Friday, December 13, 2013

Random Musing Before Shabbat-Yay’khi 5774- The Puppet’s Unwritten Lament

Hypocrisy abounds.  Here is Joseph, the man responsible for taking away all the land of the Egyptian people and making it Pharaoh’s property (for their own good, of course…) then proclaiming on his death bed that G”d will surely take notice of the Israelites an return them to the land G”d promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on oath by G”d. It seems collateral damage is inconsequential. All that matters is G”d’s covenant with the patriarchs. Joseph thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers. A severe famine that forces Joseph’s brothers to seek food from Egypt. A reunion of Joseph with his brothers (but not before a little gamesmanship.)

As I have mentioned before, why was the whole land acquisition by Pharaoh necessary? Joseph, Pharaoh, indeed, all of Egypt knew there would be 7 years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Proper planning could have easily insured that the people of Egypt could have been fed without having to divest themselves of all their property and giving up their land to Pharaoh. Something just stinks here.

וְעַתָּה אַל־תִּירָאוּ אָֽנֹכִי אֲכַלְכֵּל אֶתְכֶם וְאֶֽת־טַפְּכֶם

“V’atah, al-tira’u, anokhi akhalkeil etkhen v’et tapkhem.”
”And so, fear not. I will sustain you and your children.” (Gen. 50:21)

What chutzpah, Joseph. You speak not of G”d sustaining your brothers and their families. You speak of yourself as their sustainer! Did you know then, that the situation was destined to deteriorate for your family, that G”d had other plans, ones they might not have been so thrilled to know? Or were even you caught off guard by what eventually happened?

וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל־אֶחָיו אָֽנֹכִי מֵת וֵֽאלֹהִים פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם וְהֶֽעֱלָה אֶתְכֶם מִן־הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּֽלְיַֽעֲקֹֽב:

Vayomer Yoseif el-akhikha, anokhi met v’Elohim pakod yifkod etkhem v’he’e’lah etkhem min-ha’aretz hazot el-ha’aretz asher nishba l’Avraham l’Yitzkhak ul’Ya’akov.
And so Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. G”d will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land to the land that G”d promised on aoth to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Gen. 50:24)

No more dreams Josesh? No hint of the future? Just a vague “surely G”d will take notice…” Do you know more than you are telling us? When you spoke  and said that all that had transpired had been intended for good, for the survival of many people, did you neglect to also mention you foresaw it would also mean not only the enslavement of Pharaoh’s people, but your own as well?

Why, Joseph, did you not ask for your bones to be immediately taken back to your homeland for burial upon your death?  You were able to make it happen for you father, why not yourself? Did you know something you weren’t telling? Your choosing to be buried in Egypt in a coffin might be a subtle comment on how assimilated you had become, but if that is so, why all this foreshadowing, and insistence that your bones be brought back home if and when G”d has taken notice of your descendants?

If we can trust the biblical chronology, your death came 54 years after the death of your father Jacob. The biblical text is curiously silent on what happened during that half century. We could infer from your “G”d will take notice of you” that things were not as rosy as they were a half century before, but this is merely inference, and largely influenced by the fact that we know what’s coming up in the next book of the Torah.

G”d’s puppet until the end, eh? Is that the role that G”d had decreed for you, Joseph? Are you certain you fully understood what G”d was asking and expecting of you? Did G”d share G”d’s plans with you and tell you not to share them with anyone? Or maybe you just assumed G”d didn’t want you to tell anyone? You only wanted to be the bearer of good news, eh?

I will cut you one piece of slack, Joseph. You didn’t try to add yourself to the list of the patriarchs. You could have, though we all know that G”d did not make such a promise to you. Who would have doubted you if you had said G”d made the same promise to you? Maybe you were truly G”d-fearing and unwilling to risk such a brash and outright dissembling.  Your invocation of the patriarchal triad is the first occurrence in the Torah, and it became a standard used in the rest of the book, and throughout the liturgy of the religion that continues to this day. With but one slight change, you could have altered thousands of years of prayer (or perhaps you did, and some later redactor, seeing how it would further diminish your already questionable character, left it out?)

You had plenty of time to write your memoirs, Joseph. I think there are many who would love to read them. Perhaps, in your old age, you gained Solomonic wisdom and the guilt-laden artistry of David? You seemed so convinced that your whole life was part of some Divine plan. Was it all you hoped it would be? What lessons did you learn? What would you have done differently, if you could? (Might you have considered, perhaps, not suggesting to Pharaoh that you make all of his people serfs? Or did you already know the plan was for your own people to become slaves themselves, and turning the Egyptians into serfs was merely part of that process?)

Yeah, you rated a Stephen Schwartz musical (though like your own k’tonet passim, it, too, is a hodgepodge, a quilt of musical styles.) You are a major biblical figure, even if you’re not one of the patriarchs. Not bad, all in all. Nevertheless, are you being remembered as you wished to be remembered?

Someday, perhaps, someone (other than Stephen Schwartz) will give voice to your puppet lament. I’m not that enamored of you to take on that task myself, though I admit I do find the idea intriguing. Luckily, I’ve got no strings on me. I think.

Shabbat Shalom,

©2013 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other musings on this parasha:

Vayekhi 5773 - The Wrong Good (Redux and Updated 5762)
Vayekhi 5772 - A Different HaMalakh HaGoel
Vayekhi 5771-Trading Places (Redux & Updated from 5759)
Vayekhi 5770 - Musing Block?
Vayekhi 5769 - Enough With the Hereditary Payback Already!
Vayekhi 5767-HaMalakh HaGoel
Vayechi 5766-Thresholds (Redux 5764 with Reflections
Vayechi 5761/5-Unethical Wills
Vayechi 5764-Thresholds
Vayechi 5763 - I Got it Good and That Ain't Bad (Redux 5760)
Vayechi 5759-Trading Places
Vayechi 5762-The Wrong Good

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