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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Something to Think about over Leining

Want to learn an amazing Midrash?

"And Yosef could no longer refrain . . . and he cried."
  • He could no longer refrain, for he saw that the brothers wanted to kill Binyamin. They were saying to him, "Thief son of a thief! [גנב בן גנבת] Look at what you've caused us!" (Torah Shleimah Breishit 45:6)

Wow! This interpretation completely re-casts the dynamic and emotions in the room! A. The Shvatim were about to kill another of Rachel's sons. B. They refer to Rachel as a thief (!) C. Yosef doesn't reveal himself because his love, pathos, and longing for family overwhelm him, but because he realizes how terrible the Shvatim are!

What textual hints lead the Midrash to say this? What clues are they playing on and what questions does it solve? Can you see anything of this nature when you read the Parsha?


Chana said...

That's an absolutely fascinating midrash! I've been trying to figure out what the textual hints might be, however, and haven't really been successful; what do you think they are? The only thing that I can see as possibly working in favor of this midrash is:

Genesis 45: 3

"3 And Joseph said unto his brethren: 'I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?' And his brethren could not answer him; for they were affrighted at his presence. "

His brethren could not answer him; for they were affrighted at his presence. You could this simply as in, they were afraid because of the crime they had committed but more carefully, he is reproaching them for the crime they would theoretically commit. "Doth my father yet live?" is a very pointed question, a rebuke. "Despite what you have done and what you had intended to do, knowing full well what that would do to my father (Genesis 44: 31 "it will come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die; and thy servants will bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.") does my father yet live?"

Ibn Avraham said...

So, my lovely sister Rena read it in a very interesting way. He saw that they wanted to kill them and that nonetheless they would restrain themselves. (Then you can cue in all the contrats between this and Mechirat Yosef. Yehuda's leadership is used to prevent Rachel's son from going into slavery, the exact opposite of their past disgressions.) That's why he revealed himself right then. They had redeemed themselves.

Yashar Kocheikh to Rena!

Ibn Avraham said...

OK- some text hints:

1. Yehuda is very noticeably the only one who defends Binyamin. I think we usually read the phrase "Vayigash" as epic, as noble, as courageous: everyone wanted to save Binyamin but only Yehuda had the courageous leadership skills to do it. Maybe its the opposite: the brothers didn't care and Yehuda is either the exception, or worse, hebutts in solely because of his promise to Yaakov.

When Yehuda steps up at Mekhirat Yosef, the mindset of the brothers was "let's just kill him." It's the same thing here.

2. Yehuda never says: "Don't take away our brother, we love him!" How about: "the poor little guy was framed! Can you punish such a cute, loveable guy!" His "defense" actually screams out how little affection, connection, or sympathy the brothers have for Binyamin.