Last but not least: from the journal of…

… When the family will be coming down to live with us here, in Egypt, my mother will be with them too. So many moons and suns have passed since I last saw her! I’m already a mother myself… I still remember that night when I was whisked away in the darkness, shipped to a land I knew not with a convoy of Midyanites… I thought I’d never hear from her, nor see her again! But, it is Joseph, my dear, beautiful husband, who met her when he went back for his father, finally, after all these year. Until then, I was not even sure she was still alive, what with all the suffering she went through. But my mom, she’s a tough lady. He told me, that although she’s aged, as expected, and when silent, there’s a steak of sadness in her eyes, nevertheless, she’s still talkative and outgoing, chatting with the nearby ladies about this and that in all the languages of the land.
My mother. How come no one ever wondered what happened to her? After my uncles maimed and slaughtered the whole town, they grabbed her and took her home. Well, sort of “home”. When they found out she was pregnant, they contemplated how to send her away too. That was their specialty, my uncles Shimon & Levi: getting rid of the siblings they though were not fit to be part of the family’s “right” lineage. After all, that was the custom until then: not every offspring will inherit Abraham’s special spiritual blessing. My grandfather said no to that, as my mom was his only daughter. So they figured out how to, at least, send me away, hoping that will blot out that “incidence” – as they called it, and bring peace and quiet to the family.
At first, my mom and I were cast to live elsewhere, settling on a barren hilltop with nothing but our tent and a couple of goats. Grandpa didn’t say much, but like his own grandfather, who used to sneak out late at night from under Sarah’s watchful eyes, to bring extra food and goods to Hagar and his first born, Yishma’el, would come to visit with us regularly. After all, my father and his whole family were dead and his town – whipped out. How were we to survive, just my mother and me all alone? Who would take care of us? When the moon was full, I would watch grandpa climb up the hill; a bag on his shoulder. “I brought you mizimrat ha’aretz”, he would chant melodically with a semi-twinkle in his eyes, his deep voice echoing. Zimrat Haaretz, that was funny – it means the produce but also the song of the Land. Sometimes, he would bring food and spices, dates, figs and even leftover of a yummy stew he prepared so well; sometimes he would bring oil we could trade with our neighbors and even a tree-sapling we could plant ourselves. Sometimes, my grandma Leah would come with Zilpa, and let her handmaid stay with us for a few days so my mom could rest during “her days”.
Shimon & Levi were also the ones who, soon after, got rid of Joseph. I’m want to be precise, saying “got rid of” because for so long, no one knew what happened to him. Everybody thought he was dead. I mean, grandpa thought he was dead. My mom knew something was up. She and Joseph were especially close; she knew about his dreams, worries, hopes. Then again, she also her brothers. But grandpa… he became extremely depressed. I would hear him crying among the olive trees, his mournful wails mixing with those of the hyenas and foxes around, his face a mixture of dust and tears. “Grandpa, what happened?” I would ask. “My allergies are getting the best of me”, he would say, hugging me close, his eyes wet. I think in those days, he had no one to talk to. My uncles were out with the herds; his beloved Rachel was already dead. Grandma Leah was strict and busy, and though she cared for the camp, had no time or patience for his long stories. Only I loved to listen. We would sit down under a carob tree by the spring, and he would tell me again, about the family, about how his grandfather left home, following G-d as he journeyed to Cana’an; about his grandma, who was so beautiful that even when she was more than hundred years old, men fell for her charms; about Isaac, their son, who was still figuring out what happened at the Binding, meditating in the field when he saw the camels carrying great-grandma Rivkah to him; about his own escape from his brother, and the life with my tricky great-grandfather, Lavan, Rivkah’s brother. But mostly, we would talk about dreams: about his own, and those of Joseph, and mine too. What was the meaning of a dream? What it true? And what was the meaning of “truth”? Was it the same as “factual”? or was truth something else??
“Grandpa, I also want to do something great with my life”, I would say, my feet dangling in the spring’s cool water.
“Oh, you will”, he would answer, thoughtfully. “In our family, the women do great things too”.
“But what? And how? And when already?” I’d ask impatiently.
“We will have to wait and see”, he would answer with a heavy sigh, “You have to trust the journey. It might not be easy or straight, but G-d willing, it will lead you to where you need to be. Ah”, he would sigh again with a mournful heart. “I say this mostly to myself… As for you”, he would say, playing with a reddish long curls, “keep listening; keep praying; and keep dreaming. True, there are no dreams without some nonsense, and yet, the dreams will help you. They come in the darkest of nights, to remind us that there is a glimpse of light, of hope, even there. Dreams are the gateway to healing”, then he’d sigh again.
I had only one dream. It was very clear and it repeated every night. In my dream, I was to live in a palace. I was married to a handsome ruler who knew many languages, had divine wisdom and was the most beautiful – and well dressed! – man of the land. We would have thirteen children, and there would be thirteen of everything for them: tables and chairs and shiny coats and sacks and goblets and crowns… what was the meaning of this dream? How would I ever have anything, when I’m living in a tent with my castaway mother?
Then one night, all bundled up, on with a convoy of Midyanites – another crafty, shady deal of my uncles and Yishmaelites relatives – I was sent to Egypt. Money was exchanged as I was loaded on silently like cargo. The caravan drudged through the desert, moving at night when it was cooler, and resting at an oasis during the day. Lucky for us, the caravan’s men wanted a good price for us girls, and left the virgins among us alone. I could learn a few words in other languages and play with the other girls, while the drivers slept; I could wonder: does anyone know what happened to me? Will anyone ever come for me? Where are we going? And when will we get there?
Some of my questions were soon answered: I was sold to be a servant to Potifar’s wife. Crunched on the marble floor, scrubbing the endless shiny tiles, is when I first saw him, first, just his reflection, another servant, but… ah, the great miracles of life! How a terrible curse can become a blessing!
I think Ephrayim & Menashe are calling me. Perhaps they can already see the family’s convoy approaching, all 70 souls of them, well, depends who’s counting. There is so much more to say, but for now…. Shabbat Shalom!

Note: According to the midrash, Joseph’s wife, Osnat, the “daughter of Potifera, the priest of Onn”, was no other than Dina’s daughter, who like Joseph, was sold to be a slave in Egypt. This entry is based on text, midrash, gemara and my own imagination 🙂

From Joseph, King of Dream – movie

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One Response to Last but not least: from the journal of…

  1. Linda Laflamme Neska says:


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