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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayeshev

The Boiling Point

Rabbi Yossef Carmel20 kislev 5769
Dedicated to the memory of
Chana bat Chaim
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We tend to look at Yosef’s dreams as one matter that caused his brothers to hate him. However, we will mention some of the many differences between the dreams, and how the reactions followed.
The brothers are first said to hate Yosef in context of Yaakov’s special love for him (Bereishit 37:4). The situation deteriorated, as the Torah describes: "Yosef dreamed a dream and told his brothers, and they increased their hatred of him. Yosef said to them: ‘Hear now this dream that I have dreamt’" (ibid.:5-6). Toldot Yaakov Yosef infers that first Yosef just told them he had a dream without revealing its contents. Why did this anger his brothers? Rav Hirsch suggests that the words (ibid.:5), "v’lo yachlu dab’ro l’shalom" (usually translated as: they were unable to speak to him in peace) mean that they rejected Yosef’s words of peace to them. The latter pasuk would follow suit. Even the idea of Yosef confiding in his brothers as if they were friends upset them. Yet, their reaction was still only internal.
After Yosef shared his first dream’s contents, that his brothers’ sheaths would bow down to his, they protested against Yosef’s apparent presumption that he would have dominion over them and increasingly hated him. At this point, the word for hatred is replaced with the root kanoh. We usually translate kinah as jealousy, a feeling of being disturbed that someone else has something that we desire and lack. That seems more appropriate at the beginning of the process, when Yaakov favored Yosef, which was not necessarily Yosef’s fault. As Yosef, though, continued not only to dream egocentric dreams but to share them freely, hatred seems more understandable. Why is the seemingly weaker kinah introduced?
Throughout the Torah, use of kanoh exceeds what we call jealousy to introduce an imminent, strong action. Pinchas’ kinah was the precursor of violent action (Bamidbar 25:11). Rachel’s jealousy brought her to accuse Yaakov of negligence regarding her barrenness (Bereishit 30:1). Other occurrences support this thesis. The second dream already brought the brothers to contemplate action (see Rashi 37:12), but why?
Firstly, the second dream involved Yaakov, both in content and in the fact that Yosef shared it uncensored to him, indicating that Yosef’s ambitions knew no boundaries. Even Eisav took his father’s feelings into account when feuding with his brother. Secondly, Yosef’s and the brothers’ sheaves of the first dream could represent Yosef’s accomplishments outshining theirs. However, here heavenly bodies representing his entire immediate family were bowing down to Yosef himself, from the heaven to the earth as Yaakov stressed ("artzva" – ibid.:10). This represented to the brothers Yosef’s readiness to make their spiritual state subservient to his earthly desire for dominion. This was already something that pushed them to action, albeit a grossly unjust one.
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