Thursday, December 02, 2004

Vayeishev #4: Shortsighted Foresight

Why did they do it? Why did Potifar's wife go after Yosef? Why did Korach lead a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon? The obvious answer is for lust, and for want of power. The midrash suggests, in two separate locations, that they were both acting with some foreknowledge, though they did not have sufficient intel.

First, Potifar's wife:

midrash rabba, parasha 85 siman 2:

ב ויהי בעת ההיא
ולא היה צריך קרייה למימר אלא ויוסף הורד מצרימה
ומפני מה הסמיך פרשה זו לזו?
רבי אלעזר ור' יוחנן
רבי אלעזר אמר כדי לסמוך ירידה לירידה
רבי יוחנן אמר כדי לסמוך הכר להכר
ר"ש בר נחמן אמר כדי לסמוך מעשה תמר למעשה אשתו של פוטיפר:
מה זו לשם שמים אף זו לשם שמים
דא"ר יהושע בן לוי רואה היתה באסטרולוגין שלה שהיא עתידה להעמיד ממנו בן
ולא היתה יודעת אם ממנה אם מבתה
הה"ד (שם מז) מודיעים לחדשים מאשר יבואו עליך
ר' איבו אמר מאשר ולא כל אשר

"And it was at that time..."

{Note: this is the first pasuk of Bereishit 38:
א וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא, וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה מֵאֵת אֶחָיו; וַיֵּט עַד-אִישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִי, וּשְׁמוֹ חִירָה. 1 And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.
which begins the entire story of Yehuda and Tamar.}

And the Scriptures only needed to say "and Yosef was brought down to Egypt."
{Note: This is the first pasuk of the Bereishit 39:

א וְיוֹסֵף, הוּרַד מִצְרָיְמָה; וַיִּקְנֵהוּ פּוֹטִיפַר סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים, אִישׁ מִצְרִי, מִיַּד הַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִדֻהוּ שָׁמָּה. 1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hand of the Ishmaelites, that had brought him down thither.

This resumes the Yosef story where it left off, two prakim earlier. The question is thus, why place the story of Yehuda and Tamar right here, in the middle of the Yosef narrative?}

And for what cause was this narrative juxtoposed with that?
Rabbi Elazer and Rabbi Yochanan.
Rabbi Elazer says, to connect one descending to another descending.
{Either just the words or act - that both Yehuda and Yosef went down - or more likely, that the sale of Yosef, of which Yehuda played a part, causing Yosef to go down to Egypt, was linked with Yehuda separating from his brothers and all these events (including losing his wife and kids, and/or coming to shame).}
Rabbi Yochanan said, in order to link one הכר - "recognize" to הכר.
{The brothers, and according to the midrash which links them, perhaps Yehuda specifically, present Yosef's goat-blood-stained coat to Yaakov and ask if he recognizes it, and Yaakov responds by crying that his son has been devoured.
This is in Bereishit 37:32-33:

לב וַיְשַׁלְּחוּ אֶת-כְּתֹנֶת הַפַּסִּים, וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, זֹאת מָצָאנוּ: הַכֶּר-נָא, הַכְּתֹנֶת בִּנְךָ הִוא--אִם-לֹא. 32 and they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said: 'This have we found. Know now whether it is thy son's coat or not.'
לג וַיַּכִּירָהּ וַיֹּאמֶר כְּתֹנֶת בְּנִי, חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ; טָרֹף טֹרַף, יוֹסֵף. 33 And he knew it, and said: 'It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.'
The same language, הַכֶּר-נָא, is turned against him. When Tamar is on trial, she presents the tokens Yehuda had given her earlier, when he thought she was a harlot. In Bereishit 38:25-26:

כה הִוא מוּצֵאת, וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל-חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-אֵלֶּה לּוֹ, אָנֹכִי הָרָה; וַתֹּאמֶר, הַכֶּר-נָא--לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה, הָאֵלֶּה. 25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: 'By the man, whose these are, am I with child'; and she said: 'Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and the cords, and the staff.'
כו וַיַּכֵּר יְהוּדָה, וַיֹּאמֶר צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי, כִּי-עַל-כֵּן לֹא-נְתַתִּיהָ, לְשֵׁלָה בְנִי; וְלֹא-יָסַף עוֹד, לְדַעְתָּהּ. 26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said: 'She is more righteous than I; forasmuch as I gave her not to Shelah my son.' And he knew her again no more.
Here one might say this is to link the two words, but it is also pretty clear here that the aim is to link the punishment to the crime - Yehuda endured this because of what he did to Yosef, and the parallel language tells us this, but just so we don't miss the point, the Yehuda narrative is inserted in the midst of the Yosef one, and indeed just after Yehuda says הַכֶּר-נָא. (It is in fact not just the words, but the deducing something about a person on the basis of objects of that person.)
Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said, in order to juxtopose the story of Tamar with the story of Potifar's wife.
{This is novel. The previous two, who were introduced as the two opposing sides, are all trying to link punishment to Yehuda with what was done to Yosef, with Rabbi Eliezer linking the middle story forward, to the first pasuk of the continuation, and Rabbi Yochanan linking it backwards to the phrase הַכֶּר-נָא. Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman is linking it forward, but ignoring the issue of the sale of Yosef, focusing instead on two different personages.
Just as this one {Tamar} acted for the sake of heaven, so did this one {Potifar's wife} act for the sake of heaven.
For Rabbi Yehuda ben Levi said that she {Potifar's wife} saw via her astrology that she was in the future to establish from him a son.
And she did not know if from her, or if from her daughter.
This is as is written in Yeshaya 47:13: מוֹדִעִים לֶחֳדָשִׁים, מֵאֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ עָלָיִךְ - "the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from the things that shall come upon thee."

יב עִמְדִי-נָא בַחֲבָרַיִךְ וּבְרֹב כְּשָׁפַיִךְ, בַּאֲשֶׁר יָגַעַתְּ מִנְּעוּרָיִךְ; אוּלַי תּוּכְלִי הוֹעִיל, אוּלַי תַּעֲרוֹצִי. 12 Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.
יג נִלְאֵית, בְּרֹב עֲצָתָיִךְ; יַעַמְדוּ-נָא וְיוֹשִׁיעֻךְ הברו (הֹבְרֵי) שָׁמַיִם, הַחֹזִים בַּכּוֹכָבִים, מוֹדִעִים לֶחֳדָשִׁים, מֵאֲשֶׁר יָבֹאוּ עָלָיִךְ. 13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels; let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from the things that shall come upon thee.
{Thus, the astrologers and stargazers are not effective.}
Rabbi Aibo said: מֵאֲשֶׁר - "from the things [that shall come upon you]" {focusing on the letter מ, meaning "from"} and not all the things.
Thus, some of what she saw was true, but she did not see well enough. While hindsight is 20/20, foresight is not always so.

Two final points before we move on. First, where do we see Yosef married to Potifar's daughter? This is a result of equating Potifar with Potifera Kohen On. As we read in parshat Mikeitz, in Bereishit 41:45:

מה וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם-יוֹסֵף, צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ, וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ אֶת-אָסְנַת בַּת-פּוֹטִי פֶרַע כֹּהֵן אֹן, לְאִשָּׁה; וַיֵּצֵא יוֹסֵף, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.--

Secondly, how do we know that she saw this with her astrology? We saw the juxtoposition, and this was ascribed to the cause of wishing to show she was also acting for the sake of heaven, but Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman was basing himself on a statement by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi that she saw this with her astrology. The statement in Yeshaya just talks about the limits of astrology, and not about Potifar's wife, though perhaps we might interpret the surrounding psukim to be directed towards Potifar's wife.

The truth, I think, is much simpler. The problems with Potifar's wife begin in Bereishit 39:7:
ז וַיְהִי, אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, וַתִּשָּׂא אֵשֶׁת-אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-עֵינֶיהָ, אֶל-יוֹסֵף; וַתֹּאמֶר, שִׁכְבָה עִמִּי. 7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said: 'Lie with me.'
The translation renders וַתִּשָּׂא אֵשֶׁת-אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-עֵינֶיהָ, אֶל-יוֹסֵף as "that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph," but literally, it means "the wife of his master lifted up her eyes, to Yosef." Thus, the midrash takes the phrase hyperliterally, to mean that she lifted up her eyes to the heavens to see what was destined in the stars, regarding Yosef.

Let us now turn to the second person, Korach. The following, from Midrash Tanchuma on Korach, siman 5, is a drash on Bamidbar 16:7, and specifically on the phrase רַב-לָכֶם, בְּנֵי לֵוִי:

ו זֹאת, עֲשׂוּ: קְחוּ-לָכֶם מַחְתּוֹת, קֹרַח וְכָל-עֲדָתוֹ. 6 This do: take you censors, Korah, and all his company;
ז וּתְנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ וְשִׂימוּ עֲלֵיהֶן קְטֹרֶת לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, מָחָר, וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר יְהוָה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ; רַב-לָכֶם, בְּנֵי לֵוִי. 7 and put fire therein, and put incense upon them before the LORD to-morrow; and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy; ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.'

The midrash says:
וקרח שפקח היה, מה ראה לשטות הזו.
אלא עינו הטעתו.
ראה שלשלת גדולה עומדת הימנו,
שמואל ששקול כנגד משה ואהרן,
שנאמר, משה ואהרן בכהניו ושמואל בקוראי שמו (תהל' צט ו),
ועשרים וארבעה משמרות עומדות מבני בניו שכולן מתנבאין ברוח הקדש,
שנאמר, כל אלה בנים להימן חוזה המלך בדברי האלהים להרים קרן (דה"א כה ה).
אמר, אפשר הגדולה הזו עתידה לעמוד ממני ואני אובד (אותה).
ולא ראה יפה, לפי שבניו היו עושין תשובה ועומדין מהן,
ומשה היה רואה יפה.
לכך נשתתף לבא לאותה חזקה ששמע מפי משה
שכולן אובדין ואחד פלט, שנאמר, והיה האיש אשר יבחר ה' הוא הקדוש
And Korach, who was an intelligent person, what did he see that led him to this nonsense?
Rather, his eye misled him.
He saw the chain of greatness coming from him:
Shmuel who is measured against Moshe and Aharon {J: who, after all, are those who Korach was fighting against.}
As is stated in Tehillim 99:6:
מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, בְּכֹהֲנָיו, וּשְׁמוּאֵל, בְּקֹרְאֵי שְׁמוֹ
"Moses and Aaron among His priests, and Samuel among them that call upon His name..."
And the 24 mishmarot from his descendants who all prophesied with ruahaqodeš.
As is stated in 1 Chronicles 25:5:
ה כָּל-אֵלֶּה בָנִים לְהֵימָן, חֹזֵה הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּדִבְרֵי הָאֱלֹהִים--לְהָרִים קָרֶן; וַיִּתֵּן הָאֱלֹהִים לְהֵימָן, בָּנִים אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר--וּבָנוֹת שָׁלוֹשׁ. 5 all these were the sons of Heman the king's seer in the things pertaining to God, to lift up the horn. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

{J: and the midrash seems to be applying the word חֹזֵה, seer , to all the sons instead of to the father. Many Psalms in Tehillim are attributed to בני קרח - which we can take as the sons of=descendants of Korach.}
He {Korach} said: is it possible that greatness will in the future emerge from me, and I will {now} be lost?
And he {Korach} did not see well,
for his sons did repentance {and did not perish} and {the future great ones} were established from them.
And Moshe saw well.
And therefore {because he did not see well} he {Korach} combined with them on the basis of the statement by Moshe
That everyone {who brought incense} would be lost and one would survive, as it states {in pasuk 7, cited above}: וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-יִבְחַר יְהוָה, הוּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ - "and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy."
Where do we see the sons of Korach did teshuva and survived? We read in Bemidbar 26:

ט וּבְנֵי אֱלִיאָב, נְמוּאֵל וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם: הוּא-דָתָן וַאֲבִירָם קרואי (קְרִיאֵי) הָעֵדָה, אֲשֶׁר הִצּוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח, בְּהַצֹּתָם, עַל-יְהוָה. 9 And the sons of Eliab: Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. These are that Dathan and Abiram, the elect of the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD;
י וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-קֹרַח--בְּמוֹת הָעֵדָה: בַּאֲכֹל הָאֵשׁ, אֵת חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, וַיִּהְיוּ, לְנֵס. 10 and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died; what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men, and they became a sign.
יא וּבְנֵי-קֹרַח, לֹא-מֵתוּ. {ס 11 Notwithstanding the sons of Korah died not. {S}
This is taking they pasuk as saying that the sons of Korach did not due but repented at the last moment and survived. They were then the ones that had descendants that became these great leaders and prophets.

{Update Dec 6: I neglected to mention how the midrash gets this idea in the case of Korach.
It is a midrash on the words רַב-לָכֶם, בְּנֵי לֵוִי. The idea seems to be that רַב-לָכֶם, you have great ones to you, in terms of בְּנֵי לֵוִי, your descendants.}

Once again, we have someone who sees the future, but not well enough. In both cases, the people in question acted with the foreknowledge of descendants to come, but they did not realize that these descendants would come from their children.

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