Sharona Margolin Halickman

What is the significance of Dotan?

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

In Parshat Vayeshev (Breisheet 37:14-17), Yaakov sends Yosef from Emek Hevron to look for his brothers. Yosef comes to Shchem and a man asks him what he is looking for. Yosef tells him that he is looking for his brothers.

The man said, “They have traveled on from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dotan.’” Yosef went after his brothers and found them in Dotan.

We only read about Dotan twice in the Tanach, here and in Melachim II, 6:13 where the king of Aram tried to capture Elisha.

Why does the name of the city even need to be mentioned? Is there significance to the name Dotan?

Professor Yoel Elitzur points out in his book Places in the Parsha that through a conversation with Professor Yohanan Breuer they came up with the idea that since the words Bor (pit) and Doot (cistern) have similar meanings, the name Dotan foreshadows the fact that this will be the spot where Yosef will be thrown into the pit.

The Talmud, Bava Batra 64a discusses the difference between a Bor and a Doot:

It was taught in a Braita: Both a Bor and a Doot are in the ground, but a Bor is formed merely through excavation while a Doot is reinforced with a stone structure.

In other words, a Bor is just a hole dug into the ground while a Doot is a hole that is then lined with bricks which ensures that the water will not seep out.

Dotan today is identified as Tel Dotan about 10 kilometers southwest of Jenin.

There is a small yishuv (Jewish settlement) in the Shomron called Mevo Dotan which was established in 1977.

May we continue to build Jewish settlements throughout the Biblical borders of Israel and may we remember that infighting amongst brothers is never a good thing.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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