Wednesday, December 13, 2017



It is one of the many miracles of early Jewish history that Biblical Joseph, despite his mistreatment, did not become another nominally-Jewish Jew-hater.  Sure, he gave his kidnapping, slavery-selling brothers a hard time when they came to the Egypt he had come to rule. But it was only to effect their repentance. Joseph saved his region and the Israelite clan from starvation. And, Land-O'-Goshen, he set them up in a plush ghetto in the Valley.  Not Southern California, but the Nile Delta.

Here is my footnote/essay on Genesis 41:51, where Joseph reveals the heavy weight of his childhood trauma in naming his son Manasseh .  [ ] means not a treatment of the text.
Genesis 41:51
[Still defined by his life’s trauma,] Increase called his firstborn son Manasseh / Forget-Maker,
for the Lord as Judgement has allowed me to forget [with these good years]  
all the travail [of my past bad years],
and [what] my whole father’s family [did to me]. 1

1 Including his father, whom he blamed for the open favoritism that estranged his brothers, and whom he blamed for sending him without escort to their hostile company. He did not send word to his father

all those years in Egypt because he assumed that Jacob was in on sending him away.  He felt like the rejected, banished Ishmael or Esau of previous generations. His mother Rachel died young, and seemed to be supplanted.  He had to be sent away to make room for the sons of Leah to continue the Covenantal mission of the patriarchs. The names of his sons reflect the pain Joseph had in his youth.

Many thousands of children of first-generation Jewish immigrants let their childhood pain be a powerful force driving them to reject their parents’ religion and moral code.  This phenomenon was not worse in America -- just better documented in many novels like “What Makes Sammy Run.”  The emotional pain turned sensitive and intelligent young men into moral monsters who grew up to have disdain for Judaism (Woody Allen) and Israel (Noam Chomsky), and often to became obsessed with money and “Skating After Shiksas” (Phillip Roth and the infamous lapsed Hollywood Jew of this writing: Harvey Weinstein.)  Jew-hating Jews are far deadlier than Jew-hating gentiles. Henry Kissinger killed thousands more Israelis in the Yom Kippur War with the U.S. State Department than Yasser Arafat could with two intifadas with the P.L.O.

Joseph, to his immense credit, had learned enough godly values from Jacob to retain much wisdom and morality despite the emotional trauma he experienced. Yes, he was successful beyond any dreams.  But he was able to resist the seduction of his mistress as a crime against his earthly and heavenly master.  Even though, in his emotional pain, he could blame and want to forget his father and childhood, Joseph was still able to reject Egyptian immorality and idolatry, and to raise Manasseh and Ephraim as “Modern Orthodox Jews” who could “look British but think Yiddish.”

Of course, Joseph having Jacob as a father was a major advantage. The people above (who are broadly used as types, not personally criticized) had fathers who were Jewishly-illiterate bra-makers-turned-salesmen in squalid urban ghettos.