Saturday, December 17, 2011

Parashat Vayeshev: Joseph’s Pit


One of the SHEARIM readers asked from where do we know that the pit where Joseph was thrown in by his brothers was not empty (as the Torah says) but contained snakes and scorpions ? How do Talmud (Shabbat 22) and Torah commentators draw this conclusion ? 

An interesting question and the answer is, once again, showing us that there is much more behind the Torah than just reading the word. The Jewish task should be to dig much deeper into the Torah content and find out what G – d is really trying to tell us. Furthermore, the Torah has a revealed and a hidden side and not everything seeming so obvious can be taken literally. Many things in the Torah are not that clear at all and this is why G – d provided us with the oral law which, later on, was put together in the Talmud. 

Parashat Vayeshev 37:24:

“Then they took him, and cast him into the pit; the pit was empty, no water was in it”. 

Those are the words of the Torah. So, apparently the brothers threw Joseph into an empty pit, as the Torah tells us but why does it also state that “No water was in it ?” Isn’t an empty pit empty ? Why do I have to add that no water was in it when the pit is empty anyway ? 

I want to begin with a famous metaphor on this Torah Passuk: Symbolically speaking, a head which is empty of Torah, is vulnerable to harmful ideologies and thoughts - Implying that in Jewish literature, the Torah is also referred to as water. Man cannot live without water and thus he cannot live without Torah. 

Rashi commentates that the “empty pit” and “no water inside” were mentioned together because this is what the brothers saw. An empty pit, meaning that there was no water inside. But, and this is what the brothers didn’t know and see: The pit contained snakes and scorpions. G - d let a miracle happen and Joseph survived in the pit. Later on, his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. 

Had the brothers known that G – d had just created this kind of miracle for Joseph, they would not have sold him. However, G – d’s plan was that Joseph had to go down to Egypt in order to get the entire family down where the Jews had another important Tikkun (soul rectification) to carry out.

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