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VaYeshev- Cooler Heads Prevail

Posted on כ׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ב (December 16, 2011) | in Uncategorized, VaYeshev | by

“And they saw him from afar, and when he had not yet drawn near to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. So they said one to the other, “Behold, that dreamer is coming. So now, let us kill him, and we will cast him into one of the pits, and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him,’ and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their hand[s], and he said, “Let us not deal him a deadly blow.”

  • What did Reuven hear that made him save Yosef?

A number of commentators (Panim Yafos and Pardes Yosef among others) explain based on the Zohar that Reuven heard a message through Ruach haKodesh, a Holy Spirit.

A simple reading of: and we will see what will become of his dreams sounds like the brothers were making a sarcastic remark. As if they were saying: let’s see how true all his dreams come when we are done with him. However, the Zohar says that this line was actually an interjection from Heaven. After the brothers come up with their plot- Heaven interjects and says: “You think you will be successful in getting rid of Yosef but in truth, he will rise to greatness if God rules so. Let us see what happens with his dreams- they will come true!- and then we will see what happens with your plot! God is turning the tables on the brothers. See how it reads in Rashi:

Rabbi Isaac said, This verse says: “Expound on me.” [I.e., this verse demands a midrashic interpretation.] The Holy Spirit says thus: They (the brothers) say, “Let us kill him,” but the verse concludes: “and we will see what will become of his dreams.” Let us see whose word will stand up, yours or Mine. It is impossible that they (the brothers) are saying,“and we will see what will become of his dreams,” because, since they will kill him, his dreams will come to nought.

This is what Reuven hears that the other brothers did not. Perhaps because Reuven is the firstborn he feels more responsibility towards his brother. See Rashi on the next verse:

And Reuben said to them, “Do not shed blood! Cast him into this pit, which is in the desert, but do not lay a hand upon him,” in order to save him from their hand[s], to return him to his father. to save him: The Holy Spirit testifies for Reuben that he said this only to save him, so that he would [be able to] come and take him out of there. He said, “I am the firstborn and the eldest of them all. The sin will be attributed only to me.” [from Gen. Rabbah 84:15]

I thought of a different explaination as to what exactly Reuven heard. Maybe Reuven simply heard what his brothers were actually saying! Maybe he was the only one that internalized the extremist position and pernicious actions they were taking! He realized that they were planning to do something they would regret later and he took a stand. Sometimes (this happens to me) we get hot-headed about something and we cannot think correctly. Especially when we are in a group and everyone is holding a certain position – it is hard for us to deviate and disagree. [Groupthink in Social Psychology.] Reuven, however, was sort of a leader and he kept cool when passions were flaring around him- and he made a wise decision. Even when we rightfully get passionate about something we should stop and think if what we are thinking to do is really sensical in the long run.

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