Raboyseyee and Ladies,
Sex in the Workplace: Mrs. Potiphar and Mrs. Robinson
This week we will be studying the curious case of a nameless and shameless bad girl. The heylige Toirah does not tell us her age, her physical description, or her background. We know only that she was married, was Egyptian, and she was definitely bad to the bone, very shlecht. We’ll uncover her name and either confirm or deny her “bad girl” status as we examine her salacious behavior.
What’s better than two sex scandals as recorded in last week’s parsha of Vayishlach? Two more this week and welcome to Parshas Vayeshev and a very happy Shabbis Chanukah to all. Two scandals last week? Indeed so, and though our coverage was elsewhere -on Devoirah- let us quickly shout out the Reuvain/Bilha bed mounting/moving incident and the saga of Dina being taken (raped) by the chazir Shechem. And two more in Parshas Vayeshev? Indeed so. What could be better? It’s the heylige Toirah which tells it like it was, like it is, and like it will always be. Sex sells, shoin I said it, and this week we’re back with yet another profile on a very interesting secondary Toirah character who goes unnamed and so she will remain in her one appearance in next week’s. More on her soon.
According the great Achroin (latter day commentator), Wikipedia, still alive in our times, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (often colloquially known as Joseph), is a musical about the life and saga of Yoisef. By 2008, more than 20,000 schools and amateur theatre groups had staged productions of Joseph. Joseph was first presented as a 15-minute “pop cantata” in London in 1968. The musical was produced in the West End in 1973. In 1974, its full modern format was performed and was also recorded that year. The musical was mounted on Broadway in 1982.
The bottom line: the gantze velt (entire world) has been, and remains infatuated with the life and times of this amazing Toirah main character. Everyone loves Joseph. And if that weren’t enough, our Muslim cousins and the Christians write about him, and study him extensively ad hayhoim hazeh (until today). He remains a person of interest. Why? Because he’s our hero. He survived a murder plot, 12 years a salve, charges of sexual abuse, prison, and much more. He endured 13 years of hell before rising to the top.
One more bottom line: There is avada no question that Yoisef’s story has been performed thousands of more times than any other Toirah character, dare I say more than Moishe? More than the Ten Commandments? Indeed so; ober do you know why? Shoin, the heylige Oisvorfer is here to tell you things you mistama don’t know: this week’s parsha of Veyeshev is mamish alive. The plot lines are many, ober where to focus and on whom? The bottom-line as mentioned above is azoy: sex sells and sex trumps kidnapping, attempted murder, lies and coverups which are all featured in the parsha. Let’s leave those to the politicians while we focus on Yoisef’s story which involves unwanted sexual advances, accusations of rape, and sexual abuse mamish, jail, instant psychic dream analysis and so much more. Is it a wonder it trumps the Ten Commandments in productions? Not! Welcome to yet another chapter of why the heylige Toirah is emes and how the medrish and heylige Gemora will plug a few holes mamish, and zicher more than Yoisef got to. It will further illuminate the gantze myseh with factoids, and theoretical versions of what they would like us to think might have gone down.
It was the Ois’s intention to cover male secondary characters this week and specifically the Saar Hamashkim and Saar Ho’oifem, (the chief butler and baker), ober how can two guys -no matter how much wine and cake was involved- compete with two women, a sex scandal, imprisonment and oh, so much more? They can’t! Shoin, the two ministers were unceremoniously dumped and we will instead review the story of how two women -at least one a shiksa mamish- came to change the course of history and specifically for the Yiddin. Two women? Though our person of interest this week is Mrs. Potiphar, we should never, and especially when this parsha rolls around, forget to shout out Tamar and the role she played while efsher also rolling in the hay, on her way to becoming the elter bubbeh (many times great grandmother) to Dovid Hamelech, Jewish royalty mamish. Well, blow me down.
Parshas Vayeshev, begins with the words, “And Yaakov settled…,” and then goes on to the story of Yoisef, continues with Reuvain and Yehudah, and concludes with Mr. Potiphar and the butlers. These are the primary male characters along with Yoisef’s holy brothers in this week’s electrifying drama. Raboyseyee, let’s get real: we won’t ever minimize each and every event recorded in the RBSO’s heylige Toirah, ober this week, the focus is on Mrs. Potiphar, efsher the first woman in history to claim sexual abuse when she herself was doing the abusing. We can easily make the case that Tamar and Mrs. Potiphar, seemingly secondary figures, are the true principle actors and protagonists of the week, and both are women. We read first of Tamar, who as Yehudah’s daughter-in-law -let’s label her Jewish and assume she converted (orthodox avada) to marry into the Yehudah family, though their wedding took place pre- Revelation. And let’s say hello to Potiphar’s wife, a stay at home, bored out of her mind, shiksa. These two women, it may be argued, determined the fate of the people of Israel for generations to come. Nu, unless you’re new to the Oisvorfer’s illuminating site, you know that we have -on more than one occasion- discussed the Yehudah/Tamar roadside encounter where he left behind more than his staff, if you chap, and this year -new for 2020- we will do the best we can to leave you with a few gems; don’t we always? Shoin, everyone recalls how Tamar confronted -read: entrapped and seduced- Yehudah and succeeded, albeit by deceit, in giving birth to twins by him. Her son Peretz became the ancestor of Dovid Hamelech (King David), from whom the Moshiach will come one day when the RBSO sends for him. When is that? Ver veyst? Says who? The Midrash and Rashi, that’s who. Want more on Tamar? Find interesting gems over at www.oisvorfer.com.
Potiphar’s wife, the second female figure, tried to seduce the righteous Yoisef, and having failed, overcame him by her power of dominion and had him thrown into prison. Shoin; as the saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Lesson learned; when sex is demanded by a shiksa, man must deliver. Farkert is seemingly not the rule; zicher not with most Jewish women. How many Jewish women demand sex? Shoin! Why is that? Ver veyst? The end of the story is well-known: Yoisef became the viceroy regent of Egypt, and his father and all the children of Israel came down to Mitzrayim, to the first exile of the then Hebrews.
As always, we will have questions, ober in staying with the theme, if you chap, let’s lay some background. Yoisef, also known as, Yoisef the Tzaddik, is a towering figure in the Heylige Toirah. He is the quintessential immigrant, who overcame the most daunting of challenges to become a superstar in ancient Egyptian society. Oh, and let’s not forget the role he played in coaxing his father Yaakov and the rest of the mishpocho into joining him in Mitzrayim, and the 210 years of slavery that would eventually follow. The bottom line: it was all seemingly part of the master plan and long before playwrights, producers, writers and intellectual property owners chapped the value of Yoisef’s story, the RBSO mamish laid it all out for us as colorfully as Yoisef’s multi-colored tunic, and if anyone was still left wanting, the heylige Gemora and medrish plugged a few holes. It’s what they do best. Shoin.
We jump into the story where Yoisef was unceremoniously sold into slavery by his holy brothers, the very ones selected by the RBSO to become the heads of their individual tribes. These guys made it to the top mamish. Nu, mistama they left the kidnapping and murder plot off their resumes. On the other hand, mistama that experience was also part of the master plan; ver veyst? The heylige Toirah goes out of its way -mamish at the beginning of the parsha- to tell us that Yoisef was handsome, talented, charming and a brilliant young man. Yoisef was “nice and of good appearance and figure.” Seemingly he looked just like his mother, the beautiful Rochel who is described (Bereishis 29:17) with the same words. Grada the heylige Toirah’s very detailed description of his physical attributes is most unusual for a male. Is any other male Toirah character so described? Not to the Ois’s knowledge though the heylige Gemora, Novee, and medrish certainly weighed in on a few. Ober if the heylige Toirah itself provided these factoids, avada the RBSO had good reason for their inclusion. His good looks were to play a role, perhaps the most significant one, in all that played out with his slave master’s wife, the seductress identified only as Mrs. Potiphar. As expected, later exegetes outed her. We’ll get to her name a bit later.
The bottom line: Mrs. Potiphar cast her eyes on Yoisef and his good looks, they struck her fancy. Did she care that he was Jewish and she a shiksa? Not! Did she care that he was also a slave? Also not! She was attracted to his good looks and physique; not much has changed over the generations. Seemingly she viewed him as her white mandingo. What the hec is a mandingo many of you might be klerring? Shoin, only those my age or from that tikufa will recall a 1975 movie by that name where white slaveowners would purchase black salves if they were deemed mandingos. Ober what is it? Shoin for that we turn to the urban dictionary -aptly named- which tells us azoy: a mandingo is An African-American man who has an enormous ding dong, if you chap, and is not afraid to show it. That’s an exact quote from the dictionary; don’t shoot the messenger. Shoin. The bottom line: Mrs. Potiphar cast her eyes on an innocent Yoisef and wanted him sexually. Why? Was she sexually deprived by her husband? Or, stam azoy attracted to forbidden fruit? Aren’t we all!? Avada the heylige Gemora explores all options including the possibility that Mr. Potiphar could not sexually satisfy her. And why not? Nu, the Gemora has an answer: according to one pshat, it’s because Mr. Potiphar was a eunuch. Shoin. Why was he a eunuch? That’s for later, time and or space permitting. The bottom line: she was attracted to Yoisef and wanted and demanded sex from him. In a shtikel departure from its -at least at times- laconic style, the heylige Toirah provides many details. Let’s read them and find out exactly what Mrs. Potiphar said and did in her attempts to bed Yoisef. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 39:7-13), azoy:
|7. Now it came to pass after these events that his master’s wife lifted up her eyes to Yoisef, and she said, “Lie with me.”||זוַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וַתִּשָּׂ֧א אֵֽשֶׁת־אֲדֹנָ֛יו אֶת־עֵינֶ֖יהָ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֑ף וַתֹּ֖אמֶר שִׁכְבָ֥ה עִמִּֽי:|
|8. But he refused, and he said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me my master knows nothing about anything in the house, and all he has he has given into my hand.||חוַיְמָאֵ֓ן | וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת אֲדֹנָ֔יו הֵ֣ן אֲדֹנִ֔י לֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע אִתִּ֖י מַה־בַּבָּ֑יִת וְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יֶשׁ־ל֖וֹ נָתַ֥ן בְּיָדִֽי:|
|9. In this house, there is no one greater than I, and he has not withheld anything from me except you, insofar as you are his wife. Now how can I commit this great evil, and sin against G-d?”||טאֵינֶ֨נּוּ גָד֜וֹל בַּבַּ֣יִת הַזֶּה֘ מִמֶּ֒נִּי֒ וְלֹֽא־חָשַׂ֤ךְ מִמֶּ֨נִּי֙ מְא֔וּמָה כִּ֥י אִם־אוֹתָ֖ךְ בַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר אַתְּ־אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וְאֵ֨יךְ אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֜ה הָֽרָעָ֤ה הַגְּדֹלָה֙ הַזֹּ֔את וְחָטָ֖אתִי לֵֽאלֹהִֽים:|
|10. Now it came about when she spoke to Yoisef day in and day out, that he did not obey her, to lie beside her [and] to be with her.||יוַיְהִ֕י כְּדַבְּרָ֥הּ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֖ף י֣וֹם | י֑וֹם וְלֹֽא־שָׁמַ֥ע אֵלֶ֛יהָ לִשְׁכַּ֥ב אֶצְלָ֖הּ לִֽהְי֥וֹת עִמָּֽהּ:|
|11. And it came about on a certain day, that he came to the house to do his work, and none of the people of the house were there in the house.||יאוַֽיְהִי֙ כְּהַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֥א הַבַּ֖יְתָה לַֽעֲשׂ֣וֹת מְלַאכְתּ֑וֹ וְאֵ֨ין אִ֜ישׁ מֵֽאַנְשֵׁ֥י הַבַּ֛יִת שָׁ֖ם בַּבָּֽיִת:|
|12. So she grabbed him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside.||יבוַתִּתְפְּשֵׂ֧הוּ בְּבִגְד֛וֹ לֵאמֹ֖ר שִׁכְבָ֣ה עִמִּ֑י וַיַּֽעֲזֹ֤ב בִּגְדוֹ֙ בְּיָדָ֔הּ וַיָּ֖נָס וַיֵּצֵ֥א הַחֽוּצָה:|
|13. Now it happened, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside,||יגוַֽיְהִי֙ כִּרְאוֹתָ֔הּ כִּֽי־עָזַ֥ב בִּגְד֖וֹ בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַיָּ֖נָס הַחֽוּצָה:|
Mrs. Potiphar may have been the first seductress, or maybe the second as we give the nod to Tamar, ober, zicher not the last. For those who grew up in the 60’s, you may recall a movie titled “The Graduate” where the mother (played by Anne Bancroft) beds her daughter’s boyfriend played by a very young Dustin Hoffman, a nice Jewish boy. And while the screenplay may have been original and its seven Oscar nominations did include original screenplay, the emes is that she but emulated the ways of Mrs. Potiphar. Shoin, let’s get back to the parsha, ober we should avada mention that songs from that movie made Simon and Garfunkel quite famous -ad hayoim hazeh.
As the mistress of the house of Potiphar, she was an imposing figure and she brazenly demanded that Yoisef lie in bed with her. Her goal was to seduce him. Was it the first ever case of workplace sexual harassment? Was Yoisef – a young man in his 20’s epes not attracted to her? Was he attracted to her? Did he find her beautiful or interesting? How long did they have a perfectly normal and friendly relationship—servant and mistress—before she chose to attempt a seduction? We are not told. Did he -in the end- refrain because so he was taught in yeshiva? Did his father who -according to some studied in the famous yeshiva of Shaim and Ever share his knowledge and laws of bedding the master’s wife? Was Reuvain’s sex-capade with one of Yaakov’s wives -his stepmother mamish- fresh on Yoisef’s mind when he rebuffed Mrs. Potiphar? Or, was there more to the story? Did Yoisef do all he could to let the seductress know that he was not interested in lying down next to her as she had demanded? Did he -as do many males in their 20’s- lead her on? Say it’s not so please, ober, Rabaynu Bachya insinuates that Yoisef could have done more to avoid this situation. He notes that Yoisef did pay excessive attention to his outward appearance. Shoin, is that why the heylige Toirah told us that he was exceedingly good looking?
And while in our times- her behavior might have garnered a few headlines such as “powerful political figure demands illicit relationship in exchange for job security,” and better ones in the New York Post, what we have in our parsha is mamish a classic case of role reversal. Avada we are used to men making such advances, after all, men are chazerim -it’s just how the RBSO programmed us- ober aggressive women? The bottom line, the case of Mrs. Potiphar is therefore dramatic and makes the story even more poignant.
The heylige Toirah describes how Yoisef continued to rebuff the seductive advances. He buried himself in his work and tried valiantly to avoid being alone with his master’s wife. Was she deterred? Did she take no for an answer? No to both questions. She, continued aggressively to harass him. Says the medrish (Medrish Rabbah 87:6 and Rashi 39:10), azoy: she asked him just to lie with her, without any sexual contact, or just be near her, so says the Ibn Ezra. She then urged him just to talk to her in private. She certainly did her hishtadlus (put in the effort), so says the medrish.
Let’s read what a few sages had to say to add color to this already juicy salacious storyline. Asks the Ramban, azoy: why did Yoisef not simply take back his clothing? He was stronger and could have easily overpowered his master’s wife. However, he didn’t. Answers the Ramban, azoy: this is because his master’s wife was a powerful person and out of a respect for her position, he felt inadequate to deal with her on this basis. He, therefore, chose just to exit the scene. Yoisef was powerless and had no apparent recourse. And says the heylige Gemora (Yoma 35b) that Yoisef had reason to fear Potiphar’s wife. She didn’t just try to sweet talk him. She used her power and position to threaten him with harm. She also lavished gifts of money on him. However, Yoisef refused, because his trust in the RBSO transcended his fear of what she might do to him. Nevertheless, he was not free just to leave; he had no choice but to carry on. And shoin, thousands of years before the #Me Too movement with a great focus on men harassing women in the workplace, perhaps the first ever case was punkt farkert (just the opposite).
Long time readers of the Ois’s posts – we are in year 11- avada know how medrish can -should they so decide- paint someone quite ugly. To wit, they hate Eisav, Loit and Yishmoel. Ober, they love their women. Loit’s daughters fornicated with their own father, ober did that bother the medrish? Not! No problem at all. Medrish tells us they had good intentions. They wanted to repopulate the world which they believed to be destroyed and used their own pop as a sperm donor. Shoin. Rochel gave Leah her signs and stood by as her husband to be, married and bedded her own sister? No problem: Rochel had good intentions, she did not want Leah to be embarrassed. Tamar dressed up as a hooker to ensnare her former FIL (shver) into roadside sex and Yehudah wanted to burn her at the stake? No problem either. Tamar avada knew that she needed to bed Yehudah in order for her progeny to include King David and Moshiach. And the list goes on. Ober, what about Mrs. Potiphar, the powerful slave master’s seductive wife? Did she also have good intentions when attempting to get Yoisef to bed her? Why not? Well, blow me down. In medrish, a few commentators see good motives in her actions. A story about Zuleikha is told in the medrish, Sefer HaYoshor, also known as the Toldos Odom (Adam) and Divrei haYamim heAruch, where she was mocked by other aristocratic Egyptian ladies, her circle of friends, for being infatuated with a Hebrew slave boy. Inviting her friends to her home, Zuleikha gave them all oranges and knives to slice them with. While they engaged in this task, Zuleikha had Yoisef walk through the room. Distracted by his handsomeness, all the ladies accidentally cut themselves with the knives, drawing blood. Zuleikha then reminded her friends that she had to see Yoisef every day. Following this incident, her contemporaries no longer mocked her.
Zuleikha? Who is she? Another seductress? Not! In fact, later sages tell us that Mrs. Potiphar’s’ real first name was Zuleikha. And they know this how? Ver veyst. What were her good intentions? Says Rashi azoy: the wife of Potiphar saw through astrology that she would have children through Yoisef. The astrological calculations however were slightly off. In next week’s parsha we will learn that Osnas, her daughter (by adoption, according to some, or maybe not), became the wife of Yoisef and therefore the wife of Potiphar begot grandchildren (not children) through Yoisef. In other words: Mrs. Potiphar was not a seductress. She too had clean hands and avada good intentions. I love medrish!
So, let’s chazir (review): why did the RBSO decide to put Yoisef’s life in danger several times before springing into action to save and then elevate him higher? Ver veyst? Why was the Moshiach’s elter buba dressed up as a hooker determined to bed her former FIL? Ver veyst? Why are brothers who plotted to kill one of their own, forever referred to by our sages as the Holy Shevotim, ver veyst? Why didn’t Yoisef get a message to his father once freed? Ver veyst? And the list goes on.
There are several bottom lines this week, here we go: ershtens (firstly), human nature and the challenges of the workplace have not changed much since Mrs. Potiphar laid eyes on Yoisef back in ancient Egypt. The heylige Toirah is as fresh and vital today as it was then. Next: the RBSO works in strange ways employing all sorts of characters -good and bad- to include prostitutes, villains and many others in His master plan. Once in a while, but seemingly not very often, He will employ regular good guys with stellar backgrounds. His cast is huge, His venues many, and His storylines exciting, intriguing, surprising and of course, all emes. Medrish helps plug holes, whitewashes those who seemingly did a few naughty things, and paints with an ugly brush those it does not take a shine to.
And more good news: it appears that in at least certain cases, people are judged (albeit in Heaven) not only for their deeds, but also for their intentions. Sometimes a person’s deeds may actually appear to be depraved (as in the above examples), but because of the person’s good intentions they are marked to the person’s credit, not discredit. Based on the medrish, Mrs. Potiphar, was not better or worse than any normal human being whose husband does not, or cannot satisfy her physical needs. Warning: do not try that excuse at home! More: harlotry can often be talked away; women in the business mistama have good intentions. What are they, ver veyst? The medrish mamish chapped human nature. We all have backgrounds, circumstances, unmet hungers, unanswered needs, unrequited passions.
And the final bottom line comes from the Da’as Zekenim, Mi’balei Toisfis, (39:1) who mamish so gishmak tells us azoy: Providence caused our sojourning in Mitzrayim and our exodus from there, with all that the exodus and theophany at Har Sinai signified, to be the result, albeit indirectly, of the actions of that shiksa woman, Mrs. Potiphar. For if Yoisef had not had this encounter with her, he might have remained a servant in Potiphar’s house all his days, and Jewish history would have looked quite different. She, however, plotting deceitfully, caused the story of the Yiddin to develop as it did.
A Gittin Shabbis Chanukah
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv