Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Parshat Miketz

Measure for Measure

The theme of “measure for measure” (middah kenegged middah), that what goes around comes around, occurs frequently within the Tenach. There are many examples within the Yoseph epic. We will examine a few:

1. Yaakov cheated his father and sold out his brother by using Esav’s cloak and covering himself in with the skins of a kid goat (Bereshit 27:15-16). Yakkov’s sons cheated him by bringing him Yospeh’s cloak, daubed in goat’s blood when they sold their brother (ibid 37:31).

2. Yaakov sent Yoseph into his brothers’ hands (ibid 37:13). Yaakov sends the brothers into Yoseph hands (ibid 42:2).

3. The brothers schemed against Yoseph when they threw him into a pit and destroyed his dreams (ibid 37:19-20). Yoseph schemes against the brothers and has all of them thrown into a pit when he remembers his dreams (ibid 42:9-17).

4. The brothers eat a meal as they plot selling Yoseph into slavery (ibid 37:25-26). Yoseph dines a lavish meal as he plots selling the brothers into slavery (ibid 43:32-33).

There are numerous other examples of this theme within the episode. Indeed, this vicious circle of fraternal strife fills the book of Bereshit. It begins with Kayin and Hevel, proceeds to Shem, Ham and Yafet. The midrash even senses strife between Avraham and his brother Charan. The rivalry between Yitschak and Yishmael, Yaakov and Esav and of course Yoseph and his brothers are legendary. It seems that this vicious circle could have continued eternally. What caused the cycle to end?

The answer is teshuva, repentance.

Yehuda, the brother who masterminded the selling of Yaakov’s favorite son (i.e. Yoseph), insists on taking the place of Benyamin (Yaakov’s new favorite), when Yoseph enslaved him. Yehudah breaks the cycle by offering himself as surety for Benyamin (ibid 9).

Unlike Kayin, he boldly asserts that he is his brother’s keeper. He will not allow his brother’s blood to cry out to God from the ground.

Yehuda’s actions leads to the reconciliation of the brothers and the unification of the sons of Israel.

Yehuda was no saint. His instigated Yoseph’s sale and he used the services of what he thought was a harlot (ibid 38:15). However, in both cases, even when he had a face-saving alternative, he took responsibility, saved someone’s life and ensured the survival of Israel.

In these days of fraternal strife amongst modern Israel, who will be brave enough to take responsibility and bring about the reconciliation of brothers?

Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Miketz entitled: "One Dream or Two?", appears at


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