Is Joseph in ancient Egypt like a Jew in 21st century America? He is successful, respected, even publicly honored, and moves freely in Pharaoh’s inner circle. Yet he is still a Hebrew, and thus “outside”. His brothers are kept geographically outside, in Goshen, so it is easy for them to remain Hebrews. Particularly at this time of year (no, I won’t get into that “December dilemma” stuff), I wonder how comfortable Joseph was with his partial assimilation into Egyptian society and how this was transmitted to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
Vayekhi is the last Torah portion in Genesis. Since we have another four books to go in the Torah, I suppose we can’t expect a tidy “happily ever after” resolution here. However, enough loose ends are tied up to make way for the book of Exodus.
At the start of this week’s portion, Jacob and his family have been in Egypt for 17 years. (Why didn’t they leave after 5, once the famine was over? Was Jacob waiting for a divine signal?) At 147, Jacob realizes he will soon die. He makes Joseph swear to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah, which holds the remains of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah, but unfortunately not Rachel. Jacob then blesses Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, giving Ephraim, the younger one, precedence (Ephraim). He also and formally adopts them, so that Rachel is the matriarch of three tribes, not two.
Finally, Jacob gives a “blessing” to each of his sons which is more like a performance review (which I no longer have to endure since I’m retired, heh heh heh) with a dash of prophesy. Jacob’s ratings, are roughly as follows: Highest of course are Judah (progenitor of kings) and Joseph (perennial favorite). Judah, who has remained with his brothers, leads them; while Joseph, despite (or because of?) his great abilities, is better at managing programs and manipulating individuals. Next come Asher and Naphtali; Zebulon, Dan, and Gad; Issachar and Benjamin; and, at the bottom, the three eldest, wishy-washy Reuben and cruel Levi and Shimon (the Shechem massacre). As we’ll see in Deuteronomy, the tribe of Shimon pretty much disappears. Oddly, considering his low rating, Levi is the progenitor of Moses and Aaron.
Jacob dies, is embalmed, mourned, and buried in Canaan. Joseph’s older brothers fear that Joseph’s kind treatment had been only for Jacob’s sake, so they make up a story that Jacob wanted him to forgive them, and they offer themselves as slaves. Nothing Joseph says or does can reassure them, nor heal the breech between them.
Genesis ends with death and foreshadowing. On his deathbed, Joseph tells that the Lord will bring them out of Egypt to Canaan and (50:25), “(w)hen God has taken notice of you, you shall carry up my bones from here.” We do not read of Egyptian mourning for Joseph, in contrast to Jacob decades earlier. There is a definite sense that all will not be well in Egypt for Jacob’s descendants.
Performance Review Humor
Regular readers of my blog and books know I hold the review processes in many organizations in contempt…Here are some … phrases used in reviews and their humorous interpretations. I’ve taken the liberty of expanding the list where appropriate. (selections)
A CHANGE LEADER: Loudly Indecisive.
ALERT TO COMPANY DEVELOPMENTS: An office gossip.
CALM UNDER FIRE: Too dazed and confused to act.
CANDIDATE FOR FAST-TRACKING: I will do anything to get this person assigned to another team.
CHARACTER ABOVE REPROACH: Still one step ahead of the law.
DEMONSTRATES QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP: Has a loud voice.
ENGAGES CO-WORKERS: Sends out weekly joke email.
ENJOYS JOB: Needs more work to do.
GOOD ORGANIZATIONAL KNOWLEDGE: Knows where the bodies are buried, may have buried them himself.
HAPPY: Is paid too much.
HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL: Owns a suit and wears it occasionally.
INDIFFERENT TO INSTRUCTION: Knows more than superiors and lets them know it.
INSPIRES OTHERS: Incites revolution with the other peasants.
LEADERSHIP MATERIAL: Spine and soul have been removed.
WILL GO FAR: Related to someone in senior management.
Hollywood Endings: ATALHEA (And they all lived happily ever after.) By IGP
Happy, moralistic endings became de rigueur in Hollywood movies starting around 1934 with the enforcement of the Hays Code. A few examples [SPOILER ALERTS]:
- In Booth Tarkington’s novel Alice Adams, Alice learns the futility of social climbing and decides business school won’t be so bad after all. In the movie, Alice gets the rich guy (no business school) and her father gets his glue factory.
- In the Broadway play, The Bad Seed, little Rhoda’s mother succeeds at suicide but not at murdering the cherubic psychopath. In the movie version, Rhoda is struck by lightning and her mother survives.
- In the play, Our Town, Act 3 is incredibly poignant because Emily has died and now sees how hard it is to appreciate life while alive. In the film, with William Holden and Martha Scott, Emily lives and all of Act 3 is her feverish dream.
I could go on. In fact, I will, with my own proposed ATALHEA endings:
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-63): Dobie gets Thalia Meninger and Maynard G. Krebs becomes an upstanding citizen and marries Zelda. ATALHEA.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): Before he has a chance to steal the $8,000 from Uncle Billy, Old Man Potter is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Clarence, Angel 2ndclass). Potter reforms enough to rewrite his will, leaving everything to George Bailey, and dies of a massive heart attack as soon as the ink is dry. ATALHEA.
Romeo and Juliet: Juliet tells her parents flat out that she’s already married to Romeo and probably pregnant. Her parents throw her out and she runs away to Romeo. ATALHEA.
2017: I’m open to additions.
64 People and Their Famous Last Words (selections)
BY CHRIS HIGGINS FEBRUARY 12, 2016
Poignant, funny, sad, weird or mean—last words can make quite the impact as we shuffle off the stage of life. Here are 64 notable examples.
2. Italian artist Raphael’s last word was simply: “Happy.”
5. Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau objected to a song sung at his bedside. He said, “What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune.”
12. Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right.
15. Marie Antoinette stepped on her executioner’s foot on her way to the guillotine. Her last words: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.”
16. Richard B. Mellon was a multimillionaire. He was the President of Alcoa, and he and his brother Andrew had a little game of Tag going. The weird thing was, this game of Tag lasted for like seven decades. When Richard was on his deathbed, he called his brother over and whispered, “Last tag.” Poor Andrew remained “It” for four years, until he died.