Monday, 12 December 2011

Slander, Sefer Yetzirah and Indulgence

In this week's Torah portion (of the Five books of Moses, “Vayeishev” Genesis 37:1 to 40:23) the story is told of Joseph bringing an “evil report” about his brothers to his father Jacob. This takes place in the Biblical narrative in Genesis when Jacob has returned with his 12 sons and 3 wives (Rachel has dies giving birth to Benjamin on the way) to the land of Canaan. This is before Joseph has his dreams and is sold by his brothers in to slavery.

Genesis 37:1-3 (translation and commentary from Sapirstein edition of Artscroll chumash):
“...(1) Jacob settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. (2) These are the offspring of Jacob: Joseph, at the age of seventeen years, was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock, and he was a youth with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph would bring evil reports of them to their father. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons since he was a child of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen tunic...”
The famous Bible commentator Rashi asks the question... how is it possible that the brothers were doing something evil that Joseph could bring a report to their father that slandered them? Also, what was it that they did?

Here is an extract of Rashi's translation about 37:2:
“...EVIL REPORT OF THEM. Any evil which he would see in his brothers the sons of Leah, he would tell to his father, that they would eat a limb which was detached from a living animal, and that they would belittle the sons of the secondary wives – by calling them servants, and that they were suspect of immorality...”
Rashi then goes on to state that Joseph was punished by for each of the three things he gave a bad report about.

The commentary to Rashi, the Sapirstein edition has notes that clarify further what the nature of the animal was that the sons ate without properly slaughtering it and the nature of the female that the sons were supposedly sporting with.
Note 7. pp 413: “...Alternatively, the sons of Leah, by virtue of their states as the sons of the first wife, were privy to the Kabbalistic secrets of Sefer Yetzirah by which they were able to create an animal by supernatural means (see Sanhedrin 56b where amoraim create an animal by such means, and eat it). The prohibition against eating meat detached from a live animal does not apply to such an animal. Joseph saw them eating from it and did not realize that the animal was created supernaturally (Shnei Luchot HaBris, Part 2, Torah SheBiKesav, Parashas Vayeishev)...”
Note 2. pp 414: “...According to Shnei Luchos HaBris cited in the previous two notes, the brothers created a being in the form of a human female through the kabbalistic secrets of Sefer Yetzirah and were walking with it. Joseph thought it was an actual woman...”
Please note that “walking with it” could be a euphemism for having sexual relations. So we can see from the above quote from Genesis, the commentary by Rashi and then further explanation of Rashi - that it appears that the sons of Jacob had created two beings using Sefer Yetzirah. One for eating and the other for sexual relations - and that the normal laws for interacting with an animal or woman do not apply to those created by supernatural means.

I guess that this means that the guys in Weird Science were not breaking any rules.