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Friday, December 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

After throwing Yoseif into the pit, the brothers had clearly paid no attention to Reuvein's previous demand and were still contemplating killing Yoseif. Finally, they are convinced by Yehudah, who had taken on a role of leadership amongst the brothers. He reasons, (37:26) "Of what gain would it be for us to kill our brother, thereby requiring us to cover his blood?" Sensing that the covering of blood was meant metaphorically, Rashi renders "we will hide his death." This seemingly innocuous comment is actually slightly problematic. According to Rashi's interpretation, had the brothers actually gone through with killing Yoseif, they would have had to cover up his death altogether. However, in the end, when they did not kill him, they still told Yaakov that he had died. Therefore, it seems that covering up Yoseif's "death" (misaso) would not have been the issue but rather, covering up his "murder" (harigaso/retzichaso.)


Behind Rashi's comment may, in fact, be an intriguing psychological insight. Had the brothers actually killed Yoseif, it would have been too difficult for them to report his death to their father and, at the same time, deny any involvement. They would have been forced to make up some other story, much further from the truth. Since they sold him and knew that he was indeed alive and well, they were more comfortable making up a story of his tragic death. If this is the way Rashi is to be understood, it gives deep insight into the human mind. It is more difficult to tell a lie which is very close to the truth, a half-truth perhaps, than to tell a lie which is far from the truth.


While the above suggestion is certainly debatable as a general matter of human psychology, there is another possible explanation. Typically, a murderer with some remaining vestige of sanity will have a vested interest in hiding the body of his victim. The simple reason for this is that the body will inevitably contain some forms of evidence that could trace back to the murderer. So, simply, had they actually murdered Yoseif, they would have been compelled to hide his body altogether and pretend to know nothing of his demise, lest the murder be traced back to them. But now that he was indeed alive, there was no risk that presenting his death to Yaakov would trace back to them.


Have a good Shabbos and a Chanukah Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Naaseh Neis (Chanukah)

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