Joseph vs. Moses: A Comparison

One engages in dialogue with his fellow Jews, and one engages in a dialogue with God. What’s the meaning of the difference?

From The Story of Joseph by Biagio d’Antonio, 15th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From The Story of Joseph by Biagio d’Antonio, 15th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Atar Hadari
Observation
Jan. 4 2018
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


This week’s Torah reading of Sh’mot is the first of the book of Exodus, and in a sense it marks the great leap from Genesis and the story of Creation to the story of slavery and redemption. But I’d like to hark back to the conclusion of Genesis, specifically for the purpose of comparing Joseph, the protagonist of the book’s last fourteen chapters who leads the Jews down to Egypt, with Moses—introduced in our parashah—who takes them out. Which characteristics distinguish them as leaders? Why did God choose them for their respective tasks?

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