Thursday, December 22, 2005

Some Scattered Thoughts on Vayeishev

1) The second pasuk in Vayeishev has `et as "with," as it does mean on occasion. {Bereishit 37:2}

ב אֵלֶּה תֹּלְדוֹת יַעֲקֹב, יוֹסֵף בֶּן-שְׁבַע-עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה הָיָה רֹעֶה אֶת-אֶחָיו בַּצֹּאן, וְהוּא נַעַר אֶת-בְּנֵי בִלְהָה וְאֶת-בְּנֵי זִלְפָּה, נְשֵׁי אָבִיו; וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת-דִּבָּתָם רָעָה, אֶל-אֲבִיהֶם. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father.
He was grazing, with his brothers, the flocks. He was not grazing his brothers among the flocks.

Usage like this (and common examples like `itti / `itto) are part of why midrash takes `et as a ribbuy.

2) I thought I posted this before, but cannot find it. Later in the same perek:
ז וְהִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ מְאַלְּמִים אֲלֻמִּים, בְּתוֹךְ הַשָּׂדֶה, וְהִנֵּה קָמָה אֲלֻמָּתִי, וְגַם-נִצָּבָה; וְהִנֵּה תְסֻבֶּינָה אֲלֻמֹּתֵיכֶם, וַתִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶיןָ לַאֲלֻמָּתִי. 7 for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf.'
ח וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ, אֶחָיו, הֲמָלֹךְ תִּמְלֹךְ עָלֵינוּ, אִם-מָשׁוֹל תִּמְשֹׁל בָּנוּ; וַיּוֹסִפוּ עוֹד שְׂנֹא אֹתוֹ, עַל-חֲלֹמֹתָיו וְעַל-דְּבָרָיו. 8 And his brethren said to him: 'Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?' And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Note the parallelism in their response.
Note also that we can take מָשׁוֹל תִּמְשֹׁל not as "have dominion" but as the more amusing "make a mashal of us" - for he was speaking of them by means of a mashal to sheaves.

3) If we wish to make connections across dreams - Pharaoh dreams of stalks of grain. And Yosef and his brothers are stalks of grain. Could we take the 7 fat stalks as the zenith of his rule, when Yosef helped him solidify his power over all of Egypt, making all Egyptians Pharaoh's property? And the 7 thin stalks the Israelites who eventually defied Pharaoh's power and emptied Egypt of all its wealth. In addition, of course, to Yosef's interpretation, which was fulfilled.

4)
כז לְכוּ וְנִמְכְּרֶנּוּ לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, וְיָדֵנוּ אַל-תְּהִי-בוֹ, כִּי-אָחִינוּ בְשָׂרֵנוּ, הוּא; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ, אֶחָיו. 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh.' And his brethren hearkened unto him.
כח וַיַּעַבְרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִדְיָנִים סֹחֲרִים, וַיִּמְשְׁכוּ וַיַּעֲלוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף מִן-הַבּוֹר, וַיִּמְכְּרוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף לַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים, בְּעֶשְׂרִים כָּסֶף; וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶת-יוֹסֵף, מִצְרָיְמָה. 28 And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt.
Yishmealim perhaps means Bedouins (as it is used in Bereishit Rabba and Shemot Rabba), that is, nomadic Arabs. Thus this is descriptive, just as socharim, merchants, is descriptive, and there is no conflict with their nationality, Midianites.

5) In the next perek:
ג וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַיִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, עֵר. 3 And she conceived, and bore a son; and he called his name Er.
ד וַתַּהַר עוֹד, וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן; וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ, אוֹנָן. 4 And she conceived again, and bore a son; and she called his name Onan.
ה וַתֹּסֶף עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן, וַתִּקְרָא אֶת-שְׁמוֹ שֵׁלָה; וְהָיָה בִכְזִיב, בְּלִדְתָּהּ אֹתוֹ. 5 And she yet again bore a son, and called his name Shelah; and he was at Chezib, when she bore him.
scholars note the divergence between וַיִּקְרָא in the first and וַתִּקְרָא in the latter two. The Samaritan text/=Targum changes the first to וַתִּקְרָא. So does Tg Yonatan and so do a few Jewish manuscripts.

Onkelos and (presumably LXX as well, since it is not noted) keep וַיִּקְרָא.

As noted before, Sam. likes to harmonize and smooth texts, so this smoothing is not really great evidence. Lectio difficilior argues in favor of the standard Masoretic text, and so it is easy to see how the alternate Jewish manuscripts would come about - knowing there is a וַתִּקְרָא and anticipating and writing it early. I would consider Tg Yonatan perhaps the best evidence of this alternate reading, though it also diverges in its usual way in this pasuk, giving etiologies for each name.

6) Chazal's interpretation of the names conveying doom and gloom are quite good on the level of peshat. Just as Hevel {=vanity} was the first one to be murdered and thus cut off. And Nadav {=votive offering} and Avihu {=I will bring it} were killed for bringing their voluntary fire. And Machlon and Kilyon {conveying destruction} died without children.
Er, because he was removed {שהוער} from the world without children. Onan, for his father would mourn for him.
The place where Shela was born, Keziv, conveys stoppage. And there Yehuda's wife stopped having children. See Rashi there for examples from elsewhere in Tanach (Yirmiyahu and Yeshayahu).
The names seem deliberate or at least spookily appropriate.

Perhaps more later.

1 comment:

Joe in Australia said...

How about "by a mashal rule over us" as a midrashic reading of the second part? Perhaps the first part might even be made into a chaser spelling of malach: "The messenger [i.e., Joseph] shall rule over us, by a parable dominate us?"

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