Thursday, December 11, 2014
Parashah Vayeshev / "He continued living" / B'resheit (Genesis) 37:1 - 40:23
“He continued living”
B’resheit / Genesis 37:1 – 40:23
The first of this week’s seven parashot commences with Ya’akov continuing to live in the land where his father had lived as a foreigner, the land of Kena’an. The thought of living in the land as a foreigner has a certain ring to it, as if we have heard of this before, and we have.
Back in the 15th chapter, verse 13 it is recorded as follows:
“Adonai said to Avram, ‘Know this for certain: your
descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not
theirs. They will be slaves and held in oppression
there for four hundred years.’”
Furthermore, Sha’ul, an emissary from the Father wrote the following in Galatians 3:16a - 17:
“Now the promises were made to Avraham and to
his seed…Here is what I am saying: the legal part
of the Torah, which came into being 430 years later
does not nullify an oath sworn by God, so as to
abolish the promise.”
Though the first verse of this week’s reading is in the past tense, and though Isaac’s death was recorded in last week’s sixth parashah (35:28), our reading this week is actually a flashback in time, but instead of Isaac being the patriarch, Ya’akov is presented in that role.
Bear with me as I review the genealogy from Isaac through our present reading in which we find Yosef to be seventeen years of age. Yiitz’chak was born twenty-five years after the announcement of the promise, so the four hundred year time clock began when he was five years of age. Fifty-five years later, at the age of sixty, Esau and Ya’akov were born. Yosef was born when Ya’akov was ninety-one years old, and Yosef has now been around for seventeen years. By adding 55, 91, and 17 we discover that the Hebrews are 163 years into the oppression, which means that Yitz’chak is 168 years old; he has 12 more years to live. Being that we know the rest of the story, Yitz’chak, who is 151 years older than his eleventh grandson, dies no more than a year before Yosef’s ascent to #2 ruler in Egypt.
However, let’s get back to the events at hand. At the age of seventeen Yosef is a shepherd, and he has pastured the flocks with his brothers. A tattletale, so to speak, he is also the most-favored child of his father. For these two reasons, he was, shall we say, less than beloved by his older brothers.
It seems as if Yosef had some learning to do regarding discernment, because it seems he was not shy in sharing with his family dreams which he had had. The meaning of the dreams was obvious to him, his brothers, and his parents, yet Yosef was less than tactful in sharing the dreams with his family. It seems as if he was unaware of the animosity held by his brothers against him. How could he miss that they hated him so much that “they couldn’t even talk with him in a civil manner.” (Gen. 37:4b CJB)
The two dreams that Yosef had are likely very familiar to us. Sheaves of wheat, eleven of them were being bound by the brothers when the sheaves seemed to take on human-like characteristics. In a sudden fashion Yosef’s sheaf rose up by itself into an upright position. Does this not remind you, the reader, of the rapidity of Yosef’s ascent into Egyptian leadership? One moment he is in prison, and the next thing he knows all of Egypt is beholding to him. Eight years later we will discover that his brothers have come down to Egypt in need of food. Having done due obeisance, bowing to Egypt’s number 2 in command, ten of the nine brothers return to their father. What kind of food would they take back with them, the fruit of the stalks of which the sheaves were made – grain. Having been told the dream so many years earlier, however, the brothers were less than thrilled with the explanation.
Our parashah concludes with Yosef’s second dream. The sun, moon, and stars prostrated themselves before Yosef, and like the first dream, not interpretation was really necessary as the meaning was quite obvious to his family. Ya’akov (the sun), Leah or Bilhah (the moon), and eleven stars (all of his brothers, including Benjamin) bowed down to him. (I notice that Yosef did not describe whatever it was that represented him.) Of course this came to pass when Ya’akov and the whole family had completed their trek to Egypt.
What I also find interesting though, is that the Egyptians worshipped the sun (Horus), moon (Thoth), and stars as part of their pantheon of gods. All of Egypt was subservient to our hero, even Pharaoh in some respects, for he left all the preparations and handling of the years of plenty and famine in the hands of his most trusted aide, Yosef.
That completes my lesson on the first parashah of this week. If you think that I’m going to write about the next portion also, well, you’re just dreaming.
Shalom to all who read this.