Monday, December 18, 2006

Dreamer Deceiver (Israel Syndrome Pt. II)

(Loosely continued from here .
Generally based on the Parshas Drochim and other
commentators, with some individual seasonings)

When in a state of anger, people tend not to pay attention to details. Which is a pity; had Yossef's brothers taken the pain to listen to his words, they probably would not have misinterpreted them. In the first dream he relates them, Yossef clearly states that all of them were in the field and that the wheat sheaves bowed down to his sheaf - which clearly eliminates the hypothesis of the sheaves impersonating the brothers themselves. In the second dream, however, the brothers are clearly portrayed by the stars. Another oddity is that the first posuk stresses that Bilhah and Zilpah were Yaakov's wives. Note also how the brothers hate Yossef immediately when they notice their father's favoring him, and add hatred when he tells them about his first dream. Strangely, envy is only mentioned after he relates the second dream to his father in their presence.

In a sinister turn of events, Yossef is brought to Egypt, where he eventually reaches a status of power, yet doesn’t inform his father of his whereabouts until far later. Yaakov, according to Rashi, was punished for being away from his father so long, even though he had to leave forcibly, his life threatened, which lichorah should exempt him by law of pikuach nefesh. But no such punishment is mentioned about Yossef. Perhaps Yaakov could have avoided his father the harsh enlightenment caused by deception. Maybe there was a way to draw Yitzchok’s attention to Eisov’s true character, or to reveal him the Bechorah deal. In this case, even if Red’s wrath couldn’t be restrained, Yaakov would have been a complete oinus, and spare Yitzchok a great deal of suffering. Nevertheless, when Yossef is freed from jail, one would expect him to immediately contact his father, instead of keeping silent. Isn’t Yossef accountable for his actions?

According to one well-known theory, the brothers believed that Yossef pretended to be Yaakov's sole heir and wanted them disinherited in the same way Yishmoel and Eisov were cast aside. This pshat is usually intertwined with the idea that there was a dispute between Yossef and his brothers pertaining to their status; Yossef claimed that they were B’nai Noach, whereas the brothers believed that they had a status of B’nai Yisroel. The practical implications of the machlokes would include Yossef’s allegations against his brothers (related in midrashim and commentators) that they ate eiver min ha-chai, called Bilhah and Zilpah’s sons “slaves”, etc.
In the three sets of two dreams recurring in the different episodes of this drama, each contains one vision evolving around wheat in different phases. Yossef’s first dream perhaps tries to convey that the brothers should agree to his opinion, rather than literally bow down to him – the sheaves alluding to an achievement, the result of one’s toils, an idea developed by one. The main subject of the dispute might pertain as to their being Ovos like the patriarchs to engender twelve separate nations, or that the Ovos era is sealed and that from now on they shall bond into a single, united people. Yossef seems to believe in the latter – hence his view that they are no longer permitted to keep the Laws like the Ovos did, before Matan Torah. This is the view to which he tried to bend his brothers’ minds, but got suspicion and hatred instead. They who believed that a higher level is their lot, interpreted a brother’s opposition as a trick to become the sole heir to Yaakov. Yossef’s second dream alludes to this; the brothers, represented by the celestial bodies, striving for equality with Yaakov and his wife (absent in the first dream) will be eventually forced to bow down to him, retaining his humble, human shape.

In this entire chronicle, the baker’s is the only dream which seems to have absolutely no relevance to the story and no effect on the outcome. Yossef might understand this as a message to him: the pastries in the basket – the final stage of wheat – may represent the outcome of his belief. The baker makes no attempt to chase the birds away and save his pastries from waste, may hint him not to try to fulfill his dream and to stay idle awhile. This might be Yossef’s prevention from communicating with his family immediately upon his release.
Left in the dark, both his dreams unfulfilled, it is hard to encompass Yossef’s feelings while in Egypt. Was he wrong indeed and became the ultimate loser in this struggle? Were they indeed meant to be the forefathers of separate nations, with only him left out? Or is there still hope for a final reunion, an eternal brotherhood and national bond? Not until Pharaoh relates Yossef his second dream does he see a ray of light for his kin and himself. – Wheat again, growing from the stalk – a new beginning, maybe the seeds of salvation.


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