Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Joseph - why his brothers hated him - Parental favoritism - interpreted.

 Torah Study 4/13 - with Rabbi Marder -
Genesis 37:1-6

·      A righteous person is never “settled.”  Instead, life is a series of challenges to be dealt with.
·      In 37:2, Joseph tattled on his brothers.  Leads to teaching of judging the whole person; give the benefit of the doubt; identify the good, do not focus on the bad aspects of other’s behavior.
·      Alan Morinis – Mussar on evaluating others.  It’s unnatural to view the positive in other people; instead focus on imperfections.  We must train ourselves to see honor in people.  Everyone, no matter how strange, is the image of god.  Suggests “visualization,” a technique that finds good in people … see bad people as babies who have been denied the ability to be nursed and comforted.  Bottom line: see people in a positive light, but be cautious about your personal safety.
·      37:3 – contrary to Leviticus, why do brothers hate Joseph
*     Israel loved Joseph more because he was a son of his old age, the last of Jacob’s sons while in Padam Aram.
*     Munk [The Call of the Torah] – ironic that Jacob, who grew up in dysfunctional family, took no steps to preclude brotherly dysfunctions.
*     Rashi give three interpretations based on wordplay: (1)זְקֻנִים בֶן  for he was born to him in his old age (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 38). (2) Onkelos rendered: for he was a wise son to him. Whatever he had learned from Shem and Eber he gave over to him. (3) Another explanation: for his (Joseph’s) features (זִיו אִיקוֹנִין) resembled his own (those of Jacob). [From Genesis Rabbah 84:8]
-  (1) Child of Jacob’s old age …
-  (2) Joseph was wise: in Kiddushin 32b, Jacob went to Yeshiva and passed his learning to Joseph.
-  (3) Joseph looks like Jacob.
-  Why three interpretations?  Perhaps Rashi wasn't sure.
-  Commentary on Rashi 2nd reason– Yakov Kameninski [?] – Jacob knew Joseph would be exiled in Egypt; just as Jacob was exiled.  Joseph would emerge unscathed because the teachings fortified him.
-  On 3rd reason – more than just a resemblance; spiritual essence in Joseph was as in Jacob.
-  More on “son of old age”
s  Ramban – one caretaker child in this case, Joseph; he was constantly in Jacob’s presence.  He had understanding of the elder.  Why wasn't Benjamin give this role?  Benjamin was born eight years later; he wasn’t as wise; when born, Joseph was already loved/imprinted on Jacob.
s  Abravanel – Joseph acted with maturity toward his father, but more juvenile toward his brothers.
s  Hirsch – old age is when we contemplate our lives and pass on our heritage; Joseph is the heir of Jacob’s wisdom and accomplishments; he was the most likely to carry on the family legacy.
s  This story is a description of one family over many generations; it’s not normative or prescriptive.  They are real people who are not perfect.
-  Munk  on patriarch’s behavior: showing love in public, making distinctions in public.  There are texts on proper child-raising in the Torah and Talmud.
-  Naomi Rosenblatt [Wrestling With Angels] on Joseph as a gifted, charismatic child …
·      The Coat
*     Nahum Sarna [JPS Torah Commentary] – meaning is unclear; in the story of Amnon and Tamar (his half-sister) in II Samuel, Tamar wore a similar garment to show high status.
*     Richard Friedman on Amnon-Tamar episode: In both cases [Joseph and Amnon-Tamar], beautiful coats are torn.  But in Joseph’s case, it’s covered with blood, suggesting that the coat is associated with violence.
*     RaDak [Rabbi David Kimchi] - A cloak that covered hands and feet so that manual labor would be difficult.  Joseph was not supposed to work in manual labor, but was to be an rich man’s son.
*     [Sarna] Archeology and ancient art shows such garments with color panels as worn by dignitaries or ambassadors.  “Coat of many colors” comes from the Vulgate and Septuagint translations.


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