What a Bunch of Winers: Miketz 2015

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Leadoff Questions: Did you know that the word “gullible” doesn’t appear in the dictionary?

Hopefully, you didn’t really believe me. But it’s all too common to be lulled into a false sense of security. When was the last time this happened to you? Who are the people most likely to perpetrate such trickery? And how do we spot it so that we aren’t fooled again?

While his father Jacob was perhaps a better-known trickster, Joseph shows similar skills when his brothers appear before him in Egypt. Knowing that his brothers don’t realize his true identity, Joseph toys with them before eventually coming clean. Let’s study one example.

Text: “Portions were served them from his table; but Benjamin’s portion was several times that of anyone else. And they drank their fill with him.” (Genesis 43:34)

Commentary #1: “They still did not know that the Egyptian lord before them was their brother Joseph. Therefore Joseph was still lost to them. Why, then, should they have drunk wine on that day? They saw that Benjamin had received larger portions of food than they, and yet they were not jealous of him. Hence they realized that they had already ridded themselves of the sin of envy (see Genesis 37:11) which had led them to sell Joseph into slavery, and consequently they felt that they might drink wine again.” – Kav Hen

Commentary #2: “The meeting between the 11 brothers and the man who is lord of the land of Egypt appears to end on a note of conviviality, which will quickly be reversed in the next scene of the drama Joseph has carefully devised for his brothers. It should be noted that the drinking at the conclusion of this scene anticipates the mechanism of what is to follow, for it is the alleged theft of Joseph’s silver goblet that will bring the brothers back to his house under strict arrest.” – Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary

Commentary #3: The nagging anxiety that has befallen the brothers before the strange Egyptian prince is now replaced by an equally inexplicable sense of well-being. Meanwhile Joseph – still unknown to the brothers, yet so well-known to the reader – holds the key to the mystery and looks on with delight on the dearest of his guests whom God has led to him. – Franz Delitzsch 

Follow-Up Questions: All of the above commentaries note the dramatic irony of the brothers gleefully drinking to their heart’s content while Joseph plots yet another opportunity to strike fear into them. Thankfully, Joseph seems to have no intention of doing anything horrible to his brothers, but is it fair for him to put them through a roller-coaster of emotions? And what if Joseph’s intentions were far more sinister?

When it comes to trickery, Joseph can’t hold a candle to today’s master of disruption, Donald Trump. While it’s easy to question whether Trump believes any of the bigoted nonsense he is foisting on the campaign trail, the damage is already being done; other presidential candidates have suggested some less extreme but fully monstrous suggestions regarding immigration, and polls suggest that many voters (albeit not a majority) agree with Trump’s despicable views on Muslims. Will Trump follow Joseph’s lead and back off from these extreme views before it’s too late? Or will American voters need to be the ones to put a stop to his racist madness?

Emanu-El Happenings: I hope you’re having a wonderful Hanukkah. Once again, please join our congregation at Publix in either West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, or Summerville this Sunday at 5:30PM to support our Day of Giving. We’ll light the hanukkiah for the last night of Hanukkah, then shop in support of the Kosher Food Pantry. It’s a win-win for all involved. Please be a part of it.

The Big Inning at the End: While trickery is dubious (if not normal) in politics, it has a grand, almost honored history in baseball. From the hidden ball trick to the spitball, from stealing signs to corking bats, baseball fans vacillate between outrage and acceptance of what is often referred to as “gamesmanship”. Does this add charm to the game, or should it be denounced? Or should we align ourselves with the view that “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’”?

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!