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December 7, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Vayechi

This coming week’s Torah portion begins a bit oddly. Joseph takes his sons to visit the dying Jacob, and Jacob doesn’t recognize them. (Gen. 48:10).  Why not?

Scharfstein says that “Joseph loved his father very much, but he did not visit him very often [because he did not want to] have to reveal that his brothers had sold him as a slave.”   Moreover, Joseph’s family lived far away.

But Joseph presumably doesn’t have much difficulty getting around Egypt, since he does kind of run the country.   And if he’s so afraid of revealing secrets, why does that prevent his children from visiting?

I suspect something else is going on.  Decades earlier, Jacob sent Joseph to visit his hostile brothers, without any obvious protection.  At the very least, Jacob was a bit careless about the security of his favorite son.  Is it possible that Joseph perhaps blamed his father for his mistreatment at the hands of his brothers?  If so, maybe it took Joseph some time (even after seeing his father again in Egypt) to get over it.

Speaking of favorite sons, Shadal has some fun with Gen. 49:10 (“The scepter shall not be lacking from Judah…[when] one comes to Shiloh, to him will be the obedience of the peoples.”)  He lists about ten or fifteen separate explanations, including

1) the “scepter” is the Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael (Judah) and ultimately the Messiah comes from Judah (Talmud, Rashi)

2) as long as there is a ruler in Israel it will be from Judah, up to and including Messiah (Ramban)

3) When the Tabernacle of God departs from Shiloh, David (of the tribe of Judah) will rule (Ibn Ezra, Gersonides)

4) Judah will rule until the northern tribes gather near Shiloh to install Jeroboam as head of their kingdom (Rashbam, Mendelssohn)

5) Judah will dominate until the time of Moses (Bahya ben Asher) (what does Shiloh have to do with Moses, you may ask?  The Hebrew numerical valuee of Shiloh is that of Mosheh)

6) The Messiah will come from Judah; Shiloh really ends a compound of shul (“end”) and shalah (“tranquility”) since presumably the Messiah will bring tranquility (Sforno)

7) Judah will lead until Samuel grows up in Shiloh, after which Samuel will make a non-Judahite king (19th c. commentator Naftali Homberg)

8) When the Jews return to Israel, everyone will travel under the tribe of Judah’s leadership till they reach Shiloh where they divide the land, and even afterwards Judah will be a major tribe (Shadal)

– plus a few other explanations that seem separate to Shadal, though I don’t quite see how different they are from (1-8).


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