Thursday, January 08, 2004

Vayechi #4: Further מעשה אבות סימן לבנים

The second example of Biblical parallelism I found in Vayechi was between the meeting of Yaakov and family with Esav, when Yaakov returned from Charan and the presentation of Ephraim and Menashe to Yaakov. The similarity of language is striking.

In Vayechi, in Bereishit 48:2, Yaakov hears that Yosef is coming, is strengthened, and sits upon the bed (see my post below for a suggestion explaining this phenomenon:

וַיַּגֵּד לְיַעֲקֹב--וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וַיִּתְחַזֵּק, יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיֵּשֶׁב, עַל-הַמִּטָּה.
"And one told Jacob, and said: 'Behold, thy son Joseph cometh unto thee.' And Israel strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed."

There is then a short interjection of a blessing that Yaakov gives Yosef, but it is not clear whether this happens before or after the following narrative in 48:7, for after this blessing Yaakov refers to Yosef's two sons and adopts them as his own.

After the interjection Yisrael sees Ephraim and Menashe and asks who they are. In 48:8-9:

וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-בְּנֵי יוֹסֵף; וַיֹּאמֶר, מִי-אֵלֶּה.
וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף, אֶל-אָבִיו, בָּנַי הֵם, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַן-לִי אֱלֹהִים בָּזֶה; וַיֹּאמַר, קָחֶם-נָא אֵלַי וַאֲבָרְכֵם.
"And Israel beheld Joseph's sons, and said: 'Who are these?'
And Joseph said unto his father: 'They are my sons, whom God hath given me here.' And he said: 'Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them.'"

The parallel account, of Yaakov's meeting with Esav, is in Bereishit 33:5-6:

וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת-הַיְלָדִים, וַיֹּאמֶר, מִי-אֵלֶּה לָּךְ; וַיֹּאמַר--הַיְלָדִים, אֲשֶׁר-חָנַן אֱלֹהִים אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ.
"And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said: 'Who are these with thee?' And he said: 'The children whom God hath graciously given thy servant.'"

Both accounts have someone actively look and see some party:
וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-בְּנֵי יוֹסֵף
וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת-עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא אֶת-הַנָּשִׁים וְאֶת-הַיְלָדִים

have that person ask who they are, in remarkably similar language:
מִי-אֵלֶּה לָּךְ

and the reply, in both cases about children (Yaakov omits mention of his wives even though they are in the query), is that these are the children Hashem has granted:
בָּנַי הֵם, אֲשֶׁר-נָתַן-לִי אֱלֹהִים בָּזֶה
הַיְלָדִים, אֲשֶׁר-חָנַן אֱלֹהִים אֶת-עַבְדֶּךָ

In both cases the party presenting the children bows to the person to whom the children are being presented.

Yaakov bows to Esav in 33:3

וְהוּא, עָבַר לִפְנֵיהֶם; וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אַרְצָה שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים, עַד-גִּשְׁתּוֹ עַד-אָחִיו.
"And he himself passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother."

and Yosef bows to Yaakov in 48:12:

וַיּוֹצֵא יוֹסֵף אֹתָם, מֵעִם בִּרְכָּיו; וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לְאַפָּיו, אָרְצָה.
"And Joseph brought them out from between his knees; and he fell down on his face to the earth."

In both instances the family members are brought forth to be received.
Yaakov's children to Esav, in Bereishit 33:6-7:
וַתִּגַּשְׁןָ הַשְּׁפָחוֹת הֵנָּה וְיַלְדֵיהֶן, וַתִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶיןָ.
וַתִּגַּשׁ גַּם-לֵאָה וִילָדֶיהָ, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ; וְאַחַר, נִגַּשׁ יוֹסֵף וְרָחֵל--וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ.
"Then the handmaids came near, they and their children, and they bowed down.
And Leah also and her children came near, and bowed down; and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed down."

In both cases this happens immediately after the question of Mi Eleh followed by the response, and in both cases the word used to describe it is נִגַּשׁ.

Finally, and this is a bit of a stretch: in both cases Yaakov speaks of his enjoyment of finally seeing the other party.

With Esav, in 33:10:

וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב, אַל-נָא אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ, וְלָקַחְתָּ מִנְחָתִי, מִיָּדִי: כִּי עַל-כֵּן רָאִיתִי פָנֶיךָ, כִּרְאֹת פְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים--וַתִּרְצֵנִי.
"And Jacob said: 'Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favour in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me."

and with Yosef, in 48:11:

וַיֹּאמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל-יוֹסֵף, רְאֹה פָנֶיךָ לֹא פִלָּלְתִּי; וְהִנֵּה הֶרְאָה אֹתִי אֱלֹהִים, גַּם אֶת-זַרְעֶךָ
"And Israel said unto Joseph: 'I had not thought to see thy face; and, lo, God hath let me see thy seed also.'"

I've left the most striking, most blatant, and seemingly most deliberate (on Yaakov's part) parallel for last - that of the blessing of Ephraim and Menashe with the blessing of Yaakov and Esav. Hope to get to that tomorrow.

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