Hebrew rock artists. Yehuda marries an unnamed Canaanite woman (for business connections?-- cf. Ms. Kissinger) and has 3 sons-- Er, Onan and Shala. Tamar I married Er and, after his childless death, Onan, a levirite marriage; he also dies for spilling his seed, lest she get pregnant with a child who wouldn't be viewed as his. Yehuda's wife dies too-- he had deprived Yaakov of Yosef, his last link with his beloved wife, Rachel (Sforno).

Yehuda won't give Shala to husband slayer Tamar I. Does Yehuda, as Yaakov, favor his younger son, not so concerned about perpetuating his two older dead sons? He doesn't attribute their death to God, but to Tamar I. She disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Yehuda, taking a pledge (Does levirite marriage also ignore love?). As he treats her as I-It, a sexual object, so his descendant Amnon treats his descendant Tamar II. As he descends to marry Canaanite Bat Shua, so David wrongly takes Bat Sheva, called Bat Shua in 1Ch.3:5. As Tamar I covers her face, her personhood, absent from this relationship, so Rivka covered her face upon encountering Yitzchak, the quiet saintly farmer, with whom the little returnee from Las Vegas of yore could never communicate, despite shared values and beliefs. True, Yaakov had cured himself of his self-centered view and his use of others, by last week's reading; but his sons, reared in an I-It, rather than an I-Thou, atmosphere, tho for holy goals, perpetuate Yaakov's lower state for some time (Rav M. Gafni-- while I rejected his analysis of Yaakov's I-It stance a few weeks ago, I now admit its feasibility).

So the older children of returnee families, already set in their ways, often do not accompany their parents and younger siblings back into the world of Torah. Siblings who differ widely in age, while born of the same biological parents, often do not have the same parents from an existential perspective. My older children, born in the good old USA, of a struggling, somewhat swashbuckling, young Orthodox businessman and lawyer, who bought the Philadelphia Flyer's Caddy wagon, don't have the "same" father as those born later in Israel, whose parent, more "like one 70", primarily writes these studies and attends lectures on his bicycle. This is the nadir of Yaakov's family saga-- Yaakov's house, broken apart, was plunged into gloom; Yosef was a slave in Egypt. Yet God, at this very moment, was bringing David's Messiah-- a descendant of Peretz, now conceived with his twin Zerach (Midrash Raba 85, Munk; perhaps the twins replace Tamar I's TWO lost husbands!). Meshiach also comes from Lot sleeping with his daughters, via Ruth, and from David taking Bat Sheva. King Messiah needs a shady background to empathize with sinners and retain humility. He also needs non-Jewish blood to understand and inspire universal humanity too (Gen. Raba 98:9, Munk on 38:2, citing Rosh; so rabbis dealing with conversions should know other languages and cultures).

As Yehuda's about to burn Tamar I for promiscuity (or brand her as an adulteress), she presents his pledges-- he admits paternity, and his guilt in withholding Shala. Again a "holy wrath" avenger of iniquity is far worse than his victims, Yosef and Tamar I (cf. today)! This episode interrupts Yosef's story, showing Yehuda and Yosef's opposite responses to temptation (Adi Sultanik on Ibn Ezra; per Rambam, Yehuda, before Torah, with its prohibition of sex outside marriage, was given, did no wrong-- he thought Tamar I was unwed; but Ramban and Rosh claim that concubinage was never prohibited by the Torah). 38:26 may mean that Yehuda never left Tamar I, OR that he never lived with her again (Rashi)!

Yehuda's willingess to admit his sin and recognize its consequences, taking responsibility, not his lack of sin, qualifies him for eternal messianic Jewish kingship. His descendant, David, is similar; he also has the necessary skeletons in his ancestoral closet to identify with sinners and help them repent, e.g. Lot's sexual relationship with his daughters, tho paternal disgusting incestuous relationships are not formally prohibited to Noachides; David's taking of Bat Sheva adds another blemish to his own descendants, Shlomo and the Messiah. Tho righteous Yosef never really goes off the deep end, unlike Yehuda, he also never admits his own vain role in fostering his borthers' violent response to him. Tamar is responsible for Yehuda's taking responsibility, just as Avishag the Shunamite, Bat Sheva and Natan Hanavi arouse dying David to take charge once more, to install Shlomo as his rightful successor, amidst Adoniyahu's rebellion (IK1, per HaRav HaGaon M. Gafni).

AGAINST ALL ODDS! Perhaps Yehuda and Tamar I merit Messiah as a descendant for their persistent efforts to carry on, tho all seems hopeless. She's determined to somehow bear children from Yaakov; failed Yehuda had the courage to start his life over, on a much lower level. So, with unquenchable zeal, the Maccabees led a revolt of a few Jews against the vast Greek civilization, which captured Israel's body and soul-- Jews are INTOLERANT of evil! God only AFTERWARDS intervened. Chanuka Candles, soul symbols, are lit, as only Jewish souls, not bodies, were threatened (Or Hatora; thus we eat and drink on Purim, when Jewish lives were at stake! Ibn Ezra prescribes Chanuka feasts too, and composed a special drinking song for Shabbat Chanuka, Hei, Hei, Bet Kor). Sports and secular "culture" had replaced God and the Jewish Soul in ancient Israeli assimilationist value systems.

BACK TO YOSEF, who's successful in all his work and filled with Divine Spirit; both are appreciated by Potiphar-- you can't keep a good man down! Ms. Potiphar kept trying to seduce beautiful Yosef, who told her only that he wouldn't betray his good trusting master-- not that adultery was immoral per se; Egyptian jetset ladies viewed it as natural and OK. Reproof must fit the sinner's beliefs-- "Who Is A Jew" arguments must make sense to those affected. Yaakov tells his angry sons only that their Schemtown massacre is dangerous; only on his death bed does he also condemn it as immoral. So Yaakov hears, understands, Reuven's rebellion against him (35:22); he's trying to bring Yaakov back to his mother, Leah. Should Yaakov fight his strong well-intended passion, Reuven may run away in anger and despair-- Uncle Esav's always ready to welcome anyone who rejects Yaakov's high standards. So militant Israeli Orthodox may drive secularists to assimilation abroad. Banning TV, howbeit perverse, to teenagers may drive them from their homes to far worse influences; Yaakov also waits until his deathbed to reprove Reuven, who's forfeited his role as leader. As Yosef's other brothers, Reuven should have spoken his complaint to Yaakov for ignoring Reuven's mother, Leah, rather than taking action behind his back; as firstborn leader, he also should have defied his brothers and saved Yosef, rather than pretending to abandon him in the pit.

One day Ms. Potiphar grabbed Yosef, who fled, leaving his garment in her hand. To explain its presence, she accused him of attempted rape; Potiphar jailed him. Yosef impressed the chief warden, who put him in charge of the prison! Talent must emerge! Eventually Sir Wine and Sir Baked Goods, important court officials, are thrown in jail for their servants' errors-- Abarbanel. In Egypt's hedonistic culture, the purveyor of his majesty's delicacies was a high official! (cf. Italy's MP whore, welcomed by Israel's secular society and its cheap newspapers-- goodbye Chadashot! So the Post's fine witty British English is used for lengthy reviews of tawdry biographies or films, usually concluding that they're trash-- why not devote the precious space to good books and cinema?-- bad ones can simply be listed as such).

Both Ministers dreamt of their work. Yosef, with Divine insight, interpreted "3" in the dreams-- in 3 days, Sir Wine would be forgiven and Sir Baker killed (a fly might fly undetected into already poured wine; but it would only be found inside carelessly baked bread). SO IT WAS! Yosef probably breaks the bad news to Sir Baker, so that he'll repent his hedonistic life, before his end; otherwise, why torture him with the knowledge? Sir Wine forgot his promise to help Yosef escape; tho some criticize Yosef for relying on such a jetset bum, one should try anything, not rely on miracles. As we leave Yosef languishing in an Egyptian jail, he yearns for Zion, from which he was stolen. His name (i.e. his essence) = 156 = ZION. But only his corpse will return, much later.

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage; minds innocent and quiet take That for a hermitage; If I have freedom in my love, And in my soul am free, Angels alone that soar above Enjoy such liberty (Richard Lovelace)

D. THE HAFTARA is AMOS 2:6-3:8 (unless Vayeshev is read on Shabbat Chanuka).

We are at home with the non-conformist Amos and the protesting Job, because it is they who taught us the nature of non-conformity and protest. They talk to us in our own language, and that because we have made their language ours (L. Roth, Jewish Thought as a Factor in Civilization, 1954, p. 39).

Amos portrays God's disappointment with Israel, who, as Yosef's brothers, still lack mutual love and respect, still lack I-Thou relationships, insensitive to each others' dreams and aspirations: FOR THEY SELL THE RIGHTEOUS FOR SILVER AND THE POOR FOR SHOES-- God's tougher with the Jews, who must achieve their great potential for leadership, as A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION (Ex. 19:6). ONLY YOU HAVE I INTIMATELY KNOWN, OF ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH (parental favoritism?)-- THEREFORE I'LL VISIT ALL YOUR SINS UPON YOU (are siblings consoled by huge demands made upon the favorite?) ... WILL A SHOFAR BE BLOWN IN A CITY AND FOLKS NOT TREMBLE? WILL THERE BE EVIL IN A CITY AND GOD DID NOT DO IT?

The Holy One tests the righteous in the pasture; there Moshe, Dovid and Amos proved themselves (Yitzchak Napacha, Tanchuma, Shmot 10, ed. Buber, 3b).

When Shabbat Vayeshev is the first Shabbat of Chanuka, we read about the princes' dedication of the tabernacle, (Num. 7) for maftir; the haftara, Zecharia 2:14-4:7, also that of B'haaloscha, discusses God's messianic return to Zion and Israel. We joyfully anticipate the final redemption of fallen humanity via Israel and its temple. This slow historical process flows from the modest beginnings of that minority of Jews who returned from rich Babylonia, to build the 2nd Temple, and the few Maccabees who salvaged it (cf. today; but Ramban notes that the Third Temple will only be built when no one opposes it-- Gen. 26:19ff). For more on this haftara, see our Chanuka study.

E. Due to space limitations, SIBLING SITUATIONS, dealing with favoritism among children and sibling relationships, tho related to this study, will be discussed, while still relevant, within the next few weeks, as the relation of Yosef to his brothers unfolds.



Rav. Yehuda Henkin asks: "Who was Potiphar"? The Torah calls him "Ish Mitzri", an Egyptian-- what else would an Egyptian Minister be? For 100 years, Egypt was ruled by shepherd-kings from Syria, Hyksos (Hertz, Pent. 394f; Ency. Judaica, s.v. Hyksos. Cf. Ex. 1:8-10: "A new king", "his people", and "our enemies" may reflect the end of Hyksos rule). During this period, Yosef was sold into Egypt; the Torah notes that his buyer, Potiphar, was a native Egyptian, tho the rest of Egypt's court were Semitic foreigners. A foreign ruling class prefers to let such a native be its chief executioner, head of the prisons (B'reshit 40:3; 41:10)... let the anger and hate of the populace be focused on him, not them (cf. the Judenrat, and Polish landowners who employed Jews as their tax-collectors). Later, Potiphar's wife "called to the men of her house and said: `See, he brought us a Hebrew to mock us. He came to me to sleep with me, and I cried out loudly'" (39:13-14).

Who, especially in the good old pre-feminist days (but cf. Cleopatra), complains to servants about her husband, their master? She openly criticized him: "See, he brought us a Hebrew", even in his presence: "the Hebrew slave which you brought us came to have relations with me" (v. 17). She said "brought US"-- Potiphar was Egyptian, but his wife a member of the foreign ruling class. She called "the men of her house"-- her relatives, not her servants. She, of higher status, freely berated her husband-- "we're Semites, so you brought a Hebrew Semitic slave to ridicule us" (thus Yosef's future wife, Asnat, her daughter, is half Semitic, by maternal descent, not 100% decadent Egyptian, unless we follow U.S. Reform's paternal descent, Schindler's List-- YF).

When Potiphar heard his wife's words, he was furious... (19)-- at his wife, not at Yosef. Had he suspected Yosef, he would have executed him, or at least left him to rot in a dungeon (YF: Abarbanel says this too-- they assume that even immoral Egyptians would kill an adulterer. So her brothers would have killed Dina, had they believed that she willingly went with Shchem, per Abarbanel-- he assumes that they were like Arabs today, probably knowing little of their culture factually). Potiphar put Yosef in a comfortable prison for royal prisoners (40:3); but he couldn't release him, after his wife accused him of mocking the ruling class. Only Pharoah, the king and head of the ruling class, could extricate Yosef. Yosef dreamt he'd rule and control his brothers; instead, he found himself utterly without control of his situation, his fate determined by people and politics having nothing to do with him-- cf. Diaspora Jews and Samuel Abarbanel above.

Blessed be Egypt, My people, and Assyria, My handiwork, and Israel, My inheritance (Isaiah 19:25).

There is no nation so despised of the Holy One as Egypt (Zohar, 1278, Ex. 17a).


Why did Joseph die before his brothers?-- Because he assumed airs of authority. (Hama b. Hanina, Ber. 55a).

Rav Matis Weinberg sees Yosef as culmination of Yaakov, the flame emerging from his fire (PATTERNS IN TIME, Vol. 8, Chanukah, 179-189; $20 from TOP). For (ultimate) restoration, Am Yisrael must be healed and whole, as Yaakov Avinu was healed. Yosef, who can master both Esav and this world, begins the restoration. Only the tzaddik can restore the ability to stand in this world and utilize it fully, overcoming the damage caused by Esav and schism-- Tzaddik is the complement of gid hanashe, the sciatic nerve, which enables one to stand erect (Tikunei Zohar 18). And it is on Yosef, the tzaddik, that our story and the spotlight of history now focus.

Why does Esav (eventually) fall into Yosef's hands? Of Yosef it says: "I fear the Lord"; Of Esav it says: "who feared not the Lord". Yosef achieved the bechorah (first born authority) through worthy deeds. Esav lost the bechorah through evil deeds. Yosef supported his brothers. Esav tried to murder his brother. Yosef guarded himself from adultery and murder. Esav filthied himself with adultery and murder. Yosef risked his life for his mother's honor. Esav wanted to kill his mother. So it's fit that Esav fall into Yosef's hands. When the Divine essence of each tribe confronts that of Esav, he answers them. But Esav's essence collapses before Yosef-- THE HOUSE OF YOSEF WILL BE A FLAME, THE HOUSE OF ESAV STRAW (Ov. 1:18; excerpts from Psikta Rabbosi 12, Tan. Ki Setze 10).

A mere extra 2 measures of silk,which Yaakov gave Yosef, started a chain of events which led our forbears down to Egypt (Rav, Meg. 16b).

The famous quotations cited are mostly from 2 truly great works, John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and Joseph Baron's A Treasury of Jewish Quotations.


Rav Shalom Gold's 2 cassettes "In Defense of Religious Zionism" (from "Yeshiva World" attacks) and Yaakov Fogelman's 2 cassettes on "An Overview of the Torah and Religious Zionism" are now available from TOP-- $15 each set. WE TRY TO HAVE "SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE TO DISAGREE WITH"!

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