Yoseph’s Pit – Tel Dotan – Sukkot 5779
There were only a few rare times that I had to actually throw my perfectly good shoes away. Last night and the time I returned to the Tomb of Yoseph after it was destroyed by marauding Arabs in that September of 2000. The stinking grey earth clung to them and I most certainly treaded on donkey dung along with other foul smelling questionable things. It was the hardest thing about going to the actual pit and scene of the casting of Yoseph and the soon after selling him out to the Yishmaelites in Dotan. Dotan, located in northern Shomron, (now what is known as Area A- meaning Judenrein.) The pit in my stomach felt no relief as we entered in a bullet- proof bus, a small group of us breaking through the barrier that separates us from major tracts of our beloved Land ironically located right in the center of Israel. Dotan is the largest valley in the Shomron, a place like much of its environs given to the tribe of Menashe. When Yosef went from Chevron to Shechem to seek his brothers who were herding the sheep there, he met a man, the angel Gavriel who told him- “they went from here” (Shechem)” to Dotan” (literally meaning pit). Shechem, later a reconciliation location as all the tribes gathered there with Joshua and a place we declare the unity of Am Yisrael as “Shechem Echad Al achecha” was not the right place to disengage from a brother. Nonetheless the account of these past events has evolved strangely into a déjà vu of a real phenomenon way stronger than an occurrence. It manifests into a reality of you feeling like most of the world would say “Here comes the dreamer”, as you pit against it in your yearning for Eretz Yisrael as a whole, as you need an army escort to protect you only because you are Jewish and you want to enter a holy site in your tiny country. The disgrace and embarrassment of it as you see the garbage piled up along the sides of the road has you asking yourself how this came to be, the nightmare of forfeiting our homeland for nothing but terror kites, stabbings, garbage burning in your face and whole stadiums of skeletons of stolen Israeli cars resting in cities of refuge. Many of us yield on the Oslo accords. Many of us want to dig us out of that pit. The Torah tells us that Yoseph’s brothers got four pairs of shoes for putting him up for sale. What did we get?
Not much is revealed on Tel Dotan as it is covered in a thick dust of neglect. You can see far into central Israel from it and hills and valleys, forests and thick vegetation, dry areas as well that look like they never knew rain. Tobacco grows here and I stop to hold a branch of olives on a tree that looks likes its seen better days. It needs to be dug out and even the pit is scarely visible,
hidden in an old British structure built over it so you need to crawl through its broken dilapidated rooms to finally reach it, mammoth in size and eerie beyond words. So, Yishmael sold Yoseph down to Egypt from here, only for him to become a nation and to live his dreams of wheat and standing tall. This gives us a dash of hope.
This week I happened upon an article written by Thomas Friedman, editor of the New York Times in his praise for the Oslo Accords and how he wishes that more Jews would have been thrown out of their homes in the heartland of Israel. He boasts about not helping with Israel Bonds anymore (because Israel doesn’t do enough for PEACE) and voices his own skepticism of the connection of his own kids to Israel in the coming years. His actual pessimism for peace does not lean into the murders of over a thousand innocent Jewish mothers, fathers and children and that those victims were slaughtered with the guns given to the Palestinian Authority and trained by General Keith Dayton in Pennsylvania with U.S. dollars. No, his was a call to annihilate the Psalms of Ascents (pulling out of declension) we read every day “And we would be like dreamers, our mouths will be full of laughter and glad song, Then we will declare amongst the nations, “Hashem has done greatly with us, we were gladdened. O Hashem, return our captivity like springs in the desert. Those who tearfully sow will reap in glad song. He who bears the worthy seed will walk on, weeping. He will return in exultation, a bearer of sheaves”. Thomas Friedman is pitting hope against hope. Abandoning hope. Abandoning the dream of Yosef. How fancy are your shoes Mr. Friedman?
Two nights ago, a terrorist tried to cut through our fence as we rejoiced in our Sukkot. He wanted to use the methods he’d been taught on a daily and hourly basis on his social media, to stab us, slit our throats and shoot us. Luckily, we sobered up after all those painful lessons Oslo taught us. Luckily our dear friends helped bolster up our security significantly! We strive to fortify ourselves and need to. Always. The trackers were able to even know that the beast wore Nike sneakers. But why in G-d’s name would Thomas Friedman root for them over us? Who is the villain in this story and in this page in history? How deep is the pit?
The pit is deep. Very deep. We read a very special blessing on Sukkot- “The compassionate One! May He erect for us David’s fallen booth!”
Chag Sameyach! Shabbat Shalom! Leah Goldsmith