Torah Study Date
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Bereishit (Genesis) 43:33-44:16
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Starting at Genesis 44:17
Last week we discussed the brothers’ continued astonishment when, at the vizier’s (Joseph’s) direction, they were seated in order of seniority from the oldest to the youngest (how did he know?), Joseph continuing his father’s favoritism by serving Benjamin five times what the others were served, and the brothers drinking and getting drunk with Joseph. We discussed Joseph telling his steward to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag and the steward doing so and, after the brothers left in the morning light, telling the steward to follow them and say to them, “Why did you return bad for good? Isn’t this that by which my lord drinks and divine? You’ve done bad by doing this” and the steward did so.
We discussed how confused and disturbed the brothers must have been when they had taken such lengths to bring back silver in case it had seemed they had stolen it (which, of course, they had not) and their saying the one among them who was found with the silver cup, let him die and we will become your slaves (a rash statement made because they were so astonished and really did not believe any one of them had taken the cup). We noted Joseph lessening the punishment so that the one found with the cup would be his slave and the others would be free.
The cup, of course, was found in Benjamin’s sack, the brothers tore their clothes (as if in mourning), went back to Joseph’s house, and prostrated themselves on the ground before him (once again, fulfilling Joseph’s prophecy that they would bow before him) upon which Joseph said what have you done and didn’t you know that he would divine it (here, too, referring to Joseph’s lifelong practice of successful divination). We noted that it was Judah who spoke up in response, wondering what they could say and how they could justify themselves, and stating they were all the vizier’s (Joseph’s) slaves.
Upon progressing from chapter 43 to chapter 44, we discussed the abruptness of some chapter transitions and the fact that the breakpoints have more to do with the length appropriate for a weekly portion than with meaning. We also discussed that the word for “divining” and the word for “snake” are related.
Our artwork this week is more multi-media paintings by Montreal Jewish artist, Sheila Nemtin, Joseph is Alive (above) and I am Joseph (below), both from her illustration of Parsha Vayigash (which begins at Genesis 44:18). Nemtin’s Tablet Tableaux is an ambitious project illustrating, in detail, each of the fifty-four Parashot, inspired in part by a desire to teach her son the relevance of Torah to his daily life. Each painting is a richly detailed account of the Parsha with a border containing terms that describe the basic themes and teachings contained in it. The terms for Vayigash are STEP UP-MATURITY-ACKNOWLEDGEMENT-REMORSE-LEARN-MISTAKES-EMPATHY-CHANGE-RESPONSIBILITY-TEST-TESHUVAH-CLOSURE. You can see the entire painting from which our two excerpts come here.