Thursday, December 29, 2011

What should we do with contradictory medrashim especially when Rashi quotes both?

When Yosef reveals himself to his brothers the medrash says that he "proved" his identity by showing them his mila. Yet, in last week's parsha (Miketz) the medrash on the Pasuk
ויאמר פרעה לכל מצרים לכו אל יוסף אשר יאמר לכם תעשו
says that Yosef forced all the מצרים to do a מילה and therefore if even the Egyptians had a מילה what proof was Yosef trying to bring by showing them his מילה?

There are a number of answers offered but I believe that this raises a more fundamental question, do we need to assume that medrashim are not contradictory especially when Rashi quotes both? I can't offer a definitive answer but I would suggest that the answer is no. The purpose of medrashim is not necessarily to tell us the pshat in the text but rather to bring out certain lessons and therefore even if the medrashim conflict the lessons are still valuable.

2 comments:

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, midrashim contradict each other all the time. Rashi is not there to bring some kind of "unified" commentary but to explain each verse best he can. If one midrash explains the first verse and a contradicting one explains the second he brings it.
In addition there might not be a contradiction. The brothers came down in the first year of the famine but the Egyptians only ran out of food in the second so he only asked them to circumcize themselves at that point.
You want contradictory midrashim? How about one saying that Potiphar emasculated himself contradicting how his wife demonstrated Yosef's sexual techniques on him while they were getting it on?

bluke said...

That is another good example.