Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joe College

I had an interesting conversation with a semi-relative tonight at a chanuka party. Essentially, he questioned Yosef's motivation in his dealings with his brothers. The guy sets himself up as this horrible scary ruler, continues the charade for a while, and at the end he says, "Hey boys, guess who I am!" Why didn't he do this in the beginning? Presumably he was testing them, trying to figure out if they had repented enough for their past sins. The immediate question is, who is he to play G-d? What gave him the right to set himself up as this big guy on campus, deciding the fates of his family with his only concern being an ancient slight? On the other hand, he was certainly a big believer in individual divine providence and all that jazz, so if the fates had delivered his brothers into his hands, who was he to argue?

51 comments:

Nemo said...

Which reminds me that at Hillel here there was a repulsive, apikorshe dvar Torah by one of the student last Shabbos, which basically said that Yosef was an immature, abnormal child and only began his religious coming of age after he was nearly raped and framed. Supposedly the Torah tells the story of Yosef's maturation process. This proves that MO punk student wrong ... Yosef never grew up!

The Real Shliach said...

Would you find religion after you had been nearly raped?

Nemo said...

In the old days, people use to find religion after such circumstances ... today, it's the religious people who are running the other way ...

Crawling Axe said...

Almost got raped and then sent to prison. Strange order...

Cheerio said...

ouch.

aheppenh said...

@Nemo:

I didn't hear the actual dvar Torah, of course, but maybe after all this guy is not so far off the mark.

The Torah does, after all, start out describing Yosef as a "naar" (37:2), and Rashi says that this means that "he behaved childishly, fixing his hair and touching up his eyes so that he would appear handsome." Later on, too, in Potiphar's house, Rashi again says (39:6) that "as soon as Joseph found himself [in the position of] ruler, he began eating and drinking and curling his hair." (Both translations courtesy of chabad.org.)

So while "immature and abnormal" is an extreme and disrespectful way to put it, perhaps it's fair to say that the Torah is indeed telling us how Yosef developed spiritually. (Even tzaddikim have to do that, after all.) One important step in that, and the beginning of his elevation to vizier, is when he solicitously asks the butler and the baker what's wrong (40:7) - but only after he had spent a decade in jail.

aheppenh said...

And @TRS, as far as your question about Yosef's motivation: one explanation I've seen (though I don't recall the source) is basically that he needed to know whether indeed they still hated him (or Binyamin, Rachel's other son). If that were the case, they would have to remain apart forever; otherwise he would be able to welcome them to stay with him, as indeed proved to be the case.

So according to this, it's got nothing to do with playing G-d or getting back at them for what they did to him, but simply trying to evaluate where he and they stood with each other.

The Real Shliach said...

Nemo: Well, if my rabbi tried to pull any dirty tricks...

CA: Remember, Yosef was in charge in the prison...

Cheerio: ...

aheppenh: Yes, that's the explanation I've always heard too.

e said...

In general, outside of orthodox judaism, it's very common for people to say that the biblical heroes had faults and that the bible is telling us the story of the development of their character.

Nemo said...

You had to be there. This guy made it out as if Yosef had no moral decency because he ratted on his brothers, not that Yosef fancied himself good looking.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

I know the type. They basically prove that you can read anything into anything.

Crawling Axe said...

MBM, I thought you liked Briskers.

Modeh B'Miktsas said...

Huh?

Rachel Natik said...

Well, theres the idea of Hashgacha Pratis. we dont know to what extent it goes and have to rely on intuition and the way the world runs...

The Real Shliach said...

HP is the proverbial it. Still, we Jews have free will. Blaming things that are in your control on HP is an illegitimate use of HP. Trying to control things that are not in your control is an illegitimate use of life.

Crawling Axe said...

Everything is in your control except control itself.

The Real Shliach said...

That was deep.

e said...

Isn't that the exact opposite of "hakol bidei shamayim chutz miyiras shamayim"?

The Real Shliach said...

Or else it's the same thing.

Rachel Natik said...

Since we dont know the extent of the HP, we cant say that Yosef should have let it go. If a guy robs another, should he not have to return the moeny b/c its HP?

Crawling Axe said...

What does "extent of HP" mean? HP extends to all events, including your decisions.

There seems to be confusion here. What happens to a person b'dieved is up to G-d. It will happen whatever your decisions regarding him are (if a guy is destined to be robbed, he will be robbed, whether you will be the robber or not).

What you l'hatchilo will do to the person is up to you and is between you and G-d. Sometimes your choice will make you a messenger of G-d's will (to make sure the person's robbed, etc.); sometimes G-d will find other messengers.

Rachel Natik said...

I quote" The immediate question is, who is he to play G-d? What gave him the right to set himself up as this big guy on campus, deciding the fates of his family with his only concern being an ancient slight? On the other hand, he was certainly a big believer in individual divine providence and all that jazz, so if the fates had delivered his brothers into his hands, who was he to argue?"


So it all boys down to HP. The fact that it was pre-ordanined anr organized by g-d doesnt justify their action. We dont know what the HP is. Obviosly (now looking back) all thay yosef told his brothers was part of it.

Am I making sense? I dont think im saying it so clearly

The Real Shliach said...

Rachel: We don't know what the HP is? HP is everything. As e succinctly put it, "everything is in the hands of heaven, except for the fear of heaven."

What exactly are you trying to say?

Rachel Natik said...

Exactly, and part of the HP is how tosef had to deal with his brothers. He wasnt trying to play big g-d. He was doing his part as a person down here, to fulfill g-ds plan...

Rem, someone was questioning how yosef can act like this especially when he shows that he knows it comes from Hashem...

Rachel Natik said...

Exactly, and part of the HP is how tosef had to deal with his brothers. He wasnt trying to play big g-d. He was doing his part as a person down here, to fulfill g-ds plan...

Rem, someone was questioning how yosef can act like this especially when he shows that he knows it comes from Hashem...

Rachel Natik said...

Exactly, and part of the HP is how tosef had to deal with his brothers. He wasnt trying to play big g-d. He was doing his part as a person down here, to fulfill g-ds plan...

Rem, someone was questioning how yosef can act like this especially when he shows that he knows it comes from Hashem...

The Real Shliach said...

And how did he know what G-d's plan was? Maybe G-d wanted him to have them all be dragged through the streets in rags to the opening tune of "Guys and Dolls"?

The answer, is of course, free choice. That's a stirah to HP? Yay. You've hit the nail on the head. Go argue it out with your local mashpia or something.

Rachel Natik said...

Right! ANd he had the free choice ot act as he did and it wasnt improper. He understood that all what happened was from Hashem but yet the Shevatim also had free choice in what they did and he is responding to that in the way he chose which is also HP


P.S. Were essentially agreeing but arguing about different points ;)

The Real Shliach said...

How did he know it wasn't improper? How do you know that what he did wasn't improper?

Rachel Natik said...

IS there any proof that it want proper?
He was acting in a manner with wich he would be able to test the sincerity of the borthers and see if they were really regretful for what they did. (I think this can be compared to a judge who looks into a case brought to him, he doesnt dismis it saying that its HP)

The Real Shliach said...

Is there any proof that it was proper?

Who was he to test the sincerity of his brothers? Wouldn't that mean that he was playing G-d?

Rachel Natik said...

Because he was the one the wrong-did! He had to see if they had done real tshuva and regretted their past actions.

Rachel Natik said...

Because he was the one the wrong-did! He had to see if they had done real tshuva and regretted their past actions.

The Real Shliach said...

Since when is it the victim's prerogative to decide if justice has been meted out? This person would have been punished anyway, right? The offender was just a tool in the hand of the wood chopper! From where did he get the idea to be judge and jury?

Rachel Natik said...

that is the way things run in the normal course of the world. People do wrong and have to get punished/suffre the consequences. Why shouldnt the brothers have to undergo this aswell?

The Real Shliach said...

That the brothers should undergo it is fine, but that their brother should be the one doing it? Who set him up as judge and jury? Since when are we allowed to judge people?

Rachel Natik said...

and that a judge should judge over someone else is ok?
Dont forget that only the borthers and yosef knew what had really happened. and once again, i repaeat yosef had to ind out the borthers intentions...

The Real Shliach said...

Sure, a judge is appointed by someone or something to rule over, but he's not doing it mitzad himself, he's doing it mitzad the entity which appointed him. Yosef was doing something totally different here- he was appointed by... himself!

Well, yes.

Crawling Axe said...

When a parent teaches a child, who has appointed him (yes, we have a mitzva of chinuch, but if not, wouldn't we still educate our children?). Come to think of it, did Avraham invent chinuch because it was a mitzva, or because it seemed like a good idea (mirroring my question on the FB — chimps using stones as tools: evolution or common sense?).

Crawling Axe said...

Question mark after Avrohom sentence.

Rachel Natik said...

essentially for the same purpose...

Rachel Natik said...

essentially for the same purpose...

The Real Shliach said...

CA: to what did your question tend? Did avraham indeed invent chinuch?

Rachel: say what?

Crawling Axe said...

Has he not?

The Real Shliach said...

What about Shem and Ever?

Crawling Axe said...

They had yeshivos, but the idea of controlling what sort of people your children will be is traditionally attributed to Avrohom, no?

The Real Shliach said...

You mean, to do it successfully? Hey, terach tried it, but look where he got!

Crawling Axe said...

Well, Avrohom also didn't do a great job on all children.

The Real Shliach said...

So very much depends on the mother...

Crawling Axe said...

Both Eisav and Yakov had the same mother.

The Real Shliach said...

And even more depends on the wife!