Yitzhaq Hayut-man – TheHOPE ~ התקווה The New Vision for Israel & Zion
Dr. Yitzhaq Hayut-Man. “And Ya’aqov dwelt in the land where his father sojourned, in the land of Kena’an“. The Hebrew (original) version is, “vaYeshev Yaaqov beErez megure aviv beErez Kena’an – וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביב בארץ כנען
For a full exegesis of this Parashah, see this link.
“And Ya’aqov dwelt in the land where his father sojourned, in the land of Kena’an“. The Hebrew (original) version is, “vaYeshev Yaaqov beErez megure aviv beErez Kena’an – וישב יעקב בארץ מגורי אביב בארץ כנען. We want to look at the word Megure – מגורי, or Megurim . This word is translated here as “residence” or “sojourn”, but it may also mean “fears” (the word Magor – מגור means “dread” or “threat”) – a land of fears and threats, while Kena’an – כנען has to do with ”submission”. Ya’aqov’s father was Yitzhaq (Isaac), and Ya’aqov already “swore by the Fear of his father Yitzhaq” (Gen. 31:53), but there the word for fear is PaHaD – פחד.
Yitzhaq had enough reason to be afraid during the Aqedah (עקדה, the Binding of Yitzhaq) at the present Jerusalem Temple Mount. Compared with his father and with his son, Yitzhaq was commanded never to leave the land, even in drought or any other danger. Here the text hints that the land itself, and dwelling in it, was a constant source of fear. The Torah tells how the earth could “open her mouth and swallow” people (Num. 16:32), and of course most people get interred inside the earth when they die. But here the Land of Kena’an is the dangerous part of the earth – which it may be up to the present (In fact, the struggle for the Land of Israel and especially the struggle over the Temple Mount are deemed the most dangerous threat for world peace. Thus the Land of Israel can be seen as a place of fear and anxiety (see below).
This Parashah starts the story of Yoseph (Joseph) and his brothers. Yoseph is going start appearing as the most important person in the Book of Genesis, to whom more space is dedicated in the story than to everyone else, including Avraham. In this Parashah, with its four chapters, three are dedicated to Yoseph while one chapter, running in parallel tells of Yehudah (Judah) the other major figure of the Twelve Tribes. From Yehudah will originate the Messiah King David, and who will confront Yoseph two Parshiot hence.
Let us analyze here what is implied by the names of these two major protagonists.
The name Yoseph – יוסף – was given to him by his mother Rahel רחל, Ya’aqov’s favorite wife. But Rahel did not regard him as favorite. First she demanded sons from her husband (30:1) and when at last the miracle happened and she gave birth she called him Yoseph demanding “Yoseph YHWH li ben aher” – יוסף יהו’ לי בן אחר, namely “God should give me another son” (Gen. 30:24) – as if this one is not good enough. When she received her second son, she called him Ben-Oni , but the father called him by another name – Binyamin, namely “the son of my Right” (Gen. 35:18)
For Ya’aqov the name Yoseph meant almost the opposite – “the one who would increase (or add)”. In his final blessing to his sons he said “ben Porat Yoseph, ben Porat ale ayin – בן פרת יוסף, בן פרת עלי-עין – “Yoseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). The word Porat means more generally “fertility” (Piryon). Yoseph is the one who will increase and multiply Israel and send his branches over the wall that separates Israel from the nations. In my full treatment of the Book of Genesis, we show how Yoseph is the element of the increase of Israel, and explains the concept of the (for then, the future) “Messiah Son of Yoseph”.
As we’ve seen in the commentary to the former Parashah, the Gematria value of the name of YOSePh is 156, which are 6 X 26 – half a dozen times 26, which is the Gematria of the Holy Name of YHWH (10+5+6+5 = 26). This hints that Yoseph got YHWH in him. But the name of his elder brother and competitor for the leadership of Israel – YeHUDaH (Judah) also has the name of YHWH explicitly in the letters of his name
The story of Yehudah is in contrast – or complementary – to the story of Yoseph.
Given this name by his mother, Le’ah, it meant ‘thanks to God’ for her children. The first three names reflected her misery and anxiety, using the births as weapons in her struggle for Ya’aqov’s love. This time, she thanked God for the child without any external calculations. She said haPa’am odeh et-YHWH, al ken kar’a shmo Yehudah – הפעם אודה את יהו’ על-כן קראה שמו יהודה – “Now will I praise the Lord; therefore she called his name Yehudah”. But when it came the time for his father’s last blessing, Ya’aqov made a word play with Yehudah’s name – Yehudah, ata yodukha ahekha יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך – “Yehudah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise”. It is not thanking God for Judah – but Judah’s brothers thanking Judah, presumably for his good guidance and help to them.
In this Parashah we find Judah first giving council how to get rid of Yoseph and benefitting materially from it : “and Judah said to his brothers, what profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Yishme’elim, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh” (37:26-27). While staying the leader of the brothers who wanted to kill Yoseph, Yehudah in fact saved Yoseph’s life
Then, while Yoseph went down to Egypt, “it came to pass at that time, that Yehudah went down (vayered Yehudah – וירד יהודה) from his brothers, and turned to a certain Adullamite…” (38:1). This voluntary “going down from his brothers” almost paralleled with Yoseph’s forced descent from his brothers to Egypt and entanglement with Potifar’s wife. Yehudah’s descent then goes lower and lower, leading to his sleeping with his daughter-in-law and its exposure. Yehudah then confesses – Modeh מודה– that she was right and he was wrong. This confession is not called explicitly by the name Hoda’ah הודאה, but the word is strongly implied there, adding yet another meaning to the name Yehudah – not just thanking or being thanked, but also confessing his misdeeds.
Let us consider now the contemporary significance of these figures and what is implied by their names. The key word is Magor – dread or threat. The modern Israelis live in this land in constant dread, feeling that the Land of Kena’an has not been secured forever as “A Jewish State”. A recent (Hebrew) book by a leading Israeli anthropologist characterizes the Israeli society as post-traumatic threatened society. We can reflect that the two poles of Israeli-Jewish society are the Haredi – extreme orthodox – and the Hilonim – the secular Jews. Interestingly, both names mean fear – Hared חרד means, literally “frightened” and both Haradah חרדה and Hil חיל means Fear – and these are names that the parties concerned chose!
The great fear of Israelis today, which keeps stalling any peace process, is the fear from a bi-national state where the Muslim Arabs are likely to soon become the majority (and as is known, no Arab-Muslim state is a democracy). The situation is seen as that of “a zero-sum game” of “Us and Them”. But the Torah vision for Israel is not for an exclusive bi-national state – or two states to that matter. It is what we can call a (Con)Federation of Twelve Brother-Tribes – which in current terms can be called twelve communities. What is important is the replacement of polarization of two by the universal principle of the stable Twelve-tribe nation.
There are several Jewish communities in Israel – the Haredi and the Hilonim do not inter-marry. The Palestinian community(s) could be absorbed as brothers – provided that Judah, namely the Jews, recognize that “Jewish” is a part of the whole Israel and not the entire nation, that there are some “Lost Tribes” to be welcome. Judah should aspire for the blessing of Yehudah, ata yodukha ahekha יהודה אתה יודוך אחיך – “Yehudah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise”. If there are no brothers, no praise and fulfillment can be expected. The Torah key to finding these unrecognized brothers is in the name “Yoseph” – “let him add/increase”.
There are over a billion people on earth who take a historical Jew – Yeshu’a ben Yoseph – as their connection to the Divinity and to Israel. Christianity has deified Jesus, which is unacceptable to Judaism (and to Islam), and in the past the Church considered itself as “the True Israel” with no place for Jews in it. But nowadays there are hundreds of Christian and Nazarene communities worldwide who consider themselves as Israel, revere the Jews and believe in the reunion of The House of Judah (the Jews) and their House of Joseph (A major case In point is the Mormon religion, composed by a prophet called Joseph (Smith), who are sure of themselves as Israelites.). This is not the place to discuss the thorny religious issues that this entails. The important point is that this is exactly the Torah Narrative – Joseph and his brothers confronted, fought, got alienated – and then re-united to form the whole Nation of Israel – and this is brought not just as history but as prophecy and goal.
 Gad Ya’ir, “The Code of Israeliness” (in Hebrew). Keter, 2011.
 See John Michell & Christine Rhone book: “Twelve Tribe Nations”. Thames and Hudson, 1991.