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Written by Tamar Fox. Check out last week’s debut post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Vayeshev.
The first thing that jumps out at me is Joseph’s marriage to Asenath, the daughter of Potiphara. Last week we read that Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife, only to be thrown in jail when she accused him of assaulting her. And this week, Joseph is out of jail, has great powers and responsibilities as an Egyptian civil servant, and is married to Potiphar’s daughter. Seems like quite a reversal! I love that it demonstrates that people can get over whatever sexual hangups they had in the past, and move on. And that it emphasizes the ‘opposites attract’ angle, since Asenath is the daughter of a pagan priest, and Joseph is a Jew. But it turns out, there’s a lot more to the Joseph and Asenath relationship. Turns out there’s an entire apocryphal book devoted to the odd couple’s relationship, and Asenath’s journey from pagan to monotheist. It focuses in part on Asenath’s falling in love with the stud-like Joseph at first sight, but him brushing her off for not being a Jew.
The other story theme that resonates is the idea of Joseph keeping himself disguised from his family, and waiting for the right moment to reveal his true identity. When reading the text, I’ve often wondered why he didn’t reveal his identity right away. After all, he’s got all the power, so he can’t be afraid anymore. The lengthy charade just seems weird and torturous. But in reading the story again this week it made me think about our own secret sexual selves, and about coming out to our families. The queer community has been struggling with this issue for decades, but being honest about your sexual identity can be a struggle even for those who don’t identify as LGBTQ. Sometimes we decide to keep these things from our families, for a variety of reasons ranging simply from wanting to retain some privacy, to shame, to concerns about being cut off from loved ones. With that added perspective I have a bit more compassion for Joseph waiting until he was absolutely sure his brothers would be happy to see him, and for his desire to wait before sharing his new exciting (but also controversial) identity with his family.
See you next week!