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December 16, 2012 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayigash

At the end of the Torah portion, Egyptian peasants are more or less turned into serfs by Joseph.  Doesn’t this make Joseph look bad, and maybe even suggest that the Jews’ later enslavement is retaliation?

Sarna suggests otherwise.  He points out that the Egyptians actually beg to be mde serfs (Gen. 47:19 and 25).

Furthermore, Joseph’s terms are lenient by the standards of his time.  Sarna points out that even though Joseph buys the land from the peasants, it is used by the “former landowners, who pay a tax of 20 percent of the harvest.”  By contrast, “During the reign of Hammurabi, for instance, the state’s share of the harvest from administered fields ranged from tw0-thirds and one-half after the deduction of production expenses.”    In other words, the Egyptians were actually getting a pretty good deal compared to other heathens.

What’s the broader point of the story?  To me its a comparison of Egypt and Jews.  The Torah seems to assume that Jews will own their own land. For Egyptians, something like serfdom is kind of a given.   Advantage: Torah.



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