Monday, December 3, 2012
Parashah Vayeishev B’resheit / Genesis 37:1 - 40:23
Vayeishev: He continued living
The family is settled in Canaan; Yosef is 17, Ya’akov is 108, and Yitz’chak is 168 as our parashah commences. Yosef, like his brothers, is a shepherd, but unlike his brothers, he is highly favored by his father. The siblings are not afraid to let their disdain show itself, especially because he would report their mis-deeds to Ya’akov. It is unclear whether he did that on his own or whether Ya’akov had charged him with that responsibility.
Yosef has two dreams, seemingly separate in that they were not dreamed at the same time (unlike Pharaoh’s two dreams), but similar in meaning. An interesting factor of these dreams, besides the fact that they told of his future time of rule in Egypt, is the fact that the dreams did not need an interpretation for the dreamer or the ones to whom he related them. The meanings were obvious and very strong in the sense that there was a repetition, which doesn’t just double the meaning/prophecy, but it is multiplied exponentially.
Regarding these dreams, and the second one in particular, in B’resheit 37:10 - 11 we are told that not only did Ya’akov scold him, but that he (Ya’akov) “kept the matter in mind” (Chumash). This brings to one’s mind the instance when twelve year old Yeshua was in the House sitting amongst the teachers and his parents came back to Yerushalayim looking for Him. Miryam scolds Him, but it is then related that she “treasured all these things in her heart” (NASB - Luke 2:51).
The brothers were to be shepherding their father’s flock at Shechem, but they had gone on to Dothan. In verse 12 of chapter 37 is what I have heard the first jot in the Torah. The word for father in the Hebrew is not “ab” as in “abba”, but is “et” (את). With the letters aleph and tav being used here, the indication to me is that they are taking care of the Father’s flock. And how are they doing that, we might ask?
As odd as it may seem, I would like to propose that they are taking care of the Father’s flock by sending Yosef to Mitzrayim, Egypt. How can I get away with stating this? I believe that the answer comes in verse 14 when Ya’akov speaks (prophetically?) in instructing Yosef that he “‘(g)o now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me’” (NASB). Is that not exactly what he did? He went to Egypt, made preparations for the welfare of his brothers and their families (the flock), and he had word sent back to his father. Certainly neither Ya’akov nor Yosef expected this task to take 22 years, but it did.
As we move forward the brothers, without Reuben’s knowledge (37:25), sold Yosef to the Midianites, traders who then sold him to the Ishmaelites. Likely the brothers knew these merchants, for they were family. Both of these tribal people were relatives of Ya’akov’s family. Midian was a half brother to Yitz’chak who was likely a bit more than 40 years younger than Yitz’chak (Gen. 25:1 - 2) Yitz’chak, or about 20 years older than Ya’akov. Ishma’el, another of Yitz’chak’s half brothers was 14 years older than Yitz’chak, therefore at this time he would have been 122, and he had 15 years of life remaining (Gen. 25:17). It is intriguing to see these relatives having responsibility in the transferring of Yosef to Mitzrayim. Neither of the heads of these families was the son of promise, but what would they do to promote themselves? Would it be out of line to think that they may have been in league with one another for the overthrow of the plan of HaShem? Doubtless, HaSatan had his hand in this; and since we know that sin is oftentimes crouching, lurking at the door (Gen. 4:7), who could not consider the possible evil intent of these familial cousins? Of another interesting note, we read in verse 36 that the Midianites sold Yosef to Potiphar; that makes me wonder if the Ishmaelites had sold Yosef to another trading caravan from Midian. It is an imponderable to me at this time.
A further study of verse 26 in chapter 37 yielded another interesting tidbit. The brothers determined that to kill Yosef would not bring them any gain. Why not? They would not have to put up with his prattling and they would not have to have his being the favorite thrown in their faces. Would that not be gain? Then again, murder is prohibited, and though they have the spirit of Cain to some extent, they do not permit themselves to succumb to the depth that Cain did in his anger. Selling Yosef to traders, having him a slave in some other part of the world would also get him out of their way; and, they would get some pocket change in the transaction.
Y’hudah is concerned for the life of Yosef, though he may be more concerned about murder. But let us look at this from the respect for life aspect. Is Y’hudah consistent in this thought process? Yes and no. He marries and fathers three sons. As we look in B’resheit 38 it should not surprise us that there is an evilness in his sons, at least the first two of whom we are given information. B’resheit 6:5 does state that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually, but it seems to be heightened in these two offspring. Y’hudah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, is widowed from Er, and Onan refused to perform his brotherly duty towards Er, and he also dies. Accordingly, Y’hudah instructed Tamar that she was to go to her father’s house as a widow, and when Shelah was old enough, he would have Shelah provide an offspring for Er. I find it odd that he sent her to her father’s and did not keep her as part of the family, but... Y’hudah also seemed to have the intent of not giving Shelah to her, for it is told in verse 11 “...lest he also die like his brothers.”
Time passes and Shelah is not given to Tamar. Y’hudah, unknowingly, has intimate relations with Tamar resulting in a pregnancy. Circumstances develop that he hears about Tamar’s infidelity, and Y’hudah decrees a death sentence upon her, only to find out that he was the one with whom she had consorted. If she is living under her father’s authority, I wonder what right Y’hudah has in making this decree. Regardless, as circumstances proceeded, he ended up admitting his guilt (of both being the father and also of having not given Shelah as promised) and restored her life.
Y’hudah wants to get rid of Yosef, but not by murder, at least not murder at the hands of his brothers. He provides Tamar with Onan, but refuses to do so with Shelah. He was worried about Shelah’s life, but not the succession to Onan. He pronounced a death sentence on Tamar, but renounces it as a result of his consideration of the facts. When it comes to life, Y’hudah is a difficult character to figure out.
Skipping ahead to Yosef’s time in prison, actually two years and three days prior to his release, he interprets two dreams, dreams of the Chamberlain of the Cupbearers and the Chamberlain of the Bakers . As stated before regarding his own dreams and those of the pharaoh, these dreams are tied together also, and again the magnitude of the meaning is multiplied, though the meanings are somewhat different for each of these dreamers.
Earlier in this writing I related how Ya’akov kept the matter of the one dream in mind; the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to Yosef. Thinking back on that statement gives me two other, connected thoughts as I come to my conclusion. First, was Ya’akov still in mind of the dream? Deep down, despite the evidence to the contrary, was there hope beyond hope? After all, his father had been “resurrected” at one time! Secondly, Yosef now has four dreams to hang on to, two of which come to fruition at the end of our parashah, but the other two are still about 11 years from becoming reality. It seems to me that the results of the dreams he interpreted in our lesson here give him encouragement for the next two years, and that from then, he realizes that it is only a matter of time until his dreams come to fruition as well. With that in mind, he would also realize that he will see his father again! Oh, blessed hope!
As we conclude, eleven years have passed, and Yosef is now 28 years old, Ya'akov 119, and Yitz'chak is 179.