A modern author who wishes to indicate special
emphasis to each item in a list uses bullets
to indicate this emphasis. By bulleting the
reader is asked to dwell for a moment on each list item
and listen to its nuances. In my article Biblical
Formatting to appear in the Jewish Bible
Quarterly I have explained that when the
Biblical Author wishes to indicate special emphasis
on each member of a list, repeated keywords
are used. The repeated keywords should be
interpreted as the equivalent of a bulleted format.
The following example illustrates this.
Verse Gn37-23a discussing the hatred of Joseph's brothers
towards him states
And it came to pass, when Joseph came to his brothers,
that they stripped Joseph
- of his coat,
- of his multi-colored striped coat that was on him;
Rashi commenting on the bulleted structure indicated
by the repeated underlined connective keyword, of states
- They stripped Joseph of his special multi-colored striped coat
- They also stripped Joseph of his ordinary clothes.
Sermonic points: Here Rashi interprets the bulleted list, indicated
by the repeated underlined keyword, of, as emphasizing that
both his special coat and his ordindary clothes were removed.
Rashi does not go further as to what happened or why.
I would conjecture that Joseph's first dream, the farm bundle
standing was interpreted spiritually by Joseph but physically
by some of his brothers such as Shimon. These brothers did
not see any prophetic spiritual content in Joseph's dreams. Hence
they stripped him to get him to admit to the physical interpretation
of the dream.
Because of the degradation Joseph suffered he was sold as a slave.
And because he was sold as a slave the entire Jewish people were enslaved.
Slavery is simply an emphasis on the physical and de-emphasis on the
spiritual. The Jews were redeemed when they admitted and recognized
spiritual prophecy. Hence we can see the Egyptian exile as a punishment
for denying the prophetic nature of Joseph's dreams.
There are in fact
later authorities (Acharonim) who interpret the Egyptian slavery experience
as a punishment for the treatment of Joseph.
We could also further this point by interpreting
God's requirement to Abraham, that the Jews live in a strange land for
400 years as a logical statement that if Abraham wanted
to be father of a prophetic people
then eventually some people would interpret these prophecies
physically and as a consequence these people would be punished with
the Egyptian exile until such time that they would beg God for
the redemption of prophecy.
We have only sketched the ideas above. Although the ideas are speculative
they are consistent with the emphasis of Rashi that Joseph was totally stripped.
It would seem there was serious argument between Joseph and some of his
brothers whether dreams are prophetic or physical and as a punishment for
the degradation that Joseph received, the Jews were enslaved for 400 years.
Finally, this verse nicely illustrates the potential in even small and superficially
minor Rashis to evoke serious philosophical discussion.