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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Roles the brother's play in Joseph's path

Torah Study with Rabbi Marder - 29 June 2013
Genesis 38:1-8
  • Naomi Rosenblatt [Wrestling with Angels, pages 327ff] on Joseph’s adolescence – did he ever grow out of it?  
    • Up to age 18 months, narcissism defines a child’s character.  This “inflated sense of self fades and the child comes to understand that he is not the center of the universe.”  Unfortunately, Joseph never realized that his exaggerated self-love would become self-destructive.
    • However, self-love can be valuable to keep one’s self-esteem, respect, and confidence.
    • Life is a balancing act between “giving ourselves enough love to nurture and protect ourselves from rejection, without allowing self-love to become what Oscar Wilde described as the ‘beginning of a lifelong romance.’ ”... 
  • Chapter 38 is a deliberate literary device and is not isolated from preceding and following narratives.
    • It’s an interlude that intensifies sense of suspense.  One wag suggested it was like at TV show, where a commercial interrupts the narrative; or “we’ll be right back after these messages.”
    • Common themes and key words and concepts that connect this chapter to the following and to previous chapters [Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary. Genesis, pages 263-264]
      • יָרַד, go down, descend, demote – also appears in 37:35 and 39:1
      • קָרָא, named –appears in 37:32-33 and 38:25-26
      • נחם, comfort, console –37:35 and 38:12
      • ערב, pledge –38:17,18, 20; 43:9; and 44:32
      • Kid from a flock –37:31 and 38:17,20
      • Deception and evidence – 37:32-33; 38:25-26
      • Female temptation 
    • Place names seem mystifying  [Sarna, page 264].
      • All are in the territory of the tribe of Judah.
      • Events and places are connected to the later life of David – see note on “Adullam” below.
    • This chapter marks the descent of Tribe of Rueben and ascent of Judah, the eponymous ancestor of the Jews.  
Leon Kass (The Beginning of Wisdom, pages 526ff) writes that the key question in the narrative is whether Jacob’s family can “hold itself together without fratricide and within the covenant; and if so, under whose leadership this can be accomplished.”  Originally, the successor to Jacob was to have been Joseph, but although an extraordinary person, was not leadership material.  He sought moral advantages with innuendo about his brothers and boasted to all about his dreams of grandeur, having no idea of how arrogant his behavior was to others.  Furthermore, what kind of a person can lead a family or nation if he is presumed to be dead?  
“But if not Joseph, then who?”
      • Reuben?  He’s well meaning but inept.
      • Simeon and/or Levi?  Each is too violent and hot headed [recall the reaction to Sh’chem]
      • Judah seems to be the only viable candidate, despite the problems he will encounter, such as leaving his brothers after the pit episode and the encounter with Tamar.  [There are eight other brothers that Kass does not mention, suggesting that they were unqualified.]
  • 38:1 - Now it came about at that time that Judah was demoted by his brothers, and he turned away until [he came] to an Adullamite man, named Hirah.
    • Demoted” - וַיֵּרֶד, Judah descended (went down) from his brothers; some say that he literally went down from the hill country of Hebron in 37:12, 14, 32 [Sarna, page 265]
      • To Rashi, the descent is spiritual, not physical.  Why was this section placed here, where it interrupts the section dealing with Joseph? To teach us that his (Judah’s) brothers demoted him from his high position when they saw their father’s [Jacob’s] distress. They said, “You told [us] to sell him. Had you told [us] to return him, we would have obeyed you.” [From Tanchuma Buber, Vayeshev 8].  In other words, the brothers are blaming Judah for the whole episode.
      • Sforno builds on Rashi’s commentary [cited in Munk, The Call of the Torah], “[Judah’s] culpability [for what he did to Joseph] was great and his wrongdoing in destroying the peace of the family now turned against him. Right in his own household death and jealousy among the brothers broke out. ‘Measure for measure’ – with the loss of his ownsons Judah will come to know the cruel suffering he has caused his father.”
      • Others link Judah’s descent to Joseph’s descent into Egypt (into slavery) [Midrash Rabbah 85:2, which states that both suffered spiritual declines].  The Midrash also relates the descent to the incident with Judah and Tamar in this chapter and with Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in chapter 39.  Ibn Ezra (cited in The Soncino Chumash) agrees: “the purpose of narrating the incident at this point is to contrast Judah’s conduct in the matter of Tamar with Joseph’s in connection with Potiphar’s wife.”
      • Yet another explanation of Judah’s descent can be found in his marriage to a Canaanite woman in 38:2 [Midrash Rabbah 85:2].
      • In his Torah Through a Zionist Vision, pages 111-112, [BS1225.53 .F434 2008] Abraham Feder writes about changing from a save-me-from-my-brother (fear, antagonism) feeling to a seeking-and-searching-for-my-brothers’ mentality – a journey from fear to love.  The act of  “going down” can transform attitudes from fear to love.  Joseph and Judah have to be “brought down” to a level of humility to reach maturity and realize bad behavior -- descent for the sake of ascent; or, go down to grow higher.
        • In the case of Joseph, he “descends” from a position of having a “tactless and graceless exhibition of his visionary talents” to being thrown in a pit, being sold to slavery, and coping with Potiphar’s wife.
        • Judah is transformed from the first-born leader to one without the persuasive power to save Joseph and then to the mistreatment of Tamar.
        • Both Joseph and Judah, after reaching the bottom and being humbled, develop a sense of empathy and an ability to cope with their crises.  Joseph overcomes the temptations of Potiphar, idolatry, and the cruelty of imprisonment to become Pharaoh’s vizier.  Judah admits his faults in the Tamar episode and goes on to father the line of David, through Peretz, Boaz, and Ruth.
      • Another view: Judah turned away in disgust (Rashi) from his brothers.  In his Self, Struggle & Change, (page 162) Norman J. Cohen writes, “Castigated by his brothers for not meeting the responsibilities he bore [presumably as first-born and leader for not doing more to save Joseph], Judah distanced himself from them.  It was almost as if he had been banished form their midst.”  However, the verb וַיֵּרֶד suggests that Judah took the initiative and separated himself from his brothers.  This “tells us much about Judah’s moral condition [at least with respect to his family].”
    • Etz Hayim (citing Tanhuma Solomon Buber edition) provides a concise summary of Judah’s situation: “He left either out of feelings of guilt for what he had done with Joseph or because his brothers blamed him.
    • Adullam is a real place, located about 18 kilometers northwest of Hebron, that would later be king David’s cave hideout -- 1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 2:13. This place also appears in Joshua 12:15, Micah 1:15, and Nehemiah 11:30.
    • חִירָה, Hirah [Chirah]
      • Linked to חִירָם Hiram, King of Tyre and an ally of Solomon, who supplied cedars of Lebanon for the Temple construction (1 Kings 7:13ff).  Midrash Rabbah 85:4 records a debate about Chirah’s identity.
        • He was the same person as Hiram because he was friendly to both Judah and his descendants David and Solomon (1 Kings 5:15).  If this were the case, he would have lived 1,200 years; the Midrash does the math.
        • Accordingly, others say that Chirah was someone else [but the Midrash gives no details].
      • According to Rashi, Judah entered into business partnership with Chirah.
  • 38:2 - And there Judah saw the daughter of a merchant [כְּנַעֲנִי אִישׁ,eesh Canaani”] named Shua, and he took her and came to her.
    • From Midrash Rabbah 85:2
      • כְּנַעֲנִי אִישׁ in this context cannot be a Canaanite man because it would be inconceivable that Judah or any of Jacob’s sons would associate or marry a Canaanite woman.  Furthermore, all peoples in that area were “Canaanites” and Shua was from Adullam, one of the many cities in Canaan, so labeling Shua a Canaanite would provide no new information.  In fact, Shua came from a different country and was not a Canaanite.
      • Prohibition against marrying Canaanite – in this context
      • Also, the name שׁוּעַ refers to a man of distinction, denoting nobility (Isaiah 32:5 and Job 34:19 [?]).  “By identifying the Adullamite man in this way, Scripture means to convey that the Children of Israel were held in such high regard that the most important people wished to become a part of their family (Eitz Yosef).”
    • The Midrash further justifies the meaning “merchant” by listing other places in Scripture and Talmud where Canaani means “merchant”.
      • Hosea 12:8 - A trafficker [כְּנַעַן] who has deceitful scales in his hand; he loves to oppress.  This is not the best image; the context is Hosea describing the deceit among the people Israel that precludes God’s mercy [Soncino].
      • Isaiah 23:8 – Who planned this on the royal Tyre, whose merchants were princes, whose traffickers [כִּנְעָנֶיהָ, literally, “her Canaanites”] were the honored of the earth?
        • Context of Isaiah 23: an enemy has attacked the commercial trading city-state of Tyre.  This chapter is a lament for this incident, but it is not clear whether it’s history or prophecy [Berlin, The Jewish Study Bible, page 827].
        • The word is used in parallel with סֹחֲרֶיהָsokherha,” a merchant.
        • This use appears to have a more favorable connotation than in Hosea.  The Canaanites were traders throughout the Mediterranean.   According to Soncino, this appears to be the source for the interchangeability of “Canaanite” and “merchant.” 
      • Zechariah 14:21 - Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of Hosts, and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and cook in them; and there will no longer be a trafficker [כְנַעֲנִי] in the House of the Lord of Hosts on that day.  
        • Rashi explains, “They will not require trafficking, as in Isaiah 23:8 [above].  Another explanation: There is no poor man here.”
        • Context: the prophet is describing the events that will lead to Jerusalem becoming the center of the world where God reigns over all [Berlin, page 1265].
        • “The money-making merchant, who exploited the pilgrims to the Sanctuary with the sale of animals and vessels, will disappear from the Temple.”  These “Canaanites” were skillful traders but did not respect Jewish traditions.  Such “trafficking” associated with worship at the Temple would be considered unworthy in the age predicted by Zechariah [Soncino].  In other words, “Canaani” in this context has an unfavorable connotation.
      • Other references [The Soncino Chumash]: Proverbs 31:24 and Job 40:30; also Nehemiah 13:16 ff
      • Talmud Pesachim 50a [Schottenstein/Artscroll edition plus footnotes] puts it all together.  A “Canaani” is a merchant, not a Canaanite (in violation of Abraham’s dictum for bidding marriage to a Canaanite).
From where do we know that the word kenaani can refer to a merchant?
Or does it mean a resident of Canaan?
The Gemara answers: it is written “Judah saw there the daughter of a prominent ‘kenaani’ and he married her.  What is meant by ‘kennani’ in this verse [38:2]?  If you say it literally means a Canaanite, how can that be?  It is possible that after Abraham came and warned Isaac not to marry a Canaanite, and after Isaac came and likewise warned Jacob not to marry a Canaanite, would Judah then go and marry a Canaanite?!  Of course not!  Therefore, the word kenaani in this verse clearly does not refer to a Canaanite.

Genesis 24:3
Genesis 28:1
Rather, R’Shimon ben Lakish said: the verse refers to the daughter of a prominent merchant … as it is written: A merchant with scale of deceit in his hand.
Hosea 12:8
The Gemara continues with references to Isaiah 23:8 and Zechariah 14:21, presented above.

    • Who is the woman, asks Radak.  Ramban answers – Judah wanted to marry a rich man’s daughter; she would be named Bat Shua as in 1 Chronicles 2:3.  Bat Sheva, whom David seduced in 2 Samuel 11, is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3.5 as Bat Shua.  Recall that David is one of Judah’s descendants.
    • Judah was intimate with Bat Shua.
      • Radak – this is a legitimate cohabitation; marriage first, then intimacy
      • Verb וַיִּקָּחֶהָ could also mean, “marry.”
    • Elie Munk (The Call of the Torah, page 514) asks why the text goes to such length to say that Shua is a merchant although his is called a “Canaanite.”  His answer is based on the fact that the ancestors of David and the Messiah would come from non-Israelites as well as Israelites.  This gave David insight into sin and family dynamics.  
Munk writes, “By stressing the Canaanite origins of Judah’s wife, … the Torah [draws] our attention to [the fact that] the royal lineage of the house of David … descended on the maternal side from the perverse city of Sodom [19:15].  It goes back to the daughter of Lot who, through an incestuous union, gave birth to Moab, the forefather of a nation from which descended Ruth, David’s ancestor.  Just as the maternal side of the dynasty of the future messianic king was tainted by sin, so too the paternal side was affected by Judah’s wrongdoing.  He married a Canaanite woman and this was the beginning of his ‘fall’; he cohabitated with his daughter-in-law [Tamar] and from this forbidden union came Peretz, the paternal ancestor of David (Ruth 4:18-22).”
  • 38:3 - And she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Er.
  • 38:4 - And she conceived again and bore a son, and she named him Onan.
  • 38:5 -Once again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah, and he (Judah) was in Chezib when she gave birth to him.
    • First son is called עֵר, but no explanation given for this name, which means awake.  Also related to a word for childless or barren.  Was this an unconscious prophecy for this dude dying young and childless?  Midrash Rabbah 85:4 – Judah named him “Er” based on events that would soon occur [in 38:7].  The name is related to hu’ar [?], empty out of the world, meaning that he died young.
    • The second son is named אוֹנָן, “Onan”, related to root for strength or vigor; but actually means sorrow or pain, like Rebecca’s childbirth pain.  The name also conveys a sense of mourning and grief from a premature death (האֲנִינָ) Midrash Rabbah 85:4 – Tamar named him with prophetic insight because of his early death in 38:10.
    • Excerpt from Freakeconomics on naming children and their future … bottom line: names have no effect on child’s future socio-economic status. [, 3 July 2013] 
However, Midrash Rabbah 85:3 comments that Er’s and Onan’s premature deaths at age seven were primarily the result of Judah’s sins, since they were too young to be liable for their offenses (38:7,9).
    • Judah’s third son is שֵׁלָה (Shelah)
      • This name (from his wife) means drawn out (of the womb).  
        • The wife’s reasoning, according to Midrash Rabbah 85:4, is that he would establish a genealogical chain in the world (שַׁלשֶׁלֶת), i.e., he would bear children, unlike his brothers.  Was Tamar prophetic or what?  Today, she could be a successful bookie or stockbroker.
        • Others say that the name comes from the root for deceiving or disappointing (כזב  or שלה), i.e., the wife was displeased that Judah was not present at Shelah’s birth [Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary]. Furthermore, had Judah been present, he would not have agreed to this name [The Soncino Chumash, citing Sforno].
      • Location is כְזִיב, a real place, where Bar Kochba was born; his enemies called him “Bar Chazeev.”  From the Jewish Encyclopedia: Bar Kokba, the hero of the third war against Rome, appears under this name only among ecclesiastical writers: heathen authors do not mention him; and Jewish sources call him Ben (or Bar) Koziba or Kozba. Many scholars believe this name to have been derived from the city of Chezib (Genesis 38:5) or Chozeba (I Chronicles 5:22), although it is more likely that it was simply the name of his father. [, 3 July 2013]
      • Rashi asks why this place?  The name of the place [was] Chezib because she stopped giving birth; [this is] an expression similar to “You are to me as a failing spring (אַכְזָב)” (Jeremiah 15:18);“whose water does not fail (יְכַזְבוּ)” (Isaiah 58:11). Otherwise, what does Scripture intend to tell us? Moreover, in Genesis Rabbah (85:4) I saw: And she named him Shelah… She stopped [bearing].  She will have no more children, setting the stage for upcoming events (Tamar).
      • Ramban has a field day with this place name.  He disagrees with Rashi (above) and other explanations by Radak and Ibn Ezra.
        • To counter Rashi, Ramban comments: the text does not state that this was the last birth of Judah’s wife.  Even if it were, stopping after three children hardly warrants special mention.
        • Radak (also Rav Yosef Behor-Schor, 12th century, France) states that the prevailing custom was for the father to name the first son, the mother the second, and alternating thereafter.  However, at the third birth, Judah was not present in Chezib; thus, the wife named the newborn.  Ramban rejects this, stating that Judah was in Chezib when the birth occurred.  Furthermore, there should be no need to explain the breach of a minor custom.
        • Ibn Ezra’s commentary is that all of Judah’s sons were born in Chezib, thus justifying the mention of that place name.
        • Ramban’s own explanation of Shelah is that the word denotes something that stops and becomes undependable, citing 2 Kings 4:28, and is related to a similar word for one who acts inadvertently, i.e., when conscious thoughts become undependable.  Chezib is close to the root כזב, which has a similar connotation.  Thus, since the wife was in Chezib when she gave birth, the son received a name that reflected that place.  
Does this suggest that the name was given inadvertently?  Unconsciously?  “Oh, by the way, your name is “Selah.”

Also, Ramban and Midrash Rabbah 85:4 footnotes seem to imply that “chezib” can refer to the situation -- i.e., no more births – or to the place name.  It’s unclear which came first, i.e., the place was named Judah’s wife having no more children or the name was there already when the wife gave birth for the last time.


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