Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Betrayal and Bereishit

I’m preparing a parshah shiur for tomorrow, and I’ve chosen Bereishit and Betrayal as a theme.

I define “betrayal” as failure to honor a relationship of trust, whether that trust is natural to the relationship (ie family) or whether trust has been earned (ie by an act of kindness).

I am not including general deception here, like Avraham and Sarah hiding their relationship from Pharaoh. In adversarial relationships, one is not required to divulge all of his information.

So I just developed a quick list of the betrayals involving the Avot and Imahot (patriarchs and matriarchs); it’s a fascinating list:

• Avraham abandons his father and family (Bereishit 12)
• Hagar is elevated by Sarah, and then she abuses Sarah (Bereishit 16)
• Sarah first matches up Hagar with Avraham, and then evicts her (Bereishit 21)
• HaShem tells Avraham to slaughter Yitzchak, the son he had been promised as an heir (Bereishit 22)
• Avraham attempts to slaughter Yitzchak (Bereishit 22)
• Lavan and Rivkah’s mother renege on their pledge to send Rivkah to Yitzchak (Bereishit 24)
• Avimelech pledges protection for Yitzchak and Rivkah, but then they are mis-treated by Avimelech’s people (Bereishit 26)
• Esav reneges on his sale of the birthright to Yaakov [assuming this blessing is the same as the birthright Yaakov purchased] (Bereishit 27)
• Rivkah betrays Yitzchak’s and Esav’s trust in her, substituting Yaakov for Esav (Bereishit 27)
• Yaakov betrays Yitzchak’s trust in him (Bereishit 27)
• Rivkah betrays Yitzchak’s trust in her regarding her desire to send away Yaakov (Bereishit 27)
• Lavan and Leah betray Yaakov and Rachel with the substitution of Leah for Rachel (Bereishit 29)
• Lavan betrays Yaakov regarding his salary (Bereishit 30)
• Rachel takes Lavan’s terafim (Bereishit 31)
• Shechem betrays Dinah’s affection (Bereishit 34)
• Shimon and Levi betray the trusting relationship they affected with Shechem (Bereishit 34)

And then, of course, we start on the sale of Yosef, and Potifera’s scam, and Yosef’s concealment of his identity, etc.

I’m sure there are more I’m missing; please add.


  1. Delete:
    Avraham attempts to slaughter Yitzchak (Bereishit 22)- No betrayal of trust-if this is what HKB"H wanted, then it is the ultimate non-betrayal

    Joel Rich

  2. Actually, Avraham betrays the trust of both of his sons. You've already mentioned attempted slaughter of Yitzhak. He sent away Yishmael. (One could also argue that Avraham betrayed Sarah by attempting to slaughter her son.)

    Do you want to go all the back to the first parshah, with the first humans eating from the tree of knowledge, betraying Hashem?

  3. Joel-
    It is betrayal of man, in loyalty to Gd. Which, I believe, is exactly the point.

    I was just going with Avraham/Sarah through Yaakov/Leah/Rachel/Bilha/Zilpah; there is certainly more you could do outside of that framework.

  4. How did it go? I was thinking of you (& this post) on Shabbos when the congregation in Williamsburg, Virginia started a discussion on the parashah.

  5. Fruma-
    Went well, thanks. I hope you enjoyed your stay there.

  6. We had a great time. Do you have the text of your talk? I'm very interested in what you had to say. This year, I'm just finding so much more in the family dynamics of the patriarchs than I ever got out of it before.

  7. Hi Fruma,

    Audio is available at www.torontotorah.com, choose Torah, then Tanach. Not sure if I put it under Beginners or Intermediate.