Parsha Vayeshev – 5777

Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Vayeishev 5762

“Yaakov has spent years away from home and now has returned. The Torah indicates that it is through Yosef that Yaakov’s legacy continues. 17 year old Yosef brings bad reports about his brothers to Yaakov. Yaakov loves Yosef above his brothers and gives him a special (striped) coat. As a result, the brothers hate Yosef and cannot talk civilly to him. Yosef’s two dreams (and especially, his telling his brothers about them) increases their hatred and jealousy, and alarms Yaakov.”

Torah Sparks: Vayeshev 5777

“You know the story, the brothers are tending the flock. Jacob sends Joseph to spy on them. He heads to Schechem when suddenly “a man came upon him wandering in the fields. The man asked him, “What are you looking for?” (Genesis 37:15) The Torah calls him only Ish — a man. From where did this person come? Why does he approach Joseph? His question is asked as if he already knows the answer. And then when Joseph replies that he is looking for his brothers, this Ish knows not only where they have gone, but more importantly exactly who his brothers are!”

Growing Up as the Favorite Son

“Parashat Vayeishev introduces the Joseph saga. When it begins, Jacob’s 11th son, Joseph, is a 17-year-old shepherd working in the fields alongside his older brothers. The text’s description of him as a “youth,” na-ar, is apt, both biologically and emotionally. As Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg writes: “Joseph behaves with the narcissism of youth, with a dangerous unawareness of the inner worlds of others” (Zornberg, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire [Philadelphia: JPS,1995], p. 253). He consciously tells Jacob malicious tales about the brothers and by wearing the beautiful, multicolored coat (or ornamental tunic) that Jacob has given him, flaunts the fact that he is the favorite son. It is thus not surprising that when Joseph’s brothers see that their father loves him more than they, they come to hate Joseph (Genesis 37:4).”

On Being Ready

“This week’s parashah, Vayeshev, is the beginning of the story of Joseph. Though Joseph is not considered among the patriarchs (that designation is limited to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) his story encompasses almost the entire remainder of the book of Bereshit and is significantly longer and more detailed than the narratives describing the lives of any of the patriarchs. It is Joseph’s story that helps to transition the reader from the Patriarchal/Matriarchal period to the nation-building period that is the core of the remainder of the Torah, beginning with the exodus from Egypt. But the Joseph narrative is also compelling in its own right. The author provides insights into the character of Joseph that are often left to the rabbis to fill in through Midrash when it comes to his immediate ancestors.”

Haftarah Parshat Vayeshev

“he second prophecy of this week’s haftarah confronts a Jewish theological issue which has perpetually proven provocative – the idea of “chosenness”. Amos has a very interesting take on this concept: “You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth – that is why I call you to account for all of your iniquities.” (3:2) On the one hand, it would seem from Amos’ words, “chosenness” is independent of a shared experience. As we have learned elsewhere in Amos’ prophecies, God has redeemed other peoples as well as the people of Israel. The love between God and Israel is sui generis. God simply chose to love them from among the nations. This love was intended to be reciprocal and included joint responsibility. What is conceptually distinctive and is often overlooked in this relationship is the content of the second clause of the sentence, namely, that this intimate relationship did not bring with it immunity, but, rather, added liability. God expects His “chosen people” to maintain His standards strictly without exception. (S. Paul, Amos, Mikra L”Yisrael, pp. 56-7)”