The creation of the people of Israel awaited the birth of the twelve sons of Yaacov (Jacob). Clearly each one of those sons possessed specific traits and talents that would be transmitted, absorbed and essentially be required by their descendants. It is clear as well that the appearance of each of those differing traits and characteristics would give the people the ability for diversity and difference in their mutual future.
As a result of these truths, we are confronted with a great dilemma. How could these same brothers become involved with such a dire, devious and murderous plot regarding their brother Yosef (Joseph) ?
The animosity that developed between them seemed to spring out of sibling rivalry and jealousy;
”And Israel loved Yosef more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat.And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully.” (Genesis 37:3-4)
That hatred is compounded when Yosef decides to share with them his dreams “And Yosef dreamed a dream and told his brothers, and they increased their hatred of him.”(ibid:5)
Their response to the dream of the eleven bundles of wheat bowing to Yosef’s bundle was even more hatred ”So his brothers said to him, ,Will you reign over us, or will you govern us?, And they continued further to hate him on account of his dreams and on account of his words.”(ibid:8)
Then Yosef tells them of another dream wherein the sun and the moon and eleven stars bow down to him again. Suddenly we see a shift in the attitude of the brothers.
"So his brothers envied him ( VaYiKANU), but his father awaited the matter"( Genesis 37:11). Hatred became envy.
Yosef’s father has a different response ”but his father awaited the matter ( Shamar et hadavar)”(ibid).
Some translate the final part of the verse as ”but his father kept the saying (haDavar) in mind” - what then does the word haDavar actually mean or imply?
We see in Tanach (the Bible) that the word , haDavar, is used to describe a fragment of prophetic destiny. In the book of Jeremiah we read; “The word (haDavar) that came to Jeremiah from Hashem." (Jeremiah 31:1). We see it used in Isaiah as well:"This is the word (haDavar) that Hashem spoke concerning Moab in time past"(Isaiah 16:13).
Therefore, perhaps the words “but his father awaited the matter.” (haDavar) Implies that the matter he kept to himself was a memory of an old prophecy. Jacob understood that the dream of Yosef carried great spiritual meaning and that in fact the wheels of prophetic destiny had begun to turn. This would also be implied by the use of Jacob’s more ‘destiny based’ name ‘Israel’ in ”And Israel loved Yosef more than all his sons” (Genesis 37: 3)
Yet the brothers moved from hatred to envy. There was something different about the second dream that caused them to envy this brother with his great ambitions. The first dream seemed to come out of arrogance and pride. The second one seemed, even to them, to reveal a prophetic truth (Abarvanel). Suddenly it was not the ego of this young man that concerned them but rather about their future.
If in fact their subsequent actions revolved around their own status and importance, why do we not read of G-d admonishing or punishing them for these actions?
Perhaps the word in the verse “So his brothers envied (VaYikanu) him" (ibid ;11), vayikanu cannot be understood as simply envy. It can also have another meaning.
The brothers were very much aware what had transpired in their extended family until now. Throughout its history this family had experienced a type of “spiritual winnowing”. The husk was detached and separated from the kernel. Yishmael and then Esau were sent away into their own destiny. The children of Keturah were sent to the far east.
They were also aware that the prophetic destiny necessitated a coming together of different traits and strengths.
Yet here was a young man that believed that he was to impose rulership on them. He seemed to mirror the arrogance and impulsive behavior of Ishmael and Esau. It was also a young man who envisioned prophetic narratives that reinforced that possibility. Yosef became a spiritual threat. He needed to be separated from the kernel quickly and smoothly.
Our sages describe their fear of Yosef as being rooted in the belief that he was the epitome of a “Rodef,- a pursuer with lethal intentions”. As a result they did not envy Yosef. There is another meaning to the word “Kanoh” - it also means zealous. They were zealous regarding this imminent threat.
They could not imagine that another spiritual vision of their combined future should or could be contemplated and assimilated. Their small sightedness mixed with Yosef’s brashness combined with Jacob’s passion to see the prophetic path of destiny unfolding, led to the inevitable clash.
Much will yet transpire in this people’s history until all the brothers and their father and their descendants will truly understand their interconnectedness. Then they will yearn for the powerful strengths that each spiritual approach must bring into the plan.
All the forces in modern day Israel must come to the same conclusion quickly and decisively. Otherwise Hashem will ensure that pressures from the outside will remind us of that commonality .Regrettably that may mean that this land and people will need to go through further struggles and sacrifice (G-d forbid).
We cannot lose our sense of a common goal. We spend too much time raising our banners of ultimate truth and passion without attempting to co-opt all the positive powers around us. We cannot deny the integral necessity of all the differing paths that will join in this common purpose. It is my prayer that we will not have to depend on Divine pressure to rediscover our links of brotherhood;
In the words of Yosef "I am searching for my brothers.(et achai anochi mevakesh)” (ibid 37:16)
As we come closer to the festival of Hannukah, one candle is added to the others, one at a time until we have eight candles burning. Eight is the number representing Infinity or an eternal promise.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved Vekol Hacholim