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December 3, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayigash

Joseph tells his brothers to confess to being cattlemen and shepherds, which will cause the king to send them to Goshen “since shepherds are forbidden in other parts of Egypt.” (Gen. 46:34).

What’s wrong with shepherds?  One common explanation is that Egyptians disliked them,* but Scharfstein has a more pragmatic explanation: “People just do not like to live near cattle because of their odors.”  There’s actually case law about the evils of cattle odors- if you want to know more, this case (Spur Industries v Del Webb) is commonly taught in law schools.

Why does Joseph want his brothers to go to Goshen?  Scharfstein says that Goshen was “far from Egyptian centers”, thus reducing the risk that they will be assimilated into Egyptian society.

The issue of where Jews should live is with us today.  When I lived in Queens, my primary shul’s rabbi talked more than once about the importance of living in a frum neighborhood (in his words, “where men wear kippot on the street.”)  And certainly there are advantages to coming home to a heavily Jewish area.

On the other hand, every frum place was once a not-so-frum place (leaving aside the land of Israel).  Someone had to be the first Jew to move to America (and before that, someone had to be the first to move to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, etc.)

*To hear more about this explanation, just google “+ egyptians + shepherds.”


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