Judaism: Spiritual Subtext for Israel's Leaders
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Everything in this week’s Torah portion of Vayeishev bespeaks a subtext of destiny. The dramatic events that are recounted which begin with the jealousy of the brothers, through the sale of Joseph and then the inward retreat of Judah away from his family, are but the ingredients of a journey that will move this people and the world forward in G-d's - Hashem's - plan of destiny.
When we read of the dangerous sibling rivalry developing between Joseph and his brothers we read; "So his brothers envied him, but his father awaited the matter (Et HaDavar )(genesis 37:11) What "Davar " was Jacob keeping to himself?
The word Davar is often used as a prophetic fragment of destiny as we see in the book of Jeremiah, "The word (HaDavar) that came to Jeremiah from Hashem" ( Jeremiah 21:1).We see it as well in the book of Daniel ;"in the first year of his reign I Daniel meditated in the books, over the number of the years, whereof the word (Davar) of Hashem came to Jeremiah the prophet, "(Daniel9:2).
Jacob understood that the dream of Joseph carried great spiritual meaning. He knew ,perhaps, if only on a spiritual subconscious level, that the wheels of prophetic destiny had begun to turn. That was the “davar” he was keeping to himself.
That is the subtext of the instructions he gives to Joseph to search out his brothers;" And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send thee unto them.' And he said to him: 'Here am I.(Genesis 37:13).It is not Jacob who sends Joseph out but rather the more spiritual- destiny focused name of Israel that is used.
Joseph's response also bespeaks a spiritual subtext. "And he said to him: 'Here am I. (Hineni)"(ibid) . That response is used throughout Tanach as a statement of a “readiness to enter into a new spiritual direction” .We see this important declaration of “Hineni” used with Avraham (Genesis 22:1), Jacob ( ibid 31:11),Moshe (Exodus 33:4), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8). Joseph was stepping into his own personal and corporate destiny .Joseph's underlying mission was to begin the fulfillment of that which was promised to Abraham
“Then Hashem said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. (Genesis 15:13)"
Yet there were other pieces of the puzzle being set into place. As we will see throughout Tanach, the plan of destiny always necessitates that the players grow into their role and purpose.
After the sale of Joseph we read ; "Now it came about at that time that Judah was demoted by his brothers, and he turned away until [he came] to an Adullamite man, named Hirah.( ibid 38:1.).He marries and has three children and the two eldest sons die. Judah either forgets or refuses to have his third son marry Tamar. Tamar directed by a spiritual drive that she may not have even been conscious of, is led to have that child denied to her. She disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah.
When Judah hears that his daughter-in-law has become pregnant, he orders her executed .Yet then Tamar produces some personal effects that Judah left with her but , mysteriously, she does not declare whose items they are." ... she sent to her father in law, saying, "From the man to whom these belong I am pregnant," and she said, "Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?" (ibid:25) .
At that point,"... Judah recognized [them], and he said, "She is more righteous than I , because I did not give her to my son Shelah." Judah could have ignored the signs in order to hide his shame. Instead he acknowledged his guilt. He grew into the power given to him when he was named as a baby. The name Yehuda ( Judah) comes from the word Hodaya which means to acknowledge and thereby thank. Judah’s deep strength is his ability to acknowledge failure and mistake .
It is that quality that he bequeathed to his descendants. It is that quality that would be critical in creating the Royal line of David and finally bring about the messianic age.
When King Saul fails and does not heed to G-d's instructions as presented to him by Samuel, he would not acknowledge his failings .Instead he blames others around him.
“And Saul said unto Samuel: 'Yea, I have hearkened to the voice of HaShem, and have gone the way which Hashem sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the devoted things, to sacrifice unto HaShem thy G-d in Gilgal.' ( Shmuel 15: 20-21)) .As a result he loses the kingdom.
David had the strength to acknowledge a failing "And David said to Nathan: 'I have sinned against Hashem.' And Nathan said to David: Hashem also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (Samuel II 12:13) As a result, David of the tribe of Judah established an eternal monarchy.
Two ingredients, then, are necessary to become part of Hashem's plan of destiny.
The first is the courage to declare Hineni and stand ready to participate in the unfolding plan.
The second is to have the courage to be Modeh ( acknowledge) mistakes and missed turns and by so doing continue to grow.
The state of Israel’s leadership may be ready today for the first ingredient but still need to learn to grow from the second.