DVAR TORAH S2: Vayeshev (“Lost & Found” OR “Where’s Wool? D’oh!”) (4’’ 04’’’)
As delivered before the AJU Hillel 11/30/07
This Dvar Torah is dedicated to anyone who has ever lost a sock in the midst of doing laundry.
In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev we shift to a new main character for the penultimate time in the entire Torah, to the story of Joseph. I love this time of year because I can keep singing songs from the greatest biblical broadway musical of all time.
I noticed something very interesting in this parasha. On three cases in Vayeshev clothing is illicitly taken from someone and used against them deceitfully, though it is all for the sake of heaven and actually benefits the future of the Jewish people. The first case is after Judah recommends they throw Joseph into the pit instead of killing him (that would have been an automatic “Game Over” for the Bible), instead he gets sold down to Egypt. His brothers tear his Amazing Technicolor DreamCoat™ and dip it in sheep’s blood. There is an interesting exchange between Judah and his father Jacob where he deceives him and asks him haker na! “identify please, whether or not this is the coat of your son”, to which Jacob believes he’s been killed. If it hadn’t been for this “proof”, Jacob might have not believed them and it was because of this coat of many colors that Joseph goes down to Egypt in the first place.
But in true biblical Curb Your Enthusiasm fashion, there is midah kneged midah, that if you do something wrong you are going to get punished for it in the exact same way. We have the famous story of Judah and Tamar. Tamar had been married to Judah’s son Er who died, and according to ancient Jewish law, yibbum, if a married man dies childless, his brother must marry his widow. Brother Onan married Tamar, angered God and died too, and so next in line was the infant Shelach. Judah didn’t want her to marry Shelach as his other two sons died on their wedding nights to her, leaving her an Agunah, so she took actions into her own hands as she badly wanted a child. She disguised herself as a kdeisha, a cult prostitute, and convinces him to patronize her. As the price is a sheep which he did not have at the time, he leaves her his signet ring, belt, and staff as collateral and this disguised woman conceives twins. When he finds his daughter-in-law pregnant, he demands her put to death. When she produces his three pieces of clothing, demanding of him the with the exact same words that he used to trick his father: “haker-na!”, Identify this ring, belt and staff. When he realizes that he is the father he marries her and one of the twins she gives birth to, Peretz, becomes the great great great great great great great grandfather of King David and the Messianic line. Ever heard of Peretz? We mentioned his name tonight in Lecha Dodi: The messianic redemption is coming Al Yad Ish Ben Partzi V’Nismecha V’Nagila” at the hand of a man of Peretz’s line, and we will be joyous and happy”. Not only this but the whole incident humbled the proud lion, Judah; vital for his stepping in to protect Benjamin in the final showdown with Joseph in Egypt.
Finally we have one more piece of clothing to lose: Mrs. Potiphar, the wife of the very influential Egyptian minister Mr. Potiphar is going to try to seduce her new slave Joseph. He resists her advances for a long time and one day she attacks him and grabs him by the shirt. He screams in shalshelet trop and runs away and the shirt tears in her hands. She takes the shirt to her husband and accuses Joseph of rape. If it weren’t for this he wouldn’t have been put in prison and wouldn’t have met the butler who would eventually lead him to become the Prince of Egypt.
We lose clothing all the time. How many times have we misplaced a sock when doing laundry? Who knows if that missing garment will ultimately bring the redemption. In fact a midrash says that Elijah is sitting at the gates of Rome disguised as a poor beggar. If only someone would offer him a garment to change his bandages he will immediately summon the messiah. If it weren’t for all of the pilfered clothing, Joseph wouldn’t have risen to power, Joseph’s brothers and father would have starved to death in the famine, as would have the entire world including Egypt, there would have been no exodus, no Torah, no Jewish people. The world was saved all because of three shmatas. So don’t sweat so much when you misplace that sock, it might change the world.