In one of her essays on the portion Mikeitz, “Then Let Me Bear the Blame For Ever,” Nehama Leibowitz* focuses in on Judah’s words to Jacob, as he prepares to bring Benjamin to Egypt (Genesis/Breishit 43:9):
“If I bring him not unto thee… then let me bear the blame forever.”
The Italian Jewish commentator Elijah Benamozegh (1822-1900), Leibowitz says, “derives a profoundly significant message” from this turn of phrase:
This figure of speech contains a valuable lesson, teaching us something not otherwise explicitly alluded to, in the Torah: that there is no punishment outside of the sin. Sin itself is its own punishment in the Divine scheme of judgement and serves the purpose of reward and punishment. This is the meaning of: “Then shall I bear the blame to my father forever” (44, 32) — (Em Lamikra)
Em Lamikra, “Matrix of Sculpture,” is Benamozegh‘s mid-19th Century commentary on the Torah. (There is also an article about Benamozegh in the Jewish Encyclopedia.)
*For more on Leibowitz, see Source Materials.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued 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.
Two sons were born to Joseph before the years of famine arrived, born to him by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named the first-born son Manasseh [mem-nun-shin-heh], “For God has made me forget [ki-nashani] all the troubles I endured in my father’s house.” And he named the second one Ephraim [aleph-peh-reish-yod-mem], “For God has made me fruitful [ki-hifrani] in the land of my affliction.” Continue Reading
A man should await the fulfillment of a good dream for as much as twenty-two years. Whence do we know this? From Joseph. For it is written: These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph being seventeen years old, etc., [Daniel 2], and it is further written, And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh [Genesis 41:46]. How many years is it from seventeen to thirty? Thirteen. Add the seven years of plenty and two of famine [after which Joseph saw his brothers], and you have twenty-two….
R. Huna b. Ammi said in the name of R. Pedath who had it from R. Jochanan: If one has a dream which makes him sad he should go and have it interpreted in the presence of three. He should have it interpreted! Has not R. Hisda said: A dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read? Say rather then, he should have a good turn given to in the presence of three. Let him bring three and say to them: I have seen a good dream; and they should say to him, Good it is and good may it be. May the All-Merciful turn it to good; seven times may it be decreed from heave that it should be good and it may be good. They should say three verses…
This text — from Babylonian Talmud, Berakoth 55b — goes on to specify verses to be recited in this circumstance: three including the word “turn,” three including the word “redeem” and three including the word “peace.” This discussion of good and bad dreams, and how to handle them, is quite extensive.
To follow a path on dreams and their interpretations in Judaism, here are a few sources:Continue Reading
BERURIAH THE SCHOLAR EXPLAINS: The story of Joseph is the most elaborate in the Torah, spanning four parshiyot, more than the stories of any of the patriarchs and matriarchs. And yet women are virtually absent from the tale. This is a tale of brothers, of patriarchy, of male power relations….
MIRIAM THE PROPHET PROCLAIMS: Like the ancient Rabbis, we need to imagine lives for the many women who must have been involved in this drama: the brothers’ wives, left behind to fend for themselves while their husbands go down to Egypt; the many maidservants who prepare for the journeys, tend Pharaoh’s court, weave and cook, nurse and wipe bottoms, sing lullabies and keen at funerals. Indeed, a whole world of women contributes, albeit behind the scenes, to this drama. We owe it to them to serve as archaeologists and imaginers of their lives.Continue Reading