Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vayechi--1000 BCE: Torah in the Making--Two Royal Davidic Scribes Argue Over How to Write "Jacob's Blessing"

Vayechi

1000 BCE. The Royal Scriptorium, a writing-office/warehouse more pretentious in name than reality, in King David’s Palace, Jerusalem: it is a cavernous room chock-full of clay tablets, animal-skins in various stages of tanning-preparation for writing, clay jugs ready for inscribing with the names of their contents, rolls of papyri stacked in every conceivable corner, and even a stack of stone plaques next to several hammer-and-chisel sets, which will be used for more-permanent legislative displays.

In one corner badly-lit by a flickering olive-oil lamp, two Royal Scribes, Tsuribaal and Kuttav, are having a quiet chat over some herbal tea, during a break from sharpening their reed pens, which they will dip into vegetable-dye-ink and apply to parchment-scrolls. They are, as Hebrews have done since time immemorial, discussing vigorously—that is, arguing over—the content of the Blessing of Jacob, this week’s Torah portion, but, back then, merely a section of prose-poetry recording the pre-monarchical tribal saga of the Israelites.

Tsuribaal: Kuttav, you have it all wrong. Reuven was Jacob’s firstborn, way-back-when, and there remain large numbers of Reuvenites still living in this tribal portion. See here (flourishing a chart which he plucks expertly from a pile in the corner): the Royal Census of the first year of King David’s reign, peace be upon him! I know there was a Census, for, my word upon it, a plague followed. Plagues always follow any reckoning. That is why I have never given the Chief Scribe, Pedahtzur (whispering)—that fat, oily fish of a  bureaucrat, who talks more than he will ever write, and leaves the minute recording to us lowlier souls—an exact count of the fresh papyri and the bags of clay we got two months ago from Ashdod.

Kuttav (speaking with exaggerated patience): I cry you pardon and mercy, Master Tsuri—Judah is the biggest tribe. I am a Judahite, as is our King, God preserve him! And that is what I will write Jacob’s Blessing to mean. Now, leave me, Tsuribaal; I work better on poetry when I am left alone. You go count the bags of hops in the other storeroom; there’s a good fellow. Where’s my Text on Poetical Parallelism--?

Tsuribaal: Not so fast! Did you forget that we were both assigned to write the Blessing? It is most important that we show the smooth transition in leadership from Reuven to Judah. And what shall we do with Shimon and Levi? You can’t just have two major tribes disappear like that.

Kuttav: Hmph—where are your mighty Tribes of Shimon and Levi today? I saw a Levite-worker at the Offerings-Tent here in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant is kept, and he was covered with soot and blood,  hardly impressive—not to disparage the Ark itself, though why David is not allowed to build a Holy Temple, I am not sure. For me, it all comes down to that business with Dinah and Shechem, back in the Jacob-Saga. Even given that she was a very, shall we say, sheltered young girl, was it a—and please, Tsuribaal, forgive me for speaking so bluntly—seduction, or something other than that?

Tsuribaal: Goodness—you’re going to have to clean that up—there may be small children reading this Book! Can’t have any goings-on like that in a Holy Book, Kuttav. And it’s a Royal Chronicle, to boot.

Kuttav: I write what I see—that is, in my Mind’s Eye. We are not mere record-scratchers on clay lumps, Lord Tsuri; we are the Royal Historians, and, as such, are obligated to record our People’s History, as well as their Interactions with the Dweller-Between-the-Cherubim.

Tsuribaal (shaking a finger in Kuttav’s face): Don’t get all High-and-Mighty with me, Master Kuttav. I sat next to you during Scribal Arts Class, and even slipped you some answers on the Phoenician Language Short-Answer part of the Final Exam, when the Proctor was nodding off. In fact, Kuttav, were it not for me, you would be a mere Royal Customs Clerk, sizzling beneath the hot sun on the docks there in Yaffo, counting barrels of olive oil and Mei Raglayim naphtha being sent off to Hodu and Kush, instead of sleeping on cool marble and fresh linen in the Palace Dormitory and canoodling with that little kitchen-doxy of yours from Lower Issachar! (He stops, fuming)

Kuttav (soothingly): Now, Tsuribaal, calm yourself. I’m sure we can work something out about Dinah. You certainly cannot argue with the long-standing Tradition that Shimon and Levi took up arms and attacked the men of Shechem when they were—shall we say—indisposed.

Tsuribaal (tapping his lip): Yes, that’s true.

Kuttav: Nor that Reuven made his move on leadership by claiming Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah, and that Jacob was—was—(hesitates)

Tsuribaal: Can we not say, “Jacob heard of it”? Meaning, he did nothing. We play the entire incident down.

Kuttav: Yes, that is a fine compromise; I agree to settle for that language, vague though it be.

Tsuribaal (smiling triumphantly): Agreed, as well. This is a Royal Chronicle, after all, not some Arabian Nights Harem Tale.

Kuttav (writes): Done and done. Now, how are we to leave in no uncertain terms the unassailable fact that Judah, the Royal Tribe of our Awful Sovereign and Liege Lord, David the Most-High-King, Peace be Unto Him! And his Progeny (whosoever that Progeny may be; there are so many of them, but who am I, a mere Scribe, to criticize?), may reign forever?

Tsuribaal: I am there, M’Lord Kuttav, once again, ahead of you, with a nice bit of poetry I recall from our late Writing-Master Achikam, in Scribal Arts Class, you may recall: “The scepter shall not depart from—what’s that tribe, again?—Judah”—yes, Judah.

Kuttav: To which I will add, “…Until Judah reaches Shiloh.”

Tsuribaal (suspicious; he gives up nothing without a fight): “Shiloh”? What’s that?

Kuttav: A nice distinction. We may understand it many ways—it can be Shelah, one of the Judahite clans, and the one to which I myself belong—I consider it an honor, and a bit of poetic license, to insert myself into the text—sort of an echo of my—I mean, our—own labors on this royal-tribal-memorial project. Or, it could be “shai lo,” meaning, “until a tribute is brought to him,” that is, to the ruler at the time, that ruler being a descendant of David, which will help to shore up the Davidic House against any rivals—one never knows; remember the tussle David had, seizing the Throne away from Saul and the Benjaminite Tribe? Beyond that, David and his descendants will solidify their hold on power, so much so that the other tribes, indeed, all the tribes and nations of our known world, extending all over the Back of the Land-Turtle and from one corner of the Firmament to the Other, will bring him tribute, and all Humanity will pledge their loyalty to him.

Tsuribaal: Hm. A nice bit of poetry, that. (Puts down his reed quill and says, half-mockingly) I defer to your poetical and political skills, Master Kuttav.

Kuttav: Thanks; couldn’t have done it without your assistance (Tsuribaal narrows his eyes and glares); I mean, help. Any more of that herbal tea left—or, if we’re done, my mind and throat are dry. M’lord Tsuri, the workday’s almost done. Could I interest you in a mug of barley beer?

References


Kugel, James. How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then & Now. NY: Free Press, 2007. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Vayigash-- Two Little Israelite Boys Discuss Their Future in the Caravan Down to Egypt

Vayigash

An Israelite Caravan, c. 1886 BCE. A Hot, Dry, Dusty Day in the Sinai, descending from Canaan to Egypt. Men shouting directions and being ignored, Women comforting their Children, a Solid Mass of Cattle—goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, camels, all united in a loud cacophony of animal-cries rising up to Heaven. In the midst of the Tumult, Two Small Boys are walking, holding short sticks, and trying to guide an Elderly She-Donkey which is mostly ignoring them. They are cousins Yoni ben Pallu and Dov ben Zerach, of the Tribes of Reuven and Judah, respectively. Yoni is ten; Dov is seven.

Yoni: Move, Duvdevan! You’re slowing us down. We will have to stay back in Canaan, for sure, and never get to see Egypt. Move along, or I will use my mighty donkey-whip on your bony backside, see if I don’t!

(He waves his little branch menacingly in the Donkey’s face. The Donkey brays, tosses its head, and ignores him.)

Dov: Yoni, will we see the Pyramids? Granny says that they are built of mud-brick, and reach from the Earth to the Sky, all the way up to where the Great God Elohim has placed the planet-wanderers in the Rakiah, the Firmament. Is that so?

Yoni (uncertain): Granny tells a lot of stories. Is this your Granny or mine?

Dov: I don’t know; I’m not sure; there are so many Grannies….

(The Donkey begins to veer off the path, and Both Boys scramble to grab its rope-harness, and pull its tail back, lest it barrel into the cows before it.)

Yoni: Poor Old Duvdevan! She’s almost blind, you know.

Dov: Is that why Poppa gave her to you?

Yoni: I suppose so; Poppa won’t let me have a dog; he says they’re unclean. (The Two scuffle along in the dust, for a few steps)

Dov: I hear that there are Giant Statues in Egypt, too. And Cousin Joseph is the King’s Special Assistant.

Yoni: What’s a Statue?

Dov: I don’t know. Are we to live in Egypt forever?

Yoni: Last night, after you went to bed with the other babies, Grandpa Reuven let me stay up. He took me to Great-Grandpa Jacob’s tent. He is so old—so old! He made a speech, and Reuven repeated it after him. Great-Granny Leah and Aunty Zilpah were moving their lips—I suppose they were remembering it; my Papa said they are the Rememberers for all of us, and will pass the Story down, so it’s never forgotten.

Dov: What was the Story, Yoni? Pass it down to me!

Yoni (frowning): Have I forgotten it? No. Great-Grandpa said something like, ‘All of us, My Children, will leave tomorrow. I must go down and see my son, Joseph, before I die.’ And he clenched his fists and moved his hands in the air, as if he were arguing with Someone, only there was no one there. And then, he said, ‘I will not fear to go down to Egypt, for Elohim, the Judgment-God, the God who has forever brought me down and up throughout my life, who has blessed me with my many sons, in particular with Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of my beloved Rachel, God rest her soul!—will make my great-grandsons and their children into a Great Nation, and will bring them out of Egypt with a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm.” And then, he began to cough, suddenly, and Leah and Zilpah laid him back on his sleeping-mat, and Papa carried me out; I was so tired….

Dov: Does Elohim have hands and arms? Where can I see Him?

Yoni: You can’t see Him, Little Fool! The Great Elohim lives in the Mountains of Moab, beyond the Sea of Salt. That’s what Great-Uncle Levi told me. Uncle Levi knows a lot; he has the Sacred Scrolls.

Dov (thoughtfully): If Egypt is so wonderful, I will never leave; I will build a great house, as big as King Pharaoh Senostris’s Palace, and live there forever.

Yoni (patronizingly): Says you. But Grampy Jacob said that the Great God Elohim told him there will be a day when we must leave. Egypt will not be our Home forever.

Dov: How can you live in a Place and it not be your Home?

Yoni: A Home is—a Home is—where it belongs to you, not to Someone Else. A Home is where you look around, and all the tents belong to you; the people are either relatives or close neighbors, and you all speak the same language. No one can come into your home and force you to do something you don’t want to do. That’s not the Whole Thing, but that’s an Important Part. Canaan will always be our home, and Egypt will never be—not entirely. It’s so hard to explain to you, Dovvy!

Dov: But the Egyptians will be nice to us. Uncle Joseph has promised it, and he is the second Most Powerful Man in Egypt. Why would that ever change?

Yoni: I don’t know—but don’t forget what Great-Grandpa said: “I will take you out,” says the Great God Elohim.

Dov: I just don’t understand—watch out, Duvdevan! (The Boys chase the Donkey, as it shambles off)


Vayigash-- Two Little Israelite Boys Discuss Their Future in the Caravan to Egypt

Vayigash

An Israelite Caravan, c. 1886 BCE. A Hot, Dry, Dusty Day in the Sinai, descending from Canaan to Egypt. Men shouting directions and being ignored, Women comforting their Children, a Solid Mass of Cattle—goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, camels, all united in a loud cacophony of animal-cries rising up to Heaven. In the midst of the Tumult, Two Small Boys are walking, holding short sticks, and trying to guide an Elderly She-Donkey which is mostly ignoring them. They are cousins Yoni ben Pallu and Dov ben Zerach, of the Tribes of Reuven and Judah, respectively. Yoni is ten; Dov is seven.

Yoni: Move, Duvdevan! You’re slowing us down. We will have to stay back in Canaan, for sure, and never get to see Egypt. Move along, or I will use my mighty donkey-whip on your bony backside, see if I don’t!

(He waves his little branch menacingly in the Donkey’s face. The Donkey brays, tosses its head, and ignores him.)

Dov: Yoni, will we see the Pyramids? Granny says that they are built of mud-brick, and reach from the Earth to the Sky, all the way up to where the Great God Elohim has placed the planet-wanderers in the Rakiah, the Firmament. Is that so?

Yoni (uncertain): Granny tells a lot of stories. Is this your Granny or mine?

Dov: I don’t know; I’m not sure; there are so many Grannies….

(The Donkey begins to veer off the path, and Both Boys scramble to grab its rope-harness, and pull its tail back, lest it barrel into the cows before it.)

Yoni: Poor Old Duvdevan! She’s almost blind, you know.

Dov: Is that why Poppa gave her to you?

Yoni: I suppose so; Poppa won’t let me have a dog; he says they’re unclean. (The Two scuffle along in the dust, for a few steps)

Dov: I hear that there are Giant Statues in Egypt, too. And Cousin Joseph is the King’s Special Assistant.

Yoni: What’s a Statue?

Dov: I don’t know. Are we to live in Egypt forever?

Yoni: Last night, after you went to bed with the other babies, Grandpa Reuven let me stay up. He took me to Great-Grandpa Jacob’s tent. He is so old—so old! He made a speech, and Reuven repeated it after him. Great-Granny Leah and Aunty Zilpah were moving their lips—I suppose they were remembering it; my Papa said they are the Rememberers for all of us, and will pass the Story down, so it’s never forgotten.

Dov: What was the Story, Yoni? Pass it down to me!

Yoni (frowning): Have I forgotten it? No. Great-Grandpa said something like, ‘All of us, My Children, will leave tomorrow. I must go down and see my son, Joseph, before I die.’ And he clenched his fists and moved his hands in the air, as if he were arguing with Someone, only there was no one there. And then, he said, ‘I will not fear to go down to Egypt, for Elohim, the Judgment-God, the God who has forever brought me down and up throughout my life, who has blessed me with my many sons, in particular with Joseph and Benjamin, the sons of my beloved Rachel, God rest her soul!—will make my great-grandsons and their children into a Great Nation, and will bring them out of Egypt with a Mighty Hand and an Outstretched Arm.” And then, he began to cough, suddenly, and Leah and Zilpah laid him back on his sleeping-mat, and Papa carried me out; I was so tired….

Dov: Does Elohim have hands and arms? Where can I see Him?

Yoni: You can’t see Him, Little Fool! The Great Elohim lives in the Mountains of Moab, beyond the Sea of Salt. That’s what Great-Uncle Levi told me. Uncle Levi knows a lot; he has the Sacred Scrolls.

Dov (thoughtfully): If Egypt is so wonderful, I will never leave; I will build a great house, as big as King Pharaoh Senostris’s Palace, and live there forever.

Yoni (patronizingly): Says you. But Grampy Jacob said that the Great God Elohim told him there will be a day when we must leave. Egypt will not be our Home forever.

Dov: How can you live in a Place and it not be your Home?

Yoni: A Home is—a Home is—where it belongs to you, not to Someone Else. A Home is where you look around, and all the tents belong to you; the people are either relatives or close neighbors, and you all speak the same language. No one can come into your home and force you to do something you don’t want to do. That’s not the Whole Thing, but that’s an Important Part. Canaan will always be our home, and Egypt will never be—not entirely. It’s so hard to explain to you, Dovvy!

Dov: But the Egyptians will be nice to us. Uncle Joseph has promised it, and he is the second Most Powerful Man in Egypt. Why would that ever change?

Yoni: I don’t know—but don’t forget what Great-Grandpa said: “I will take you out,” says the Great God Elohim.


Dov: I just don’t understand—watch out, Duvdevan! (The Boys chase the Donkey, as it shambles off)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Miketz: The Tent of Joseph's Brothers: Reuben and Judah Tussle Over Who Shall Lead--and What About Young Benjy?

Miketz

An Egyptian Night, approx. 1895 BCE, during the reign of Pharaoh Senusret II. The tent of Joseph’s brothers. Reuben and Judah sit at the head of a tribal council. The other brothers, all except Shimon, who remains a hostage in Joseph’s jail, are assembled in a half-circle.

Reuben: It is all happening as I said it would: because you fools could not keep yourselves from killing Joseph, we are all suffering the consequences. I myself had to return home to care for Papa, and could not leave you alone and leaderless. Jealous wretches! How could you?

Judah: Do not vaunt yourself over us, Brother. We all know of your pretensions to Power. That business with Father’s concubine, Bilhah—did you think you could take the tribal leadership from him so easily?

Dan (drawing a dagger, and coming forward): Yes, Reuben, defend that action! My brother Naphtali and I are ready to fight you for our loving Mother’s honor, at a time and place of your choosing. Or, it could come—the knife could slip into your back—at any time, or place, dear half-brother. You, you mother-violator! (All the Brothers murmur angrily)

Reuben (retreating to a corner of the tent): Peace, Brothers, Peace! Can you not see, this is the plan of that Egyptian Sorcerer, that kohl-eyed grain merchant, to sow dissension amongst us, and make it impossible for us to unite against him? I—I—(he stops, stammering helplessly)

Judah (rising, coolly): Perhaps this is where a better speaker than the Eldest Brother might take over, Reuben. Step down.

Reuben (sweating, nervous, looking about wildly, and seeing no one supporting his leadership): I—I protest! I—

Judah (eyes narrowing, in a menacing whisper heard by all): Step Down!

(Reuben does so, shamefaced, hanging his head, and slumping to his knees)

Judah (continuing, more cheerfully): Now, Brethren all, little birdies in their nests agree—who will have me as Leader? (Hands go up) Let me count—yes, yes, that’s a fairly solid majority. Good. Any objections? (Levi raises his hand.) Brother Levi?

Levi: I am older than you, by a year, and have already proven my mettle, along with Brother Shimon.

Judah: Proven it, you mean, by killing helpless Shechemites recovering from their own, self-induced, deluded Brit Milah, Covenant of Circumcision, and then abducting Sister Dinah from Prince Shechem’s harem? You call this warriorhood? Leadership? What say you, Brothers All?

(The Brothers mutter dissent.)

Judah: So that’s done. Sit down, Levi. Your part’s already been played out.

Levi: I—

Judah: Sit. Down. Now!

(Levi reluctantly sits.)

Judah (continuing): Now, Brothers, this Egyptian Necromancer requires a firm hand. We are Hebrew Shepherds; let us make a sheep out of him. We are many; he is but One; a wise and clever man, but we have the wisdom and cunning of our father Jacob, and the assistance of El-Shaddai to guide us through. We have enough grain to get us home, and can certainly come up with a means of bamboozling this man into giving us more, when this is gone. We must protect our Dear Little Benjy-Boy with all of our might. He is, as you know the Apple of Papa’s eye. (The Brothers collectively groan) Oh, enough of that; deal with it. Hm. (Looking about.)
Where is Zebulun? I sent him to the Pharaoh’s Palace, to see if the Grain-Master had changed his mind….

Asher: About what?

Judah (frowning): About requiring us to bring Benjamin next time ‘round, Camel-brain. It will kill Father, and we don’t yet have a solid Line of Succession—not with Reuben over there thinking his little thoughts of leadership (points to Reuben, sulking in a corner of the tent), and I am certain that Shimon, once he gets out of Egyptian Jail, will have an Opinion about that, too. Let me think. Let. Me. Think.

(Zebulun rushes in, out of breath.)

Zebulun: Judah! That Egyptian Lord is willing to forgo Benjamin’s coming down to Egypt—on one condition.

Judah: Which is--?

Zebulun: That he executes Shimon on Suspicion of Espionage.

Judah: That, we cannot do. Well, Boys, the die is cast. This might kill the Old Man. Close your grain-bags, and saddle up. What to do? What to do?

Gad (examining his grain bag): God of the Wilderness! Great Baal!

Naphtali: What is it, Brother?

Gad: My money—the money I had bought grain with—is all here?!

(The Brothers all cry out, as they make similar discoveries, and then begin to sing and rejoice.)


Reuben: Quiet! Don’t you see, you Fools, that we are now caught by that ugly, evil Vice-Pharoah, in his kohl-eyed Spider’s Web? Now, he has us, for a few pieces of silver, and we will never escape…. Oh, woe, woe—what shall we tell Father? Poor Benjy—poor, poor Benjamin….

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Vayayshev: A Visit to the Offices of Joseph, Adviser Plenipotentiary to Sesostris III, 1650 BCE

Vayayshev

A mildly balmy Egyptian night, c. 1650 BCE. Joseph’s office, adjacent to the Throne Room of Pharaoh Sesostris III, most important king of the 12th Dynasty, Intermediate Period of the Middle Kingdom.
Joseph, Vice-Pharaoh to Sesostris III, Minister of Farms, Provisions, and Agriculture, Chief Adviser Plenipotentiary to His Majesty, has been finishing up some grain orders for Nubia. His desk is awash in papyrus scrolls, which he is somehow able to wade through with ease, searching with knowing hands and eyes until he is able to pick out the one he wants. He pauses only to sip at a cup of herbal tea.
At his feet, seated in a nearby corner, is his secretary and batman, Retjenu. He is a young man, nearly twenty, his head shaved bald in the stylish manner, seated Indian-style, with his kilt firmly stretched by the position of his legs, so that he is able to write on a fresh papyrus-roll, using a reed stylus. He is speaking to his lord and boss, Joseph.

Retjenu: “And forty thousand minae of wheat grain, along with eight-hundred-sixty barrels of rice, to be delivered by skiff and trireme to the warehouse of Uribaal the Phoenician tradesman.” And what percentage, Milord Joseph, will he deduct for handling costs?

Joseph: The usual tariff; you know how to calculate it; use the tables, as I showed you, clever Retjenu. You know almost how to run the office in my absence, were I to take a holiday off, could you not?

Retjenu (tapping the reed against his top teeth, thinking): I imagine I could; yes, Milord, I believe I would be able to, at that. Thank you for placing your trust in me.

Joseph: But that will never happen. (whispering) His Royal Majesty will never consent to my leaving the Capital City Heliopolis, let alone the palace. I am a moth, albeit one full of advice, fluttering around the Pharaoh’s head, truth to tell. I am lucky to get home to see my wife and two boys, Ephraim and Menashe, but once a week. A cage may be gold and ivory, but it is still a cage. And how can I teach my boys my heritage? They know Egypt; they know pyramids, sphinxes, and can write hieroglyphics backward and forward—but what do they know of their Papa’s home and family?

Retjenu (looking about tiredly; yawns): Have you more orders for me, Milord? The hour grows late.

Joseph: Why are you in such a hurry? Is it that young lady-in-waiting of the Queen’s Chambers—the one I saw you speaking to, this Royal Assembly Day last? Clever Retjenu! To snare a pretty she-ibis, one must bait the trap with shining jewels.

Retjenu (stretching, rousing himself): I protest, Milord (yawning, in spite of his best efforts to resist) my every waking moment is of work. (Stiffly) I live and breathe to serve only Ra and Milord and My Pharaoh, who steers the Sun-god’s Chariot across the heavens, pursuing the Great Scarab-Beetle in its flight!

Joseph (teasing): O come, Retjenu, old friend: I speak to you of love, and you come back at me with a dung-beetle (laughing). Besides, sun-chariots and scarabs aside, you know there is but One True God, the Invisible One! (whispering, again) Have I not told you how He rescued me from the Pit of the Prison, and raised me to this high and enviable Eminence, and how I speak to Him softly, in my heart, day after day? Were it not for Him, my brothers—brothers, indeed! (bitterly)—had it not been for weak-kneed Reuven, I would be dead in the ditch of the desert today, rather than wearing fine linen and cloth-of-gold, and bestriding the narrow earth like a Colossus—but for the rest of my brothers? Pah! I spit on them: would that they were here, to admire my greatness….

Retjenu (rising, and picking up a stray papyrus from Joseph’s desk): It seems, Milord Joseph, you might be seeing them, sooner than you think. I see here from the Border Troop Patrol that famine has stricken the Canaanite Wastelands—the place you have told me is your Native Land.

Joseph (taken aback; then, slowly and thoughtfully): Famine, you say? Then my predictions from El-Shaddai, God-of-my-Father-Jacob, were correct.

Retjenu: Yes: unlike us luckier folks here in Egypt, the round-headed, dark-eyed savages of Canaan, Ra curse them!—Oh, I forgot they are your family and native people, Milord Joseph (begins to fall to his knees to genuflect, but Joseph waves the insult away)—suffer famines from time to time. Here in Egypt, Mother Nile rises regularly to moisten our Blessed Earth, year following year, and we enjoy a steady growth of grain. In Canaan, the dark-eyed, savage gods are angry, and they often withhold their bounty of water-from-heaven, so the ugly Canaanites must come south, to our Heaven-Land-Kingdom, and we can sell them grain.

Joseph: So I was right to build the great storehouses and silos, and Sesostris, my Pharaoh and Master, correct in giving me Powers Plenipotentiary. As always, O’ God (he looks heavenward), I, like my father Jacob and great-grandfather Avraham, am in the Right Place at the Right Time. Come, Retjenu!

Retjenu (confused): Come where, Milord? Is it not still the middle of the night?

Joseph: Yes: but we need time to make ready to sell grain to Outlanders. If I am correct, there will be a virtual parade of petitioners from Canaan come to us to purchase wheat, beginning tomorrow, and we must be prepared—rouse the palace staff, and have them come to me, to arrange a Room of Reception, with ropes to line them up, tables to register their names, and barrels of grain to fill their gunny sacks! I will be seeing my Dear, Lost Brethren soon, and Sweet Revenge will be mine, or my Egyptian name is not Tsafnat-Paanayach….

Retjenu (picking up on Joseph’s energy): I am with you all the way, Milord! And I am not in the least bit sleepy. What was that you said about Revenge being sweet?


Joseph (as he ties up his Royal Robes, and sweeps grandly out the door of his office chambers): The time is out of joint. O Cursed Spite, that ever I was born to set it right!