At this time of year, we read of the antagonism toward Joseph on the part of his brothers, primarily Judah. Obviously, Joseph’s brothers felt threatened by him in some way. Our holy teacher Rav Kook explains this opposition of Joseph and Judah. Rav Kook takes what might appear to be merely personal enmity up to the level of ideology. What we have in the opposition of Judah to Joseph is the clash of two very different ideologies concerning Israel’s mission in this world. As we shall see, Joseph is an inclusivist; Judah an exclusivist:
Now the tribes who had to establish the way of Israel’s sanctity in the world, especially Judah and Joseph, were divided ideologically.
Joseph thought that Israel’s sanctity consists in teaching understanding to those straying; to mix with the nations and teach them the ways of the Lord, as the Prophet Hosea said: “Ephraim [i.e., the son of Joseph] will assimilate among the nations” (Hosea 7:8). [The mission is] to bring sanctity to the nations of the world as well. “God has placed me master over all Egypt” (Genesis 45:9). What that really means is: “God is master over all Egypt.”
Judah believed that the sanctity of Israel must be separate from the nations. “A people that dwells alone”(Numbers 23:9), in order to prevent [the scenario of] “They mixed with the nations and learned their deeds” (Psalms 106:35). Judah foresaw that from Ephraim would come out Jeroboam, who, as a result of assimilation, erected images of calves as idolatry. Judah rightly thought that the ideology of Joseph poses a danger to the continued existence of the collective of Israel. So the tribes sought means to be rid of Joseph. Thus, Simeon and Levi, who were the first to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the sanctity of Israel; Simeon and Levi who are called “the brothers of Dinah” (Genesis 34:25), who fought against the assimilation of Israel among the nations, said: “Here this dreamer is coming. Now let us kill him!” (Genesis 37:19-20).
The ideological difference between Joseph and Judah manifested later when Israel entered the Land. [It is the difference] between the Tabernacle [in Shiloh] and the Temple [in Jerusalem]. It is written: “For until now you have not come to the resting place (menuha) and to the inheritance (nahalah) (Deuteronomy 12:9). The Sages interpreted: “’The resting place’ refers to Shiloh; ‘the inheritance’ refers to Jerusalem” (Zevahim 119a). Shiloh was but a temporary resting place; the Temple was a permanent fixture…Shiloh was in the portion of Joseph; the Temple was in the portion of Judah, as the Sages said: “A strip extended from the portion of Judah and entered the portion of Benjamin” (Yoma 12a).
Rav Kook now examines an interesting halakhic difference between the Tabernacle at Shiloh and the Temple in Jerusalem. Shiloh actually had the advantage over Jerusalem in this respect. What follows is a valuable contribution to the study of the philosophy of Halakha:
We find a differential between the Tabernacle and the Temple in regarding to consuming consecrated food (kodashim kalim and ma’aser sheni). In Shiloh, it was permitted to eat them no matter how far away one might be, as long as one could establish eye contact and have a visual of Shiloh. The Sages (Zevahim 118b) interpreted the verse “Joseph is a fruitful son, a fruitful son over the eye; daughters stood upon the wall” (Genesis 49:22) to mean that they were permitted to eat the consecrated foods as far as the eye could see. The ideology of Joseph [is that] the sanctity of Israel [consists in] showing and teaching the nations. Contrariwise, in the Temple [those consecrated foods] were eaten within the closed walls of the city. According to the ideology of Judah, the sanctity of Israel is restricted; the sanctity of Israel is separated from the nations.
And so these two ideologies of Joseph and Judah continue to predominate until the coming of the Redeemer…
From a discussion of the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers, Rav Kook segues to the miracle of Hannukah. (The holiday of Hannukah coincides with the Torah portion concerning Joseph.)
The miracle of Hannukah was the triumph [of Israel] over the Hellenists, who breached the wall of the Holy Temple…What did the Hellenists want from Israel? According to the Midrash, they said [to the Jews]: “Write on the horn of the ox that you have no portion in the God of Israel” (Leviticus Rabbah 13)…The Hellenists wanted Israel to assimilate among the nations. The “horn of the ox” refers to Joseph, who is called an “ox” by both Jacob and Moses (Genesis 49:6; Deuteronomy 33:17). The Hellenists wanted Israel to adopt the ideology of Joseph, namely to be integrated among the nations. They said: “True, there is the horn of the ox, the horn of Israel’s renascence, but this renascence must be associated with assimilation.” However, they did not understand the ideology of Joseph, so they said: “Write on the horn of the ox that you have no portion in the God of Israel.” The Hellenists did not understand that Joseph, by way of his ideology, intended that Israel should instruct all the peoples precisely that there is a God of Israel. It is for this reason that the Hellenists breached the walls, as the poet expressed it [in Ma’oz Tsur], “and they breached the walls of my towers” (“u-faretsu homot migdalai”). They wished to breach the wall, that special wall of Israel. In the Temple of Jerusalem, consecrated foods could be eaten only within that wall.
(Shemu’ot Rayah, Genesis, ed. Kalman Eliezer Frankel [Jerusalem, 1939], Vayyeshev 5690/1929 [pp. 83-84])
Joseph was an inclusivist, but he was not an assimilationist. He construed Israel’s role on the world stage as that of a spiritual guide to the nations, teaching them about the God of Israel. That was Joseph’s intention, not that Israel, upon entry into world society, be divested and stripped of the God of Israel. The Hellenists of old misunderstood Joseph. Rav Kook hints that history has a way of repeating itself. Now, as then, there are elements who would make Israel’s national renascence conditional upon divestment of the God of Israel.
Two years later, Rav Kook went on to describe at greater length the ideology of Joseph:
Joseph is the “higher righteous man” (tsaddik ‘elyon) and Benjamin is the “lower righteous man” (tsaddik tahton). Joseph said: “God has placed me master over all Egypt.” He desired that sanctity extend to the entire world. Benjamin, the “lower righteous man” aspired to the resting of the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) in his portion (Zevahim 53b-54a). The Tabernacle at Shiloh, in the portion of Joseph, was without walls. This is the level of the “higher righteous man.” The “lower righteous man” wants constriction (tsimtsum). In the Temple of Jerusalem, in the portion of Benjamin, a wall was imposed for the consumption of consecrated foods.
(Shemu’ot Rayah, Genesis, ed. Kalman Eliezer Frankel [Jerusalem, 1939], Vayyigash 5692/1931 [p. 125])