Vayigash: Great Source(s)


‘You sold a brother for the price of
shoes. Full of hate, you set upon him

‘You have merited an unnatural death.
You blocked the old man’s way to the
prophetic spirit [*]. May God, in his
heavenly abode, forgive you. Now
Come, all of you, to Goshen; it was the
Revealer who sent me ahead to save
men’s lives.’ And he said: ‘I am your
brother Joseph!’

They shuddered at his words. They
shook, dumbfounded, and could not
answer him. Then he wept aloud, and
they too wept. And afterward his
brothers talked with him.

–Phinehas HaKohen [late 8th Century Tiberias] in The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse**
*Legend has it that the spirit of prophecy deserted Jacob so long as he was separated from Joseph.

T. Carmi, editor and translator of the poetry volume, explains that HaKohen’s poem is “a choral zulat (part of a yotser-sequence…), and one of the finest examples of a ballad-like piyut in the classical period.” A piyut is a liturgical poem; a yotser sequence is a series of such poems surrounding the liturgical reading of the Shema; a zulat is named for the prayer that follows the Shema (there is no God besides [zulat] You).

Also in this volume, is Moses ibn Ezra’s poem which begins “The garden put on a coat of many colours….” and closes with: “He came out from among the guard of leaves and cast aside his prison-clothes. Whoever does not drink his wine upon the rose-bed — that man will surely bear his guilt!”

In addition, Jacob and Joseph capture a great deal of space in Chapters Into Verse: Poetry in English Inspired by the Bible.**

**See also Source Materials.

Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.

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