Varför Torahblogga?

Varför Torahblogga?

היום - Hayom (Dagens judiska datum):

fredag 19 december 2008

Förseningar, olyckor och lite Limmud


Det är det första inlägget på Torahblogga på 2 veckor, och det är jag verkligen ledsen för. Jag har startat flera inlägg de senaste 14 dagarna, men inte hunnit klart med något.

Sen planerade jag att ta igen förlorad tid på torsdag och fredag (idag), men då stukade min dotter sin arm (eller så kom den ur led eller något) så min fru och jag har tillbringat 13 av de senaste 24 timmarna på barnakuten med henne.

Baruch haShem (tack gode Gud) att det inte var en allvarligare skada - hon mådde bra lekte (med sin goda arm) och sprang runt, bara man inte tog på den dåliga armen.

Det innebär att jag får börja blogga om den mycket diskussionsvärda och mångbottnade Josefberättelsen nästa vecka.

För att ni ska ha NÅGOT att läsa så har ni här veckans utskick av A Taste of Limmud. Limmud, som ni kanske vet, är en gigantisk judisk konferens i England som hålls varje år i slutet av december. Den har gett upphov till flera mindre Limmuddagar runt om i världen, nu senast i Stockholm i november.

Här har jag skrivit mer om Limmudkonferensen i England som jag åker på nästa fredag - det är min tionde gång på Limmud, men jag är ändå spänd av förväntan!
Parashat Vayeshev – Paul Freedman

Paul studied Physics at Bristol, Education at Cambridge and 'Rabbi-ing' at Leo Baeck College. Married to Vanessa, father of Katie and Joshua, and Rabbi of Radlett Reform, he has missed one Limmud Conference in the last thirteen.

Starting with the portion of Vayeshev, the Joseph story dominates the last part of the Book of Genesis, in all making a quarter of its fifty chapters and four weeks’ worth of Torah readings. Yet, with such biblical prominence, Joseph still doesn’t get to join Dad, Grandpa Isaac and Great-Grandpa Abraham in the class of Patriarch. The Talmud (B’rachot 16b) explains that only three (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) are called ‘the patriarchs’ and only four (Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel) ‘the matriarchs’. The reason is not because we are descended from Joseph’s brothers too and would therefore have to include all of them. Indeed, such logic, the rabbis argue, would apply to Rachel and Leah (who are both included as matriarchs, though Bilhah and Zilpah, from whom we are also descended, are not). Rather, they say, it is simply a matter of their importance/esteem.

Fair enough. Perhaps Torah column inches are not a measure of status and Joseph’s real literary purpose will be to get us from the ‘proper’ patriarchs and matriarchs down to Egypt, to the Book of Exodus where the dramatic adventure of God and the Israelite people can really begin. The Joseph story is more elaborate and detailed than the preceding Patriarchs’ narratives, but it doesn’t actually get such a high ‘God count’.

God, of course, appears quite a lot in the Book of Genesis – around 350 occurrences of the tetragrammaton (God’s 4-letter name) or ‘Elohim’ (God) in some form – or even the two together. And yet only 10-15% of these occurrences are in Joseph’s story. More significantly still, in the Biblical text, the Patriarchs have one-to-one direct communication with God. Joseph, by contrast is a dreamer. God doesn’t communicate with him directly and even in his dreams, God never actually appears.

But that doesn’t mean that God is not there. In fact, though God may not appear to Joseph, there are still several references to God in connection with him in this week’s portion, always one step removed: God is “with Joseph”, behind his success and his rise in Potiphar’s household, the One before whom he cannot sin when Potiphar’s wife tempts him, the One who allows him to interpret dreams for others. God’s presence is not explicit; God’s presence is a way of understanding the world and the events of his life.

Joseph’s genius, his importance for me, is that in the end he recognises God even when God is not obvious or ‘necessary’. Towards the end of the story, when he is re-united with his brothers, he retrospectively introduces God into the narrative that we read this week. Having sold Joseph into slavery (rather than kill him!) his brothers are assured by Joseph “it was not you who sent me here but God.” As a story of a spoilt brat with jealous brothers, of favouritism, resentment, betrayal, deception, changing ‘fortunes’ and reconciliation, it works just as well without God behind it.

It is quite possible to live our lives without including God. If your God is not an explicit character who physically appears or speaks as God did for the Patriarchs in the Biblical narrative, then seeing God or God’s ‘fingerprints’ in our lives may be a choice that we make. Our religious adventure then is in developing our understanding of God and discerning what is required of us as we live with that understanding.

“No matter how hard we look,” writes Neil Gillman, “the God of Israel cannot be seen. Looking is not seeing, and seeing God is not like seeing an apple. What we look for and see are traces of God’s presence in the world and in history, but not God. For those traces to become identified as reflections of God’s presence requires a good deal of interpretation.” It is an interpretation that Joseph especially can teach us, and one that is worth the effort. Blessed be our God, the God of Abraham, of Sarah, of Isaac, of Rebecca, of Jacob, of Leah, of Rachel... and of Joseph.

Another Voice - Mariano Schlimovich

It is often difficult to determine, once Joseph's brothers throw him in the pit - which of the groups is "lower". Is it the person that is restrained and confined into the "dwell" or is it the person that ignores the rights and feelings of the other? Which one had the "lowest" and "deepest" feelings? And what about forgiveness? Is that the ultimate virtue that can raise us and take us "out of the dwell"?
Chaim Potok in his book "The Chosen" writes that one learns of the pain of others by suffering one's own pain, by turning inside oneself, by finding one's own soul. And it is important to know of pain. It destroys our self pride, our arrogance, our indifference towards others.

Joseph is crowned a tzadik because he ultimately forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery and compassionately helps his family move to Egypt during a time of famine in Canaan. Joseph succeeds in vanquishing his bitterness and turns it into love. "What does all this mean?" Elie Wiesel states is beautifully: "That one is not born a Tzadik; one must strive to become one. And having become a Tzadik, one must strive to remain one."
Shabbat shalom,
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