Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook on Parashat Vayeshev

 Synagogue of the Greek Jews living in the Tel Aviv Florentin neighbourhood. The Greek Jew Yitzchak Florentin and his family moved to Tel Aviv in the 1920ies and bought the land where the neighbourhood was built. The Synagogue was built in 1943.


This week's Torah Parasha is telling us the famous story about Yoseph being sold by his brothers, and one of my favouriste commentaries on the Parasha comes from Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. The Torah tells us that the pit where Yoseph was thrown in by his brothers was empty. However, our commentators let us know that the pit was not totally empty but full of snakes and scorpions. Rabbi Kook, however, look at the pit filled with scorpions from a different point of view: As a metaphor. 

According to the Rabbi, this particular pit can be compared to the Diaspora. Yoseph was in danger because the snakes and scorpions could have attacked him. So is a Jew being stuck in the Diaspora. Vulnerable to all kinds of dangers surrounding him. A Diaspora Jew always has to watch out not to get swallowed up by the temptations around him such as intermarriage, non - kosher food and any other assimilation. 

I had the experience that, sometimes, I felt more Jewish in the Diaspora than in Israel. Especially when Gentiles attack you with anti - Semitic remarks and you suddenly feel proud to be a Jew knowing that those accusers are totally wrong. 


  1. But if the Torah, which are G-d's words, says the pity was empty; why would anyone claim differently just to extract a moral lesson ?!

    Couldn't any such lesson be given without changing what is plainly written - instead using another part that would not need any alterations ?