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Vayeishev – “And he settled” Torah Bereishit 37:1- 40:23 Haftarah Amos
Chadasha Matthew 21:1-23:39 Acts
life had been a long and difficult road. It has been said that before
he was even born, he struggled with his brother Esav (Bereishis
Rabbah 63:6) – Rashi stated
that the 'generations' of Yitzak in Toldot were the two natures
Esav). Ya'akov grabbed Esav's heel while emerging from his mother's
womb, and continued on by grabbing his birthright and blessing.
Continuing his struggles, he worked for his Uncle Lavan for two
decades, during which his uncle changed his wages several times. On
the way back home, he had to deal with Lavan's search for missing
idols, juggle wives, and wrestled with the Angel of G-d for His
blessing. In light of all this, was it too much to ask for a little
reprieve? Apparantly HaShem disagreed – retirement was not to be,
as of yet.
had seen the first two Patriarchs wait until the last moment to
determine/announce the family heir, and had ugly scenes / nasty
situations to work through. He took a hard look at his sons, and
came up with an alternative solution: Being theבֶן
of his – Ya'akov's old age) would
make Yosef his ideal heir. Rashi makes three simple statements that
all tie together for a pretty convincing explanation – 1) Drawing
from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 38), Yosef was born of Ya'akov's
beloved wife in his old age (even though Binyamin was younger); 2)
Drawing from Onkelos, Yosef was a wise son to Ya'akov – the wisdom
received from Shem and Eber had already been given over to Yosef; and
3) Drawing from Bereishis
Rabbah (84:8), Yosef's features,זִיו
those of Ya'akov. Although this was an honorable decision, the
unfolding of events – making Yosef the heir and giving him the fine
woolen (amazing technicolor dream?) coat – was not necessarily
timed the best. Ya'akov also did not take into consideration the
rest of the family. With the history between the boys – the
inherited jealousies from the mothers, combined with Yosef's dreams
and his being Daddy's corporate spy – the situation was a landmine
waiting to go off! And off it did go – the same two brothers who
had righteous indignation for Shechem when he defiled their sister
Dinah turned their indignation toward young Yosef. They wanted to
kill this young man, and they were convinced that they were in the
right. It is possible to come to that same conclusion, but that
discussion must wait for another time. Suffice it to say, that in
the scheme of things, Yosef was put in a dry pit which was probably
full of snakes and scorpions until he was removed and sold into
slavery, eventually in Egypt/Mizraim. His coat was dipped in animal
blood, and shown to his father, who assumes his heir to be killed by
animals, and starts his 22-year-long mourning period.
changes to the theme of Yehudah and his family. He marries, has 3
sons, and starts to develop his life message. His firstborn and heir
is aptly named Er (meaning heir). He was determined to not make the
same mistakes as his father – the oldest would be his continuation.
Er gets married Tamar, but does not want to ruin his wife's girlish
figure, so does not have kids. G-d kills him for his evil. So much
for Yehudah's plan for the 'perfect' heir. Levirate marriage comes
into play, and his brother Onan marries Tamar. He refuses to raise
up an heir for Er, and G-d kills him as well. Fear enters stage
left, and Yehudah refuses to allow Tamar to wed Shelah his third-born
after making her wait for him to grow up. Tamar knows she is to be
the carrier of the seed royal, and takes matters into her own hands.
She takes off her widow attire and dresses as an harlot to get
Yehudah's attention. She gets his full attention, and keeps his
drivers license, medical ID bracelet, and class ring (rather his
walking stick, his cord, and his signet) to make sure he makes good
on his pledge. When he is about to have her killed for being
unfaithful, she secretly sends the items back to him as a reminder.
He publicly declares his sin and her life is redeemed. She has
twins, including Pharez the predecessor of King David.
changes back to Yosef, in Egypt/Mizraim. He works for Potiphar,
Pharaoh's slaughterhouse minister. Yosef's work ethic takes him to
the top, and runs the show. Mrs. Potiphar thinks he should be hers,
as well, but Yosef cannot bring himself to betray either HaShem or
her husband, so he runs. Since she had hold of his coat, it stayed
when he did not, and she showed the 'proof' of Yosef's alleged evil.
Yosef got promoted to inmate-first-class. Again, his work ethic took
him to the top, and he used his abilities to help others.
Baker and Butler of Pharaoh (probably some of the officers that
sentenced him) had dreams which troubled them. Yosef went out of his
way to try to ease their troubled souls, and interpreted their
dreams. On Pharaoh's birthday 3 days later, their dreams came true –
the baker was hanged, and the Butler was restored to his position
serving Pharaoh. Even though Yosef pleaded with the Butler to
remember him upon his restoration, he was forgotten in prison for
another 2 years.
is an important issue in these narratives. We find that our 2 main
characters had different ways of interfacing with it – 1) Yehudah
let fear paralyze him, but 2) Yosef used fear to keep him focussed
upon HaShem. May we choose his way.