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Geshmack Dvar Torah of the Week: Cow Spirituality. What?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cow Spirituality. What?

I heard this from my Rebbi, Rabbi Yehoshua Hartman Shlita, to whom I owe everything. He is also the inspiration for the blog title, "Geshmack" is his catchphrase you see :)

וְהִנֵּה מִן הַיְאֹר עֹלֹת שֶׁבַע פָּרוֹת יְפוֹת מַרְאֶה וּבְרִיאֹת בָּשָׂר וַתִּרְעֶינָה בָּאָחוּ - And behold, from the Nile were coming up seven cows, of handsome appearance and robust flesh, and they pastured in the marshland. (41:2)

יפות מראה: סימן הוא לימי שובע, שהבריות נראות יפות זו לזו, שאין עין בריה צרה בחברתה - of handsome appearance: This was a symbol of the days of plenty, when creatures appear handsome to one another, for no one envies his fellow. — [from Gen. Rabbah 89:4]

This describes Paroh's dream as he sees it. But why does Rashi interpret the dream, isn't Yosef about to do that, and differently? Where did Gen. Rabba (source) get this from?

It is interesting to note that the words יְפוֹת מַרְאֶה are used, which we translated as having "handsome appearance". This is an imprecise translation. If we look to 29:17, "וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה רַכּוֹת וְרָחֵל הָיְתָה יְפַת תֹּאַר וִיפַת מַרְאֶה - Leah's eyes were tender, but Rachel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion." What is the difference between תֹּאַר and מַרְאֶה? Rashi explains that תאר: הוא צורת הפרצוף לשון (ישעיה מד יג) יתארהו בשרד, קונפ"ס בלע"ז [מחוגה]: - features: That is the form of the countenance, an expression similar to (Isa. 44: 13)“he fixes it (יְתָאִרֵהוּ) with planes (בַשֶׂרֶד) ,” conpas in Old French, outline, shape.

So תֹּאַר is a physical beauty. But what is מַרְאֶה ?
מראה: הוא זיו קלסתר - complexion: That is the shine of the countenance.

So מַרְאֶה is more of a spiritual/aura/radiant beauty. However, when Paroh dreamed he dreamed of יְפוֹת מַרְאֶה cows, spiritually beautifully cows. If the idea of spiritual cows sound absurd to you, you're not alone: so did Paroh! When he recounted his dream to Yosef (41:18), he changed what he saw to וִיפֹת תֹּאַר, physically beautiful cows, rather than what he'd seen, יפות מראה spiritually radiant cows!

But Rashi and Gen. Rabba that we quoted ("when creatures appear handsome to one another, for no one envies his fellow") worked out what the dream was when we knew that really they'd been spiritually beautiful. Cows don't have spirits: people do. So clearly, the cows are metaphors for people. This is also how Paroh knew that Yosef's interpretation was right, as he saw that this interpretation accurately describes the nature of people, something he'd seen in his dreams and failed to recount.

But we can answer our original question: why is Rashi interpreting the dream? So the answer is, he isn't! He's pointing out to us that יְפוֹת מַרְאֶה should not theoretically be there, and the fact it is shows that there was more than meets the eye, he is telling us to question this.

This Dvar Torah should be a Zchus for the Neshama of Rut Nechama bat Noam Shlomo (v'Revital)


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