Perashat VayeshebFriday, December 12, 2014
It is said “you fool me once, shame on you; you fool me twice shame on me”. What kind of people would allow themselves to be fooled twice? Is it that they are not aware of it or are they “gluttons for punishment”?
Perashat Vayesheb, this week begins by telling us about the sibling rivalries between Joseph and his brothers. This discord began with childish rivalry and went on to jealousy and reached the level of hatred.
After that paragraph, the brothers went to pasture the flock in Shekhem. Jacob asks his favorite son Joseph to “go and look into the welfare of his brothers and the flock and bring back word to him”. The rest of the story, we know very well; Joseph is received with great animosity and the result was that they sold him into slavery to a caravan of Ishmaelites going to Egypt.
Two points here reflect the above-mentioned sayings. First, why would the brothers go to Shekhem, which in addition of being far as a few days travel from Hebron where they were living, it was the place they battled the townspeople of Shekhem after their sister Dina was kidnapped by the leader of Shekhem? Jacob, when he rebuked his sons for their actions specifically said he was afraid of the surrounding people to persecute him for that battle! Yet, we see the brothers nonchalantly travel far from their sojourn in Hebron all the way to Shekhem, as though there are no other good grazing places around! One would think, it is foolhardy for them to go to a region where they incurred hatred. Second, why would Jacob, who knowing full well the animosity and hatred the brothers have for Joseph, would send him to them, and why Joseph who knows full well how his brothers feel about him, says “here I am” ready to go? Where they allowing themselves to be fooled again and again, or are they gluttons for punishment?
Last week, I visited Itamar, a hilltop town in northern Samaria overlooking Shekhem (known as Nablus today) where last year, 2 terrorists came on a Friday night, butchered and mercilessly killed 5 members of the Fogel family in their sleep. The father, the mother and 3 children, the youngest was 4 months old. These terrorists came from Shekhem’s surrounding villages. A breathtaking view of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal where Shekhem rests in the valley can be seen from Itamar hilltops. It appears so peaceful and spiritual way high on top, yet so bloodthirsty and violent below in the valley.
Looking back into history, we see many events in the history of the Jewish People where similar situations occurred to the Jews. Innocently or naively, Jews trusted their hosts, their neighbors, their enemies and all those who sought their destruction. Even up to our days, the Jews and Israel remain trusting of their enemies and neighbors.
As we celebrate Hanukkah this week, let us remember the Maccabees who did not allow themselves to be fooled twice not they were gluttons for punishment.
Nov 25 2020
Kislev 9 5781