Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

White Lies

In Genesis on January 8, 2012 at 2:07 am

I’m at a wedding
And the groom asks me
Isn’t my bride beautiful?

How do I respond?
Should I tell the truth?
Am I stupid or something?

Genesis 47.28-50.26
1 Kings 2.1-2.12

Parsha Vayechi

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said: ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us, and will fully requite us all the evil which we did unto him.’

And they sent a message unto Joseph, saying: ‘Thy father did command before he died, saying:

So shall ye say unto Joseph: Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren, and their sin, for that they did unto thee evil. And now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.

Genesis 50.15-17

How do you respond to this?  If you’re anything like me, you might say “Jacob didn’t say that!  His brothers are liars!”  But then you might say “wait a minute.  The Torah doesn’t say Jacob said this…but the Torah doesn’t say Jacob didn’t say it either.”  So, what should we make of this?

When I was growing up my parents would put on the radio show broadcast by the local Orthodox rabbi.  He had this to say one day.

What do you do when you know a couple who is having…trouble?  You go up to the wife and say “You know, your husband is a truly hard worker.  It’s clear he does this for you.”  You go up to the husband and say “You know, your wife is a beautiful woman.  She keeps a wonderful household, and is raising wonderful children with you.”  Why?  To promote peace.

Here’s a passage from Talmud.

Our Rabbis taught: How does one dance before the bride? Beth Shammai say: The Bride as she is.  And Beth Hillel say: ‘Beautiful and graceful bride!’  Beth Shammai said to Beth Hillel:  If she is lame or blind, does on say to her ‘Beautiful and graceful bride’?  Whereas the Torah said, ‘Keep thee far from a false matter.’  Said Beth Hillel to Beth Shammai:  According to your words, if one has made a bad purchase in the market, should one praise it in his eyes or depreciate it?  Surely, one should praise it in his eyes.

Kethuboth 16b-17a

What is the Torah ideal here?  Torah is Truth, so it follows that we should pursue truth in all things.  Keep thee far from a false matter.  Truth is Peace, so it follows that we should pursue peace in all things.  Surely, one should praise it in his eyes.  What happens when Truth and Peace seem to be at odds?  Which is the greater imperative?  Truth or Peace?

Our passage from Talmud is often abbreviated to read “because in the eyes of the groom she is beautiful.”  Do you see this in the passage above?

Peace is the ultimate Torah ideal, as it is said it’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.  Also, mine house can be a house of prayer for all peoples.  How do we get to this point if all we do is insult each other just because its is “true”?

Joshua ben Perahyah says:  Provide thyself with a teacher, get thee a comrade, and judge everyone with the scale weighted in his favor.

Aboth 1.6

So, is the fact that the Torah doesn’t say “Jacob said such and such” relevant or irrelevant?

The true questions are, it seems to me:  When do lies cease to be white?  When does judging favorably become being taken advantage of?  How do we tell the difference?

Further reading:

The White Lie by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The Torah In Haiku: Va-Y’chi


Action in the Morning

In Genesis on January 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I beg with rice bowl /
Watch coin drop into it /
to feed hungry youth

1 Kings 2.1-2.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

Parsha Vayechi

What does the blessing of Benjamin mean?

Benjamin is a wolf that raveneth; in the morning he devoureth the prey, and at even he divideth the spoil.
(Genesis 49.27)

Wolves are nocturnal creatures, and the Alpha Wolf eats first. Why does Benjamin devour the prey in the morning rather than evening, and who is he to eat first?

Shouldn’t the wolf have eaten in the even? It is said “and there was evening and there was morning.” Why would the wolf eat in the morning? Perhaps the hunt lasted all night, and it was appropriate to eat in the morning? It is said that wolves avoid the light of day. Perhaps he felled the prey at the nashef, the break of day, just as the darkness begins to give way.

Before this it says he raveneth. He’s hungry. He must eat. Perhaps he eats in the morning because it is necessary. Why? He’s the youngest son of Israel. His father dotes on an elder brothers’ grandchildren. He’ll be the last to feed in this pack. He must feed himself.

Benjamin does what must be done. He decides on his course of action, and executes it without hesitation. He doesn’t act until he knows what he must do. This is the meaning of the space between raveneth and in the morning he devours the prey. He takes his time to decide. How else would he know what to do? Do spot, rash decisions give insight and wisdom?

Benjamin eats first. Is this selfish behavior? No, he divideth the spoil at even. Amongst who? Benjamin takes care of himself and his compatriots in need. This is something else he’s thought on and decided he must do. This is the meaning of the space between prey and at the even he divideth the spoil.

Barzillai the Gileadite distributes beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse, and honey, and curd, and sheep, and cheese of kine to David because The people is hungry, and faint, and thirsty, in the wilderness. (2 Samuel 17.28-29) How would he have had these things to give if he had not provided for himself first? David does the same for Barzillai, instructing his son Solomon to welcome him to his table. How could David do this if he had not provided for himself first?

The Alpha Wolf isn’t elected. The Alpha Wolf dares to lead.

Patience is a Scale

In Genesis on January 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Look up at the trees /
You planted them as a youth /
Now they’ve all grown up

Parsha Vayechi

1 Kings 2.1-2.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

What does the blessing of Gad mean?

Gad, a troop shall troop upon him; but he shall troop upon their heel.
(Genesis 49.1)

The face value of the blessing seems to promise Gad’s vengeance on some future enemy army. The text doesn’t give any details, however.

King David tells his dying wishes to King Solomon.

Thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did unto me…Do therefore according to thy wisdom.
(1 Kings 2.5-6)

Show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table.
(1 Kings 2.7)

There is with thee Shimei the son of Gera…who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim…Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man.
(1 Kings 2.8-9)

How does this relate to our parsha? First, the question: how many men make up a troop? One thousand? One hundred? The answer depends on where you are and when you are. Is there such a thing as a troop of one? Where can we find support for this? It is said, He delivered me from mine enemy most strong, and from them that hated me, for they were too mighty for me. (Ps. 18.18) Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. (1 Samuel 17.32) It is also said, “I am the last of my troop.”

David never saw what actions his son took on his behalf. He waited until after death to execute these debts. They trooped upon him in life. Did he troop upon their heel in death? Imagine: you’re dead and buried, but God grants you sight through the walls of your casket. You’re visited by people you loved, and maybe some people you did not love. You’re lowered into the ground, and they walk away. Do you see their heads, or their heels?

The time has come to execute your last will and testament. Your loved ones come to the executor’s office to hear what it has to say. The proceedings conclude. Your loved ones leave.

Is it necessary to wait until after death to take necessary action? If it is the right time to act, then yes. Would Gad troop on his adversary’s heel before he were ready? Could he have? When is the right time to act? Patience answers this question for you.

Patience is a gift and a mitzvah. Adversity troops on us. Contentment troops after it, happy to see the back of it. This is an expression of balance. On this scale, our behaviors are weights and time is the pivot. Impulsive reactions, like Reuben’s, or Simeon and Levy’s, is transgression, tipping the balance to adversity. Judged responses reward contentment. This is the meaning of the space between a troop shall troop upon him and but he shall troop upon their heel.

This does not mean that we should accept attacks on our persons without responding, or that this principle is limited to weathering negative periods in our lives. All debts must be repaid.

Is this another meaning of the phrase and he lived?

Water Willed (5772 Vayechi)

In Genesis on January 4, 2012 at 8:00 am

I drink from a brook
Water runs through my fingers
Life flowing away

1 Kings 2.1-2.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

What means the blessing of Reuben?

Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the first-fruits of my strength; the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power. Unstable as water, have not thou the excellency; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it–he went up to my couch.
(Genesis 49.3-4)

And it came to pass, while Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.
(Genesis 35.22)

Is water a blessing? Water is the source of all life and the great equalizer: we’re all made of water. Regardless of race, sex or creed, we’re all water.

Is water a curse? Clean water is precious. Men fight wars to control it. Water is wealth. Water is power.

Here’s an interesting thought: we’re all water, and men fight wars to control water. Is this significant?

What does all this have to do with us?

If we read ahead in 1 Kings, we see King Solomon’s response to his brother Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag the Shunamite, King David’s last woman. Adonijah requests this through Bath-sheba, Solomon’s mother, stating that the kingdom should be his, but he’d accept Abishag as a booby prize. This represented a renewed threat to King Solomon, in fact. King Solomon could have passively acquiesced. A reaction. Instead, he executed Adonijah. A response.

Water’s power is that it does what it wants, when it wants, untroubled by externals. Water’s response to all stimuli is to flow. Water doesn’t choose its direction but reacts to its surroundings on impulse. What does this teach us?

Is go with the flow always a good thing?
If you’re sitting under a falling tree should you stay there?
If your friends drink the kool aid, should you?
If your company beckons you, should you betray your wife?
If your stepmother invites you to bed, should you go?

If tsunamis destroy villages, do they destroy families?

Youth before Age (5772 Vayechi)

In Genesis on January 3, 2012 at 7:50 am

Younger grandchildren
Laugh and play. Older grandchildren
Read, Recite, Study.

1 Kings 2.1-2.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

Why does Israel bless place his younger son before the older?

So he blessed them that day, saving, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings, saying: God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. (Genesis 48.20)

Can we say Israel has put youth before age? This goes against conventional habit. Why has he done this?

What is youth? Curiosity? Creativity? Adventure? Fun? Mischief? Play? Impulsiveness? Immaturity? Risk? Imagination? What else is youth for you?

What is age? Patience? Stability? Honor? Responsibility? Work? Temperance? Maturity? Family? Success? Focus? Respect? What else is age for you?

Is it conventional wisdom that we are young before we get old. What happens when you have age without youth, or youth without age?

What about: we should bless our children in youth so that they’ll welcome blessing in old age? We should bless them in youth to make them used to feeling blessed?

Perhaps, as Solomon was raised to make himself a king at a young age, we should raise our children to make themselves leaders at a young age. What is an old enough age? I prefer: What is a young enough age? Does the parsha say: everyone starts somewhere. When should we start, ourselves?

So, is blessing by the younger son before the elder son more appropriate?

Does the parsha teach: younger children are closer to creation?

A Nation of Houses (5772 Vayechi)

In Genesis on January 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I bless my children,
then visit our neighbors,
and bless their children.

1 Kings 2.1 – 2.12
Genesis 47.28 – 50.26

What is the meaning of Jacob’s blessing for Ephraim and Manasseh?

And he blessed Joseph, saying,
The God in whose ways my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day —
The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm —
Bless the lads.
In them may my name be recalled,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they be teeming multitudes upon the earth.

(Genesis 48.15-16)

Why does the Torah teach that Israel blessed Joseph, saying “bless the lads”? Ramban explains that the blessing extends to all children of Joseph after Ephraim and Manasseh, who would be absorbed into their tribes. How can this be?

Joseph isn’t referred to as a tribe, traditionally, because the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were his. Therefore, Joseph was not one but two tribes. This is an essential part of his double blessing, and what makes Joseph different. How does this change things? Joseph is a house, composed of tribes, like Israel. We’ve seen that Joseph’s brothers are tribes only, seeing no further than themselves and their father. Could they be saying to themselves individually, “I am the true tribe of Israel”? Israel affirms his own sons’ union in Israel by acknowledging Joseph’s sons in Joseph AND Israel: many families are one family. Israel says of them in them may my name be recalled. Israel in microcosm.

Is Solomon’s appointment as King of Israel simple selection or a blessing? Is Solomon’s being but a little child (1 Kings 3.7) a trait ideal for leadership? Where is true blessing found, in traits or titles?

Consider this: today we bless our children in the names of Ephraim and Manasseh. Does this constitute a blessing of ourselves? Do our children bless us in the name of Joseph? When our parents bless our children, their grandchildren, do they bless us as well?

Shouldn’t we make ourselves for blessing by all children? Why stop at our own?

What Is Merit? (5772 Vayechi)

In Genesis on January 2, 2012 at 12:30 am

May God be with Us,
Our Children, and Their Children,
And All They Know.

1 Kings 2:1.12
Genesis 47.28-50.26

And now thy two sons, who were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. (Genesis 48.5)

Why does the Torah induct Ephraim and Manasseh into the company of Jacob’s children with such pomp and circumstance? Why does Solomon become King of Israel although he is not first in line to the throne? Adonijah has the better claim.

Or does he? Later, Israel blesses his sons, each according to their blessings. We could also say each according to their merits. Adonijah’s character was not ideal for leadership, so Solomon was made king by David.

Is this to say Solomon was made king by David’s merit alone?

And Solomon said: ‘Thou hast shown unto Thy servant David my father great kindness, according as he walked before Thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with Thee; and Thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in.’. (1 Kings 3.6-7)

Note the phrase Thou has made Thy servant king instead of David my father. Whatever the merits of our forebears, it is our own merits that qualify us to rule instead of our parents. Merit is a matter of personal character. This has incredible implications for any prophecy concerning the Davidic line: any descendants of David must meet the standards of leadership on their own. What does this mean for a child of David who doesn’t meet the standard? What does this mean for someone else’s child who does? David was a great king in his own time. Would he have made a great king in Solomon’s time?

What are Ephraim and Manasseh’s merits? The phrase used is Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, shall be mine. We’ve known Reuben as a conniving, weak willed, impulsive coward, and Simeon has severe anger management problems and a sadism fetish. They are the first of Israel’s sons. Why count Ephraim and Manasseh among them?

Ephraim and Manasseh as children are equally worthy of the honor accorded Reuben and Simeon. Joseph’s sons are innocents. They are also Israelites, though born in Egypt, and raised by their father after his father’s tradition. It is also Jacob’s wish. I do this because…Rachel died, to my sorrow, while I was journeying. (Genesis 48.7).

Jacob also says I never expected to see you again, and here God has let me see your children as well. (Genesis 48.11). The text says see, and not know. Jacob doesn’t know what to expect from these children. This is the lot of all ancestors. What does this teach us? To give people the benefit of the doubt.

Israel decides to bless young Ephraim and Manasseh, and tells Joseph so. Then he says Who are these? (Genesis 48.8) How can Jacob not know the very sons he plans to bless?

Do we all know merit when we see it?

Is merit knowable?

A Nation Of Peoples (5772 Vayigash)

In Genesis on January 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I don’t pick and choose
What veggies are on my plate.
They’re all good for me.

Ezekiel 37.15-28
Genesis 44.18-47.27

The prophet Exekiel prophecies the unification of the Israelites. If this is so, why is emphasis placed on the language of many and not one? Ezekiel says…

Of Judah and the Israelites associated with him
Of Joseph — the stick of Ephraim — and all the House of Israel associated with him. (37.16)

Thus said the Lord GOD: I am going to take the stick of Joseph — which is in the hand of Ephraim — and of the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will place the stick of Judah upon it and make them into one stick; they shall be joined in My hand. (37.19)

The prophet takes special care to even celebrate the diversity of the people in anticipation of this unification. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (37.23) Why does Ezekiel do this?

Ezekiel recognizes the sanctity of the individual. His is possibly one of the most individualistic ministries of the prophets, marked by odd statements and visions and, legend says, seizuring in public. Ezekiel’s relationship with us is an apt allegory for our own relationships with others: how often do other’s behaviors make no sense to you? How often do our own behaviors make no sense to other people? Ezekiel doesn’t discuss the unification of the people at the hip as an utterly collective body, homogenized by some epic religious spiritual lobotomy. He advocates the unification of the people in peace, and in celebration of our differences towards common purposes.

Isn’t marriage an exercise in this idea? How about procreation?

Ezekiel’s question for the parsha is this. Does the people include the people of Egypt?

Life Is But A Dream? (Miketz 5772)

In Genesis on December 30, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Woke up from my dream
Went downstairs for coffee then
Woke up from my dream

1 Kings 3.15 – 4.1
Genesis 41.1 – 44.17

Miketz is translated “the end.” The end of what? Shouldn’t this parsha be the last in Genesis?

Our parsha states And it came to pass at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed (Gen. 41.1). Then we read about the seven good and bad kine, and the seven good and bad ears, and Pharaoh sending (vayishlach) and calling (vayikra) for Joseph (shem) at the end (miketz). Joseph explains that Egypt would see seven years of extreme plenty followed by seven years of extreme want.

Let us ask: what is ending? Is ending also beginning? Two years end, and seven years begin. Seven years end, and another seven years begin. What comes after the next seven years?

What else ends? Genesis is the beginning, starting with in the beginning (Gen. 1.1). But is Genesis really the beginning? Could Genesis also be an ending? And ending of what? The logical answer to me is “whatever came before Genesis.” And what came before that? I believe we can go back like this, recursively, forever.

What does this teach? The nature of the teachings are timeless. Where can we find support for this?

Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel. (Deut. 31.19)

Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother;
For they shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
(Proverbs 1.8-9)

He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore will he lift up the head. (Ps. 110.7)

Maimonides cites Deuteronomy 31:19 as the source for the commandment to write our own Torah scrolls. The Rambam further writes that “since the lack of one Torah letter causes a Torah Scroll to be invalid, the commandment can be fulfilled by writing a single letter of a completed scroll.” (Hilchot Sefer Torah 7.1*) Whether you write an entire Torah scroll by yourself, or write one letter of one, or cooperate with others to write a complete Sefer Torah (Rav Moshe Feinstein*), if you do nothing else, you expose yourself to the teachings and their meaning in whatever age you live in.

It is important to understand that “timeless” and “unchanging” are two different things. I cite our passage from Proverbs to support this. Do parents always agree on what and how to teach their children? Of course not. Did our parents see things exactly the same way as their parents? Of course not. We can go back like this, recursively, forever. Evidence of this? Torah means Truth, yet we have thousands of years of discussion (arguement!) over what this Truth actually Is. See any Commentator’s Bible by Michael Carasik or any Gemara from the Talmud to establish this. Learn: Talmud is a compilation of teachings that came before.

By the same token, we will not see things the same way as our parents, and our children will not see things the same way as us. What we receive from our parents, which we receive verbatim or work out for ourselves, is a chaplet of grace. What sets us in our ways, because he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper (Ps. 1.3) can also be chains about thy neck (Proverbs 1.9), when you don’t see eye to eye with your children.

Let’s dive further. Are fathers consistently more right than mothers? Of course not. Is everyone right all the time? Of course not. Yet we are told to listen to both consistently: the text does not say some. Why not? Again, we quote Maimonides, from his commentary on Pirkei Avot.

[There are times] when a person is not really qualified to be your teacher; nevertheless let them teach you, make it possible for him to teach you. If you do this you will acquire wisdom – for there is no comparison between studying by oneself and studying with another person. When one studies with another person, he remembers better what he has learned, the material is more clearly understood by him, even when his companion is no more than his equal in wisdom, or even when his companion is inferior to him.**

A plain application of this statement to our discussion is that both parents are teachers. Another is that both parents are not always present to teach a child, so heed whichever is present. Another interpretation is to be open to knowledge wherever it may find you, whether it is right or wrong, and regardless of the qualifications of the source. Here’s an example from my personal life: I performed a task at work today that my supervisor had asked me to do recently. When I was nearly done my supervisor asked me why I performed the work. I reminded this person that the task had been given me and never rescinded, to which this person responded that the task had been forgotten altogether but, had it been remembered, would have been rescinded. I’d actually been glad to do the work because it led to deeper knowledge of the business, and I told this person so. What does this achieve? Valuable education, a positive interaction with a supervisor, and a reputation for an attitude of success and growth. All this has been reaped from a person’s mistake.

How does this relate to our parents? Have you ever heard the phrase, “learn from our mistakes?” Or “learn from our failings?”

Lastly, David the Psalmist teaches: throughout the ages, Wisdom always flows for us to drink and see Truth, whatever that Truth may be. What we drink is for us only.

If the teachings are timeless, is time timeless? No. Time is the nature of time. Does this mean that time is without beginning and without end? We don’t know. Is it any of our business? The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29.29)

Can we infer: Our parsha states And it came to pass at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed (Gen. 41.1). What is ending? Two years. What is beginning? Seven years. Time flows as time flows, but we experience it through the phases of our lives. Endings and Beginnings. Two years, then seven years, then seven years, are separate experiences.

The parsha states, however, Pharoah dreamed. So, did seven years begin, or Pharoah’s dreams? Pharoah’s dreams are shown to reflect realities of plenty followed by hunger. So, are Pharoah’s dreams really dreams? Or reality?

What happened before Genesis? Was the darkness in Genesis 1.2 an ending or a beginning? An ending to what? The logical answer to me is “whatever came before Genesis.” Or, if you like, a dream. Where did God’s ideas for the world come from? Some legends say that the Torah was at this beginning with God. And where did the Torah come from?

What else is ending? The childhood of the Israelites, the stories of our Matriarchs and Patriarchs, and Genesis itself. The ending begins here! Israel descends to Egypt, and then Genesis sends (vayishlach) us to what’s calling (vayikra) us by name (shemot) at the end (miketz).

The parsha states, however, at the end of two years, Pharaoh dreamed. And Pharoah’s dreams are shown to reflect reality. So what came first, I wonder? Is Genesis the dream and Exodus the reality? Or is Genesis the reality and Exodus the dream?

Where does dreaming end and reality begin?

Where does talking stop and action start?


* From

** From The Living Talmud by Judah Goldin

*** Words are Worlds

Where dreams end and reality begins

Second Sons (5772 Vayeshev)

In Genesis on December 23, 2011 at 1:02 am

On Memorial Stones of Two Brothers, Olaus_Magnus, 1555

We recline at ease
Revel in our own splendor
Cheap towards fellow men

Amos 2:6 -3:8
Genesis 37:1 – 40:23




What is the meaning of Joseph’s childhood dreams? Does he foretell his primacy over his brothers? Does he foretell that he will rule over Israel? Does the dream of the wheat sheaves foretell his personal ascendancy over his brothers, or the ascendancy of Egypt over the other nations during the famine? Was the dream of the stars about him?

Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream: and, behold,
the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.


Did the stars in Joesph’s dream really bow down to Joseph? How can I ask this question? It seems to me that the prediction of the sheaves is fulfilled when Joseph’s brothers visit him in Egypt for food. Does the stars dream mean the same thing? Here is Jacob’s interpretation of the dream:

His father berated him.
Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow low to you to the ground?”
So his brothers were wrought up at him, and his father kept the matter in mind.


Is Jacob truly berating Joseph? Or patronizing him as parents often do children with childish fantasies? Jacob’s response comes immediately after Joseph shares his dream with him in the text, before Joseph could continue or interpret the dream himself. Is Jacob discouraging Joseph from pursuing grandiose behavior? Joseph is a passive voice for the remainder of the parsha, and much of his story as well.

Either way, Jacob kept the matter in mind or, in other translations, withheld judgement. Why withhold judgement if the matter is settled? Is a settled matter equivalent to a judged one? Further, how can Joesph’s mother bow to him when she is dead?

Who could the stars be bowing to? Judah? How can I ask this? Jacob assigns Judah the birthright, so it would be appropriate for Joseph’s star to bow to Judah. I ask my readers: why not? Further, Judah establishes himself as a role model. His is the judgement and the leadership that his brothers eventually follow, and Jacob too, when Joseph requests Benjamin come down to Egypt. So too in this, the family bows to Judah. I ask my readers: why not?

If we accept this as so, how could Joseph have put himself in Judah’s place?

What second son doesn’t dream dreams of lording it over their older brothers? What third or fourth or fifth, or even first, doesn’t? Who doesn’t dream of having power over others at some point in their lives?

Amos rebukes Israel, saying

They recline on every altar
On garments taken in pledge.


There was once a man who was renowned for being stingy. One day, he decided he didn’t want to be called stingy anymore, so he asked a friend for advice. His friend said, “throw a banquet and invite everyone in our village. Prepare enough food to feed everyone twice over.” The man did as his friend said. At the banquet, the people promptly ate all of the food and complained of how stingy the man was. The man said to his friend, “you said if I did this thing, that I wouldn’t be called stingy anymore.” The friend replied, “it is because you did this thing simply to stop being called stingy, and did not do this thing to be truly generous.”

Of all the altars in the world we worship first and foremost at our own, and at that at the expense of neighbors and loved ones.