Sunday, November 20, 2005

No This Is Not Tobypalooza
(Defending Uncle Ishmael)

Bereishit/Genesis 21:9

ותרא שרה את בן הגר המצרית
אשר ילדה לאברהם מצחק

Sara saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian,
who she [=Hagar] had born to Avraham, playing.


Tosefta Sota pr.6:

Ribbí Shim‘on bar Yohhai taught:

Ribbí ‘Aqiva explained, 'playing' — 'playing' signifies nothing but idolatry, as it says, "and they got up to play". This teaches that Sara saw Yishma‘eil building a platform and hunting grasshoppers and sacrificing [them] to idolatry.

Ribbí El‘azar son of Ribbí Yosey Hagelili says, 'playing' signifies nothing but forbidden sexual relationships, as it says "the Hebrew slave came to me... to play with me". This teaches that Sara saw Yishma‘eil making conquests of the girls and abusing the women.

Ribbí Yishma‘eil says, 'playing' signifies nothing but murder, as it says, "...'Let the young men get up and play before us.' And then Yo’av said, 'let them get up!' And they got up and passed in numbers... and each grabbed the head of the other... and they fell together". This teaches that Sara saw Yishma‘eil taking arrows and throwing, and attempting to kill Yitzhhaq, as it says "as a madman who shoots firebrands, arrows and death".

But I say [says Ribbí Shim‘on bar Yohhai], the term 'playing' here signifies nothing but inheritance — when Yitzhhaq was born, [people] were saying, "a son has been born to Avraham who will take two portions [as firstborn inheritor]!" But Yishma‘eil would play/joke/mock, and say, "I am the firstborn, I will inherit two portions!" I learn this from the response, as it says, "[Sara] said to Avraham, 'kick out that servant and her son, for the servant's son will not inherit with my son, Yitzhhaq'."

I saw this midrash on Shabbos. I was blown away, and repeated it as a devar tora at lunch. Everyone likes quoting the beginning of it, about Uncle Yishma‘eil doing all these horrible transgressions. But no one ever quotes the end, where Ribbí Shim‘on bar Yohhai says straight out that all the other rabbis are wrong. Yishma‘eil wasn't a demonic figure. He was just unchosen.

19 Comments:

Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Ribbí

Why not Ribí? Are you finally seeing the light, and realizing the sacred importance of indicating gemination in transliteration?

11/20/2005 7:54 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

By the way--

I was just wondering today: what does palooza mean?

I found this site a few hours ago, but it wasn't entirely helpful.

11/20/2005 7:55 PM  
Anonymous brother yishmael said...

you might want to quote the sources for yishmael as the paradigm of teshuvah, when he returns to bury his father with yitschak.

11/20/2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I wrote Ribbí because its more similar to the colloquial form 'Rabbi'.

11/20/2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger Habib said...

In the cases of both Ishaq and Yaaqob, the imahoth do the dirty work of choosing the inheritor (and gipping the bechor). In both instances, they prefer the quiet, passive younger brother (Yaaqob = ish tam etc; Ishaq the passive qorban) over the bechor who, although not a sinner, displays more traditional, masculine virtues (laughing playing Ishma`el; hunting sporty `Esav). There is irony that Ishaq prefers `Esav, who is more Ishma`el’s type. But the mothers subvert both patriarchal authority and the primogeniture system to install the mommy’s boy as inheritor.

11/20/2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger Habib said...

Shouldn’t it be gemminnation?

11/20/2005 11:20 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

But the mothers subvert both patriarchal authority and the primogeniture system to install the mommy’s boy as inheritor.

...and inventing a Jewish stereotype/archetype that lasts for thousands of years!

11/20/2005 11:22 PM  
Blogger Habib said...

Absolutely. Isn’t Jewish culture almost unique in its complete devaluation of military valour/prowess as an indicator of worth (until Zionism kinda changed that).

11/20/2005 11:29 PM  
Blogger Lab Rab said...

Look, to defend Chazal, the Ishmaelites haven't always been so friendly to us. The history has dictated the interpretation, not vice versa.

11/21/2005 1:34 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

LabRab:

I'm not saying anything about the Ishmaelites, just about Ishmael himself.

11/21/2005 2:02 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Ishmael got shafted because Hagar and Sarah hated each other's guts. Classic case of what happens when the family patriarch sleeps with multiple women. The rival son, son of the rival, pays for his mother's good fortune, then pays again for her misfortune.

In the case of Yakov and Zack, the mother played favourites, and the one who pleased his father rather than her lost.

Other than there being two brothers, the underlying issues are different.

It still boils down to women being a lot more dangerous than you thought.

11/21/2005 5:37 PM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

I love radical Torah reinterpretation that works! Nice going, Steg...

11/22/2005 1:45 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

TBOTH:

"Hell hath no fury like the vast robot armies of a woman scorned."

Why is ‘Eisav "Zack"?


McAryeh: (or is that MC Aryeh?)

Don't blame/compliment me, it's all just R' Shim‘on bar Yohhai! :-)

11/22/2005 8:40 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Zack as in Yitzhok - meaning the father.

Had I meant Esav I would've (probably) written sorrel.

Because I associate him with soup.

11/22/2005 1:13 PM  
Blogger Jewish Exile said...

Isn’t Jewish culture almost unique in its complete devaluation of military valour/prowess as an indicator of worth (until Zionism kinda changed that).

Only if you ignore Tanach.

Your point is still valid, though. It's a question of focus, which doesn't necessarily mean completely devaluing anything. Yaakov also knows how to fight, with God himself in fact, when it is necessary.

11/23/2005 8:24 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Had I meant Esav I would've (probably) written sorrel.


Sorrel? Isn't that Avrohom's wife?

11/23/2005 9:44 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Sorrel, as in shav.

Yes, I know, not bean brei. Just an odd coinciding of a soup ingredient and a similar sounding syllable.

The free association could've been worse... I could refer to Esav as Linus.

11/23/2005 10:20 PM  
Blogger MC Aryeh said...

It was a compliment, Steg. And it is MC Aryeh, only together, MCAryeh...

11/26/2005 11:14 PM  
Anonymous brother kayin said...

Hey I just noticed...that's Rabbi Yishmael commenting on Yishmael not-Avinu.
Hm. I wonder how he felt about that.

8/24/2007 9:11 AM  

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