This week we start with birthday wishes to the Oisvorfer’s givaldige and most respectful son Jonathan, who turned 22 just yesterday. Mazel tov!
Dreams and Visions:
What in the world motivated Tamar to dress up as a hooker and ensnare Yehudah into a sex scandal? What drove Mrs. Potifar to continually seduce Yoisef? Why would Yoisef, knowing of his brothers contempt for him, share his dreams with them? Were they all visionaries? Taka excellent kashas (questions) and soon we will address them. Ober ershtens a shtikel rant about the holy shevotim.
What will you find in this week’s action packed parsha of Vayeshev? Insane and irrational jealousy, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, two sex related mysehs (stories) -one involving a roadside incident, the other, charges of rape. Dreams, dream interpretation and so much more. All this and more can be found in the four major storylines that include; the selling of Yoisef into slavery by his own brothers -the so called heylige shevotim (holy tribes); the roadside caper featuring Yehudah, a shtikel lonely after his wife’s passing and in need of some physical contact, if you chap, who ended up having a quickie with a person he thought to be a zoina (harlot), but was really Tamar, his own daughter-in-law; yet another sex myseh (story) featuring Mrs. Potifar, the wife of Yoisef’s master -she tried seducing Yoisef but yelled rape when he refused her advances, and; Yoisef’s sudden ability, while imprisoned on trumped up rape charges, to interpret the dreams of a few fellow prisoners. OMG! Ober Raboyseyee, this is our sixth time around this parsha and we have previously covered each of these topics. Check them out at www.oisvorfer.com. We have asked many givaldige questions and reviewed the herculean efforts by the heylige Gemora, the medrish and many others to whitewash and exonerate the seemingly outlandish and improper behavior of many. This year we will ask a few more questions and offer a few new answers. Space permitting, we will also take a shtikel look at the numerous mentions of dreams and visions in these last few and in upcoming parshas.
As advertised, it’s in parshas Vayeshev where the Yaakov Ovenu mishpocho finds itself in total disarray. Everyone in the gantze velt (entire world) knows the amazing story of Yoisef and his multi-colored shirt/tunic and the problems it caused. Many say that Yoisef’s relationship with his brothers was problematic and contemptuous even before they plotted his murder. Rashi will tell us that Yoisef spoke loshoin horo (bad-mouthed) to his father about his brothers. The medrish (Tanchuma 7) will fill in the details and tell us that he ratted on them regarding their questionable behavior which included; eating non-kosher foods and sexual indiscretions. Specifically what they supposedly did wrong sexually is not revealed; it’s left up to the imagination of each reader to try to chap what indiscretions these holy rollers participated in. As stated above, in previous reviews, we mostly asked questions but didn’t proffer too many satisfying answers. Why not? Because the emes is azoy: Suggested answers by the heylige Gemora and by dozens of medroshim, old and new, about the very bizarre and odd behavior of the holy shevotim and especially Reuvain and Yehudah, left us unsatisfied. Can anyone really excuse the behavior of the holy shevotim for plotting to kill their own brother? Though it’s emes that at the very last minute -out of the goodness of their hearts mamish, good guys that they were- they spared his life and opted instead on the sale of Yoisef into slavery, is that any better? Is this normative behavior? Many brothers fight regularly ober a plot to kill? What happened to a good brawl? Are these the same fellows whose names adorn the Koihen Godol’s Choishen (High Priest’s Breastplate)? What was holy about these brothers? Does the heylige Toirah reveal any positive personality traits of theirs? Even one? What are we told? Reuvain slept with his step-mother, or, took matters into his own hands and did something with her bed. Efsher both, we know little else. Grada he would have been better off had he taka taken matters into his own hands, if you chap. Following Dina’s rape, Shimon and Levi wiped out the entire male population over in Shechem. And the others? All except little Binyomin, were involved in the plot to murder and then sell Yoisef. And all conspired to cover up the myseh for 22 years. Do we know anything about their good deeds? We don’t! And we don’t because it’s not until Yaakov will lie on his deathbed (three parshas from now) that he will give us a glimpse into their fine character traits. Even then he will only bless some of his kinderlach.
Though much ink has been spilled and pages filled by many a medrish and the Gemora trying to rationalize their bizarre behavior, quite frankly, most leave us less than satisfied. And guess what? Many of the exegists argue with one another as to what took place. Some go so far as to say that the brothers may not have sold Yoisef into slavery and were shocked to find him gone from the pit. Ober, if they didn’t, who did? Shoin, let’s play ‘who took the cookie from the cookie jar.’
Says Rashi: The brothers actively sold Yoisef into slavery. Fartig! And he knows this how? From the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 37:28) which tells us “Midianite men, traders, passed by; they drew Yoisef up and lifted him out of the pit and sold Yoisef to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver….” Shoin. The sons of Yaakov drew Yoisef from the pit and sold him. The Toirah provides many details of the caper. Could it be any more clear? Case closed? Not! And why not? Because ershtens (firstly), our rabbis could not allow this version of the events to stand -es past nisht (did not have good optics)- for Yaakov Ovenu to have raised such children. Moreover, the rabbis want us to believe that the brothers were all righteous people. Are they not referred to as ‘shivtay ko’ (the RBSO’s holy tribes)? Moreover, the heylige Toirah will reveal that several groups may have been involved in the selling and reselling of Yoisef until he was finally sold to Mr. Potifar over in Mitzrayim. And therein Raboyseyee lies the opening that the rabbis needed to potentially exonerate the brothers. What’s pshat?
Nu, lommer lernin (let’s learn). Let’s read the posik again. The heylige Toirah tells us that other groups were involved in the sale and transport of Yoisef and mentions by name the Midianites, the Ishmaelites and another group, the Medanites. Many argue as to how many times Yoisef was sold. Was he nebech sold as many as four times? Or, were a few of the groups acting in concert? Was he sold but two or three times or efsher one time only? So happens that the Ibn Ezra suggests that the various groups mentioned were acting in concert and that Yoisef was sold but one time. Does it make much difference? Still unconscionable! Ober along came the Rashbam and said azoy: It’s gantz shayich (entirely possible) that the brothers had clean hands. They did? Well, not exactly. He suggests that what may have taken place was azoy: The brothers -nice guys that they were- took Yoisef, stripped him of his shirt and threw him into a pit. Ober they did not sell him! They had in mind to but their plans went awry. The heylige Toirah will tell us that they sat down to eat bread. And while they were joyously pigging out (efsher some distance away in the picnic area), the Midianites happened to be strolling by, maybe heard Yoisef’s cries from the pit, drew him out and sold him to the next group, maybe the Ishmaelites. Accordingly, it’s efsher possible that the brothers knew nothing and only discovered Yoisef missing when Yehudah returned to find an empty pit. Are they innocent? Did they intend for Yoisef to die in the pit? Ver veyst? Did they taka intend to sell him into slavery but while partying -having successfully rid themselves of the ‘loshon horo’ monger- and having determined and ruled that he deserved to die, or at least be enslaved, lost him to another group of bandits ? Maybe! Were they shocked when another group chapped him up? Perhaps! Taka a revolutionary idea and guess what? Other Medroshim including the Malbim and Rabaynu Bachya liked the idea of finding the brothers innocent of the charges and agree with his wild theory.
And what are the lessons to be learned from all these well intentioned exegists? For those who want to believe in the innocence of the shvotim it’s givalidge reputation management. Float an alternate scenario, a potential pshat that throws into question and possibly refutes the top charges and shoin. Some, will buy in. Not all, but many. On the other hand, whether their hands were clean of the top charge, it’s clearly evident that their activities were nefarious. Even the Rashbam and his supporters do seemingly not argue that the holy brothers intended to at least sell him into slavery, and then sat down to celebrate by breaking bread. Was it kosher, ver veyst? Their plan was zicher to rid themselves of their pesky little brother, the very one their father seemed to favor over them. And we ask azoy: Why are their names adorning so many shul windows? And why are we paying tens of thousands of dollars to sponsor these windows? Did they ever regret their behavior? Not! In a few weeks we will learn that they regretted only ‘not listening to his cries’ as he lay naked in a snake and scorpion filled pit. Thankfully the RBSO had other plans for Yoisef.
Or maybe pshat is like this: The brothers were but pawns; it was the RBSO’s plan to have them involved in the conspiracy and for Yoisef to end up in somewhat of a jail along with the Paroy’s wine steward and chief baker. The emes is that the only real satisfying answer is azoy: Yoisef’s ordeal which included slavery, accusations and charges of a sexual crime he zicher did not commit, incarceration for over ten years, and being separated from his father and family for 22 years, can only be rationalized correctly one way; it was the will of the RBSO. He needed to be there so that one day he would rise to the lofty position of Viceroy from where he would feed his family, and as a result, inadvertently coax Yaakov to move the entire mishpocho over to Mitzrayim just as the RBSO had planned it. Case closed! Yoisef too was but a pawn and the means by which the RBSO’s prediction to Avrohom Ovenu that his progeny would one day be strangers in a land that does not belong to them, come true.
Shoin, let’s look in on Yehudah and his one day stand with Tamar. And taka stand he did, if you chap. So happens that Yaakov will -in Parshas Vayichi- from his deathbed mamish, bless Yehudah after lashing out and efsher cursing his three older brothers. Is this the same Yehudah that had a sexual encounter with a person he thought to be a zoina (harlot) and then, efsher embarrassed by the event, initially condemned her to death? What right did he have to order her death? What crime did she commit? Was prostitution illegal back then? Not! Were her services so sub-par that she deserved to be killed? Again, so many medroshim struggle over his behavior and proffer so many different answers while attempting to rationalize his behavior. Let’s chazir what the heylige Toirah tells us. Yehudah saw a girl roadside and asked her to sleep with him. They negotiated a price which happened to be a goat. Grada he was goat-less that day and left her with some collateral. They did the myseh, he chapped. He acted prudently and sent his best friend Chira to find and pay her but she could not be found roadside. Seemingly she was already pregnant and visiting her obstetrician. Ober why condemn her to death?
Tamar committed no crime by having sex with her former father-in-law. Let’s recall that two of Yehudah’s son’s died prematurely when they too acted by withdrawing prematurely, if you chap, and that it was Yehudah who that told Tamar to wait for his third son to grow up before he would allow Tamar to marry him. It was Yehudah that broke his promise and it was Yehudah that was lonely -so lonely that he was determined to have a roadside encounter though the harlots face was covered. Shoin, again we are left scratching our heads. And Yehudah was blessed and rewarded with kingship and more?
Ober before we lay all the blame on Yehudah, efsher we can kler that he was mamish entrapped by a woman determined to have relations with him, goat or no goat. Our sages will teach us that Tamar was driven by a noble dream or vision. Seemingly she knew prophetically that the Davidic dynasty, and one day soon the Moshiach himself, were to be descended from her. Why her, ver veyst? Or, maybe she knew that this dynasty was destined to come from someone in the Yehudah household. Ober with his two first sons already dead and childless -the RBSO did not like them- and with Yehudah’s refusal to allow Tamar to marry Sheilah, his third son, Tamar sprang into action. Did she ever. Moreover, were she just hanging out roadside for pleasure or even money, would she not have used some form of protection? Again, the bottom line: The RBSO decreed that from Yehudah’s loins, royalty and kingship would one day descend. But when Yehudah wouldn’t allow Tamar access to his third son, the RBSO seemingly shared His vision with Tamar who knew how to properly interpret the RBSO’s wishes. Shoin, he’s innocent!
And as to Mrs. Potifar, she the seemingly adulteress wife of Mr. Potifar…well…guess what? Maybe she too was innocent. Our sages will teach us that she too had a vision. Maybe a dream or fantasy, ver veyst, but certainly a vision. We will be taught that she too somehow prophetically learned that she was somehow destined to have a share in the ancestry of the Yiddin. She foresaw that children that she and Yoisef would sire, would be involved in the leadership of the Jewish People. Ober how would she, while married to Mr. Potifar, achieve this goal? Shoin, the RBSO arranged things so that Yoisef was eventually sold to Mr. Potifar as his slave. She too sprang into action and tried seducing him. Ober her dreams and visions were off by a generation. Again our sages will teach us that Osnas, Yoisef’s wife whom we will meet next week, was none other than the daughter of Mrs. Potifar. Some will argue and teach us that it was Dina, his own step-sister ober that for another time. As an aside, still others will tell us that Osnas was the adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Potifar claiming that Dina, following the shame of her rape by Shechem that chazir minuvil, was kicked out of the Yaakov Ovenu mishpocho, ran off to Mitzrayim, and wound up in the Potifar household. Was she the first foster child? Could that have happened? Why not? Shoin, whoever she was, Mrs. Potifar’s vision and dream of being somehow involved in the ancestry of the Yiddin, was off by a generation. Seemingly Yoisef’s vision was better; besides, Osnas was much younger, better looking and mistama in better shape. Shoin, she too is innocent.
And our hero Yoisef, he too had dreams and visions, two of them. And because he had two dreams, his vision was even clearer. Our rabbis will teach us that when dreams are repeated, they are clearer and might indeed be a prophetic vision. He chapped that his dreams which had similar messages, must be a prophetic vision of things to come. He was right.
So happens that Yoisef was not the first dreamer. If we turn back two parshas, we will find that Yaakov also had two dreams. One when he left his father’s home and the other, when the RBSO told him to leave Lovon and return home. Yaakov shared his dreams with his wives and they bought in. We will also find that the RBSO came to Lovon in a dream and warned him not to harm Yaakov. He listened. And if we turn back some more, we will find that the RBSO also came to Avimelech -he the King that took Soro and wanted her to share his magic scepter, if you chap- in a dream and warned him not to lay a hand on her. He got the message. The bottom line: Dreams seem to be a good medium. And says the heylige Gemora (Brochis 55a) azoy: “Nothing happens to a man, good or evil, before he has beheld some intimation of it in a dream.” The RBSO will use them again even when He wants to communicate with villains. Think Bilam. It’s good to dream and to have visions. Some dreams can be messy, if you chap, and it’s safe to assume that those are but fantasies and zicher not prophetic. Avada, not always is the RBSO sending you a message, ober, with some good luck and hard work, maybe your dreams too can come true.
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv