(photo credit: Reuters/Mahfouz Abu Turk)
Torah Tidbits is a popular English-language newsletter on the weekly Torah
portion – but what about “Torah Tibi?”
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Chakima, the Knesset’s weekly Torah
newsletter, printed a Bible lesson by MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) on
Tuesday, the first by a Muslim MK.
Writers for Chakima
come from all over
the religious spectrum – from haredi to secular – but until this week, the
contributing politicians have all been Jewish.Chakima
prints an MK’s or
minister’s take on the weekly Torah portion every week, many of which have
political undertones, as does Tibi’s, which features a thinly-veiled comparison
of Jewish Israelis to Joseph’s jealous brothers.
Tibi explained that he
chose to write about this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev from the Book of
Genesis, because it focuses on Joseph, who is not only a pivotal figure in the
Bible, but a “beloved prophet in Islam” who is the focus of an entire chapter
(Sura Yussuf) in the Koran.
According to the MK’s article in Chakima
Joseph is a “wonderful character” and the ninth prophet according to Islam. The
Torah, however, does not describe Joseph as a prophet, but calls him one of the
fathers of the Jewish people, a righteous man and role model.
the character of Joseph can lead to an argument between religions – Does Joseph
belong to Jews or Arabs? – but Islam believes that the Bible was also written by
God,” Tibi explained.
He added that the biblical story of Joseph is seen
as truth by Muslims, who believe that the Koran’s description enriches the
Tibi said one of Joseph’s most admirable traits was his naivete,
which could be seen when he described his dream to his brothers, and did not
recognize their jealousy.
“However, the cruel reality showed him that he
cannot live this way,” Tibi wrote.
“The lesson he learned made him
stronger and turned him from a naive child to an important member of Pharaoh's
Tibi then quoted Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem
“I Am Yusuf, Oh My Father,” in which Joseph is a metaphor for the
The poem includes the lines “my brothers do not love me/ do
not want me among them, father. They attack me and stone me/ and want me to die”
and ends with “it became clear that they are jealous/ what did I do to them,
father?” Tibi wrote that he loves Darwish’s poem, and identifies with its