We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicated bullets
by using repeating keywords.
That is, if a modern
author wanted to get a point across using bullets -
a list of similar but contrastive items -
then the Biblical
Author would use repeating keywords.
Today's verse illustrates this principle.
Bullets whether indicated through modern notation or
through the Biblical method of repeating keywords always indicate
contrastive emphasis - that is, each bullet is presumed
to be a distinct item contrasted to the other items on the list. Very often
the bullets are also used to indicate that the entire list is exhaustive
of some spectrum.
the reasons Jacob was cursing Shimon and Levi
Cursed be their anger because it is brazen because
The repeated underlined phrase
creates a bullet effect. The bullet effect in turn
creates an emphasis on the distinctness of all enumerated items.
Rashi interprets the distinctness as indicated in the bracketed items in the above list. Notice
how Rashi applies the bullet principles: Each bullet refers to a distinct item; the bullets
together should cover all cases.
- In their anger, they killed a man [the men of Schem]
- In their desires, they attempted to castrate an ox [Joseph]
Advanced Rashi: I should give some explanatory comments to castrating an ox.
Recall that Joseph had a dream of upright sheaves. Also recall that upright objects are male symbols.
Joseph was a 17-year old teenager with many immaturities (Gn37-02). A natural way to interpret
his dream was a quest for adult masculinity and power. Joseph however interpreted the dream in terms of
a desire to help his family. In Dotan in the wilderness the older brothers, Shimon and Levi decided
to teach Joseph a lesson. Rashi, rather startingly, explains Gn37-23 to mean
that Shimon and Levi stripped Joseph totally naked. This is consistent with scaring
Joseph into admitting the simple physical meaning of his dream and to cure him of his ambitions.
Such scare tactics very often involve threats and bluffs and Jacob referred to this episode as
an attempt to castrate him. Notice that this explanation (that Shimon and Levi insisted
that his dream was not spiritual but physical) is an excellent explanation of why Joseph
never wrote to his father during his stay in Egypt and why Isaac who knew of the kidnapping
never told Jacob about it - there was no point - Joseph had a real legitimate fear that if
he was discovered Shimon and Levi would repeat their actions.