Midrashic Possibilities for the Torah's Most Extra Child
I love the translation of Joseph as Extra
(Sorry for the deleted comment, didn't finish typing
I am curious about the history of this story, by that I mean, we talked previously about how maybe Isaac maybe actually died in the original story, to me I am curious in a earlier version of the story maybe Dina and Joseph actually were the same person or maybe more connected? Particularly thinking if Dina going out was meant to be the start of Joseph's journey, thoughts for another time however, as time to focus on the nature of Joseph's gender and my thoughts on the beauty of that. I should start this by saying my pronouns are he/him and fae/faer, genderfluid, with that out the way lets dig into the fun!
So lets start with the simple fact that Joseph was super non gender conforming, whether he was some kind of non binary, trans or just a very fem man I really can't decide that for him, though I have a suspicion based on my own experience, though again, this is based on my experience and I will admit right now this could be projection on my part, but, the way he cares about his appearance, his youthful not only appearance but personality, and his name and his dreams, I feel he may of felt the same force of spiritual gender as I do. I'll attempt to explain, it should be noted now that I am still working this out, but the best way to put it is, when I am he/him, I am connected to the spiritual still but I am still physical, I still feel connected to spirituality but...ehhh I guess the best way to put it is there is a layer between the spiritual, the world and my heart/mind, of course this is a good thing, it allows me to focus on the real and physical without being overwhelmed by my senses and losing my self. But when I am fae/faer...well that layer...dissipates, and well okay I really don't have a solid explanation of how it feels, I guess the best explanation is 2 things, you feel a sorta feed back loop, something causes your spirituality to rise, making you more sensitive to spirituality, causing your spirituality to rise, causing you to feel more sensitive and so on, this you feel like you are shining, and you want to show the world that shine(This isn't a perfect explanation, but I think it is the best I can do), and alot of what Joseph is described as doing, youthful, beautiful, caring for himself and loving brightly coloured clothes...it rings true for me and what I feel when I am fae/faer. How he would describe it I don't know, and he may not of being gender fluid, maybe he was totally non binary and had a better handle on how to handle that sensitivity, I don't. I thought I would bring up my experience, and I hope that this wasn't too self centred of a reading.
Now I also wanted to bring something else up I noticed, specifically Joseph's sexuality. He wears a tunic for a maiden princess, is described as youthful at 17, which is quite old for being called youthful, and seems disinterested in women. May I put forward that Joseph was asexual, or atleast on that spectrum? While he did get married eventually and had kids, he might be demisexual or he may of felt romantically attached to his wife, and he wasn't repulsed by sex and she wanted kids, it is hard to say, but it was something I noticed when going though what was said.
"(Gender) queering Joseph"
A wonderful reading of the Joseph story. For those of us who grew up in a time when there wasn't even language to discuss anything outside of the gender binary and gender roles within the binary were seriously beginning to the challenged, there has been a great need for an attitude adjustment.
I wish that society in general was on the same page as Rabbi Ruttenberg's commentary about parenting.
"This does not, of course, mean that favoring a child—and certainly not blatantly, certainly not to the point that the other children feel jealous and resentful? Murderous, even? Is particularly good parenting. Mind you.
(I would hope that we had all left any illusions that Torah is a parenting manual by the wayside sometime around Abraham, though.) "
Some assorted comments:
"Spiritual traditions teach: Still the mind and, if possible, be silent*. "
I have found stilling the mind to be the real challenge. My day jobs rarely involved much physical labor, but a lot of mental work. So Shabbat observance for me necessarily involves stilling the mind. Before the pandemic, driving to my Synagogue was a regular part of Shabbat morning. The Shabbat morning service has silent prayers that in a sense help still my overactive mind. But I do miss the noisy aspects of Shabbat. Young children in the Sanctuary, the conversation after the service at Oneg, the people who I worshipped with at Synagogue who don't do Zoom, etc.
God as God's pronoun
One issues with using God as God's pronoun is that the English word God/god is gendered. My understanding of God is not gendered, but the word God/god clearly puts to mind the word Goddess/goddess as a feminine alternative. Using God as God's pronoun kind of feels like references to humanity as Man, I don't have a better alternative, so I do use God as God's pronoun. There is a long way to go in many ways regarding language with implicit or explicit gender bias.
G-d instead of God
I'm sure I've already brought this up before. Spoken aloud, with the hyphen silent was a euphemism for "god damn" that I heard a fair amount during my childhood. Most of my acquaintances who spell God as G-d would vocalize it as Ha Shem (the Name in Hebrew).
Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egalia%27s_Daughters) . A Norwegian book first published in 1977 I found it very helpful in wrapping my mind around implicit gender assumptions built on male centered language and society. I read the 3rd edition (2004) translated to English. Of course gender understanding is not static and it helps if you grew up in the 1950s/1960s/1970s.
"And if you are a cis male, please, yes, this discussion is for you as well!"
My understanding of sexuality and gender has changed a lot of the course of my lifetime and I am sure it will continue to change. The one thing that hasn't changed is the value of actually listening to each other regardless of our own understanding of sexuality and gender. I took the opportunity of participating in the NCJW Tea Talk with Rabbi Ruttenberg: Jewish Feminism on Thursday, October 21, 2021 on Zoom. It was an event open to the public and well worthwhile. In one of the smaller breakout sessions a few of us observed that some understandings of Jewish feminism are generational. It doesn't mean that people aren't open to new ideas. Indeed, I was drawn to my local Reform congregation, because people of various sexualities/genders and racial/ethnic backgrounds found a spiritual home there.
Thanks for reading/listening if you are reading this. Have a good week!
I love this so much ❤️🏳️🌈
I would have never guessed on my own how much in the commentaries issues on sexuality and gender expression were even thought about, let alone written down. It really does make those generations so far removed from us, a little closer, facing issues many face today.
As a kid I always really resonated with Joseph and like, wow this week was super enlightening (each week has been but this one especially, it's made my afternoon). The fact that the coat was a womans and that Joseph is regarded as pretty is actually not all that surprising to me, and unfortunately it makes his older brothers actions even more.
I love this interpretation! It's super affirming for this queer non-binary spiritual seeker. And having tried on makeup that suits me, I can relate to the midrashic descriptions of Joseph curling his hair and penciling his eyes.
Nothing much to say here, this is a beautiful piece and very affirming, just noting once again that I appreciate the commentary on the Hebrew and its parallels elsewhere and learning about various midrashim. Thank you!
This gives me life today.
Ok I’m trying to think of this in a political way, that is the Judah/Israel politics. Joseph is the northern kingdom, Judah the southern. Joseph is the hero of the broader story arc here, and Judah is the prime other brother, saving him from execution, then being the one who objects to Joseph’s humiliation and causes him to reveal himself. So could the gender queering be a southern kingdom attempt to denigrate Joseph in their version of the story?
That said I’m amazed at the open mindedness of our medieval rabbis to think of Joseph the way they did vs the incredible amount of bigotry about these issues today.
A poem, and a painting, about being called extra:
Poem/ Title: "Song of Exiled" by Alicia Partnoy (1980's) /Poetry Society of America /
Latino/a Poetry Now: William Archila and Ruth Irupé Sanabria by Lauro Vazquez / site visited 10/26/21
Song of Exiled
by Alicia Partnoy
They cut off my voice
So I grew two voices
In two different tongues
My songs I pour
They took away my sun
Two brand new suns
Like resplendent drums, I am playing
Today I am playing
Isolated I was from all my people
My twin songs are returning like an echo
And despite the darkness of this exile
My poem sets fire against a mirror.
Painting / Title: "Joseph Maketh Himself Known to his Brethren" by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) / Jewish Museum
site visited 10/26/21
Date: c. 1896-1902
Medium: Gouache on board
Dimensions: 8 13/16 × 11 7/16 in. (22.4 × 29.1 cm)
Joseph's brothers hatred grew even more, and they plotted to kill him, because of his dreams. After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee, now the National Civil Rights Museum -- a memorial plaque with these words from the Torah story of Joseph marked the site:
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jan. 15, 1929 -- Apr. 4, 1968
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
"They said to one another,
Behold, here cometh the dreamer...
Let us slay him...
And we shall see what will become of his dreams."
Ralph David Abernathy, President
fyi - I moved some comments from "at the root of these longings" by copying them here and deleting them from the prior post.
The RaDR wrote: "As for his name—Joseph—well, Genesis 30:24 tells us that Rachel named him with the intention of saying, “may God add another son for me,” but it more literally means, “will add,” and kind of has that connotation of, “This kid is a lot,” or maybe just, “Extra.” Goes with the striped gown and the elaborate stories about dreams, maybe."
The Hebrew verb root for 'will add' also appears in Gen. 37:5 and Gen. 37:8 in the word vayosifu וַיּוֹסִ֤פוּ from the phrase about Joseph's brothers: "And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams."
Sefaria/ Gen. 37:8 with Ramban commentary
Sefaria / Gen. 37.8 with commentary from Ramban
[Excerpt from Ramban:] The meaning of the expression, And they continued to hate him still more for his dreams, and for his words, is that they hated him for the dreams and for relating the dreams to them in a boastful manner, even as it says, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed.