Monday, November 29, 2004

Selling Yosef HaTzaddik for Air Jordans

Years ago when Nike released their new line of tennis shoes, there were stories in the news about people robbing each other and sometimes even killing each other for Air Jordans. While we might shake our head in disgust at the African-American community because of this, there is a historical precedent for this in our own community.

This week's parsha, Parshas Vayeishev, contains the story of the sale of Yosef into slavery by his own brothers. Bereishis 37:28 relates that Yosef was sold to the Yishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. A midrash further relates that the Yosef's brothers used this money to buy shoes. [This fact is also mentioned in Amos 2:6]

This story appears once again in the Yom Kippur machzor in the story of the Ten Martyrs. The Sages were asked to rule on a question of halacha by the Roman ruler. He asked them, "If a man is found to have kidnapped any of his brothers of the children of Israel, enslaving him or selling him - what is the law?"

The Sages replied that the kidnapper should be sentenced to death.

The Roman ruler then asked, "Where are your forefathers who sold their brother; they traded him to a caravan of Yishmaelites, they exchanged him for shoes!?"

There was no response, and the Sages were tortured and put to death by the Romans for this crime.

I have heard it explained (although I cannot recall the source) that one of the reasons that we do not wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur is to rectify the sin of the sale of Yosef; who was sold for shoes.

Since sinas chinam caused the sale of Yosef for a pair of leather shoes we refrain from wearing leather shoes on Yom Kippur to remember the causeless hatred and animosity that still exists amongst us to this very day...the hatred that prevents Moshiach from coming sooner.


Post a Comment

<< Home