Thursday, January 11, 2007


Either Rashi had a dry wit, or he was the Jerry Springer of his age.

You doubt?

Let me show you, by encapsulating Rashi's explicata of part of the Yosef cycle.

Shechem rapes Dinah, who then has a bastard that Yakov flings from the tent with a note pinned to her neck. Who is then whisked off to Egypt, to be adopted by a gay gourmand who has purchased her uncle Yosef to use as a catamite.

When the gay gourmand's bored wife tries to get "some", the crap hits the fan and Yosef is locked away for assault. He spends twelve years in jail.

Meanwhile, his brothers marry their sisters and have kids, except for Yehudah who has an affair with the still zesty widow of his two no-goodnik sons (who both died under mysterious circumstances - yeah, right!).

Then, a miracle. Half of the trailer park goes to Egypt to find something to snarf.
At this point Yosef has been released, because Pharaoh took a liking to him and set him up in style. The gay gourmand has become a eunuch and joined the priesthood. And Yosef has married the gay gourmand eunuch priest's adoptive daughter, who is actually his niece! Which the family takes as fabulous news, and they promptly move to a new trailer park. Except for most of the women, who have died. Or they stayed behind in Canaan, but Rashi says they died. Shoyn.

A while later, Yochebed, another one of Yosef's female relatives and contemporaries, gives birth at one hundred and thirty years of age (surely a record, as not even Sarah immaeinu managed to get big with seed so late in the game). The father is her younger cousin, in case you were wondering.
By this time, in imitation of rabbits, the family has outgrown the trailerpark. And despite being in their hundreds of thousands, and the huge number of births, they only have two midwives - Rashi alleges because they were like animals (lions, asses, sheep, whatever - he fails to mention rabbits).

When they finally hear of some new digs there will be over three million of them. After barely more than two centuries of (wait for it!) inbreeding!

Look, if Rashi could tell that story with a straight face, he must have been the life of the party. No wonder he was a successful wine merchant. Either that, or he was trying to force his listeners and readers to think, to take issue. He wanted to see which ones were paying attention, and which ones were asleep at their shtenders.

Which is much more believable than the assumption that so sharp a scholar took midrash as the unvarnished truth.

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