Sunday, March 16, 2014
Genesis: Chapter 37
to the abyss of
"The child is not,
and I, where shall i go?"
(For the full chapter, click here
From the simplicity of the toldot of Esau, we move back to the torturous complexity of the toldot of Jacob
The love Jacob felt for Rachel, which Leah translated as hate for herself, here turns to hate aimed at Rachel's son; the jealousy Rachel felt towards Leah is echoed back to Joseph. The only increase/gathering (yosef) Josef seems to gather is hate: va-yosef-u sena'o.
The non-being that haunted Rachel comes into sharp relief. "hineni" I am here, Joesph tells his father, but soon he is utterly lost in the fields surrounding ill-fated Shechem. When he finds his brothers, it is only to be stripped and cast into the pit, which turns into the abyss of the underworld in Jacob's closing words to the chapter.
"Do not cast your hand on the boy (tishlakh yadha) Abraham is warned as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac. Here too Reuben begs "don't cast your hands on the boy." In this case, there is no heavenly intervention. Shelihut yad--the possessing of what is not one's own, which has haunted Genesis since humanity was exiled so they could not be sholekh yad, stealing from the tree of life, here comes to full fruition. Joseph is reduced to a literal possession, sold from hand to hand. There is nothing left in the pit to be found when Reuben returns.
And again, the continuing resonance of Jacob's interaction with Esau. Jacob was the first in the Bible to ask for a sale. "Sell me," he told Esau, "your birthright." Now his own eldest son by his beloved wife is sold...)