• Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

    Parshat Vayeshev describes the story of Yosef’s deteriorating relationship with his brothers, and their plot to kill him as a result. The Torah tells us that Reuven came to Yosef’s rescue and saved him from their hands (37:21). However, the story itself doesn’t play out that way. Reuven suggests that the brothers throw Yosef into a deadly pit instead, which they do, but then Yehuda suggests that they sell him into slavery instead. It turns out that Reuven’s idea didn’t end up saving Yosef at all, so why did the Torah say that it did?

    The Lekach Tov explains that while ultimately Yosef wasn’t actually directly saved by Reuven’s actions, because his intentions were to do the right thing G-d considers that Reuven actually saved him. While this shows the importance of proper intentions, and the credit one gets for actions done for the right reasons, it also highlights the effect our actions may have on others.
    It could also be that the reason why G-d considers intentions relevant is because from Yosef’s perspective, it seemed like all his brothers were against him, while he genuinely felt like he was doing the right thing. It must have been a very lonely feeling, having no one on your side, not even your own brothers. All that changed when Reuven attempted to protect Yosef, and while ultimately that didn’t prove to be effective, perhaps it gave Yehuda the spark to suggest selling him instead. Reuven’s “failed” actions may have sparked hope in Yosef, and an idea within Yehuda that ultimately benefited everyone. All Reuven had to do was try, and that’s all that’s ever asked of us.
  • Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

    Parshat Vayeshev relays that when Yosef recounted his second dream to his father (of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him), Yakov rebuked him (37:10).  As Jonathan Gewirtz asks, why didn’t Yosef tell his father about his first dream? Also, why was Yakov so angry at Yosef, who merely had a dream, when in contrast he was not angry when Shimon and Levi killed the entire city of Shechem (34:30)?

    One possible answer comes from a Maharshal that says that “most dreams follow their interpretations.” When Yosef shared his first dream with his brothers, their response unwittingly interpreted his dream when they responded “will you rule over us?” However, after the second dream they remained silent, so Yosef shared it with his father. Yakov was aware of the power of his interpretation, which is why he cloaked his interpretive response with anger when he said “shall it come to pass?…”, with the intention to deflect the brothers’ animosity toward Yosef. Yakov’s fierce response shows us the heightened sensitivity we need to have toward interactions among those around us and their perspectives.

    Perhaps that’s why on Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the oil, as opposed to the victory over the Greeks. Being mindful of others’ perspective, viewpoints and feelings will help us focus on the positive things in life, like diversity of opinions, shared goals and common dreams.

  • Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

    Parshat Vayeshev relates a seemingly disturbing series of events. After telling us that Yosef snitched on his brothers, it says that Yaakov loved Yosef more than all the other brothers and that’s why he made him a striped shirt. Then it says of the brothers could no longer tolerate Yosef, and didn’t believe his dreams of them bowing to him. First, why did Yaakov love one son more than the others? Second, why couldn’t the brothers tolerate Yosef only after his father made him the striped shirt? Lastly, why did Yosef insist on telling his brothers his dreams, when he must have sensed that they didn’t want to hear them? Rav Kaminetsky explains that Yaakov had taught Yosef all that he’d learned in the Yeshiva (school) of Shem and Eiver where he studied, and where Yitzchok and Avraham studied as well. The main strength of that school was that they taught Torah that could survive in adverse environments. Avraham used it to deal with the rest of the world, Yitzchok used it to deal with Yishmael, and Yaakov used it to deal with Lavan and Esav. Now Yaakov was teaching it to Yosef, and the brothers were worried. Were they as bad as Esav or Lavan? Why would Yaakov have to teach Yosef that Torah? Little did they know that Yosef would need it to deal with Egypt, and all the trials he would face there.

    Yaakov loved Yosef more because he learned more, and wanted the other brothers to be jealous – that’s why he made him the shirt – so that they’d want to learn it too. But instead they became jealous for the wrong reasons. It was then that Yosef tried to tell them not to be jealous, that he had to learn for his own sake because he’d have to be a leader in a foreign land (as the dreams with stalks suggested, since there were no stalks where they lived). Unfortunately, the brothers had let themselves be blinded by hate, and couldn’t see the truth, as obvious as it may have been.

    There’s an important lesson in all of this: jealousy can be used in a good way, as Yaakov tried to do. However, if we’re not careful, we could miss the whole point, and end up doing things we shouldn’t. The first test is to ask ourselves if we want something because we need it, or simply because someone else has it. We should be jealous of things we can learn and grow from, like Torah knowledge, good character traits, and even courage and persistence. Everyone has qualities we can and should be jealous of, as long as we use it not to prove ourselves, but to IMprove ourselves.

  • Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

    Parshat Vayeshev relays that when Yosef recounted his second dream to his father (of the sun, moon and stars bowing to him), Yakov rebuked him (37:10). As Jonathan Gewirtz asks, why didn’t Yosef tell his father about his first dream? Also, why was Yakov so angry at Yosef, who merely had a dream, when in contrast he was not angry when Shimon and Levi killed the entire city of Shechem (34:30)?

    One possible answer comes from a Maharshal that says that “most dreams follow their interpretations.” When Yosef shared his first dream with his brothers, their response unwittingly interpreted his dream when they responded “will you rule over us?” However, after the second dream they remained silent, so Yosef shared it with his father. Yakov was aware of the power of his interpretation, which is why he cloaked his interpretive response with anger when he said “shall it come to pass?…”, with the intention to deflect the brothers’ animosity toward Yosef. Yakov’s fierce response shows us the heightened sensitivity we need to have toward interactions among those around us and their perspectives.

    Perhaps that’s why on Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the oil, as opposed to the victory over the Greeks. Being mindful of others’ perspective

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeshev, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Two of Pharaoh’s officers, his butler and baker, aroused the royal ire and were cast into prison— the same one that Joseph was now administering. One night, they both had odd dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. Joseph told the butler that he’d soon be released and restored to Pharaoh’s service. The baker was told by Joseph that he would soon be hung. Joseph pleaded with the butler to mention his plight to Pharaoh, and ask for his release. Three days later, both of Joseph’s interpretations came true; but the butler forgot all about Joseph.

    Commentaries explain that Yosef shouldn’t have asked the butler for help, because that would give the butler too much credit if he actually did help Yosef, which would then minimize G-d’s help. But what’s the balance? Should he not have tried, and relied totally on G-d? Or should he/we make an effort when presented with the possibility? It’s a question that requires further study, and probably applied to each situation individually.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeshev, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Joseph was exceedingly handsome, and Potifar’s wife was attracted to him. She made many advances on him, but he steadfastly rebuffed her. Eventually she libelously told her husband that Joseph was making advances on her, and Potifar had Joseph thrown into prison. G‑d was still with Joseph, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, who put him in charge of all the prisoners.

    The Sfat Emet calls our attention to to sequence of verbs – “And he refused”, “and he said”… First and foremost, when a person is being led into temptation they must stand firm and refuse to give in. Then, if warranted, they can explain their reasons.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeshev, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We return to the story of Joseph, who was serving in the home of Potifar. G‑d was with Joseph, and he succeeded in all his endeavors. When Potifar took note of this fact, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household and estate.

    The portion of Yosef in Potifar’s house is juxtaposed to the episode of Yehuda and Tamar. The standard explanation is that the sale of Yosef caused Yehuda to lose the respect of his brothers. Rashi gives another, intriguing, explanation. He says that it is to equate Tamar and Potifar’s wife – both of whom acted “for the sake of Heaven”. Potifar’s wife, says Rashi, saw via astrology that she was destined to have descendants that came from Yosef. She thought that she was the one and so she attempted to seduce him. She was just a bit off, as in fact it was her daughter Osnat that would bear Yosef’s children.

  • Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

    Parshat Vayeshev relates a seemingly disturbing series of events. After telling us that Yosef snitched on his brothers, it says that Yaakov loved Yosef more than all the other brothers and that’s why he made him a striped shirt. Then it says of the brothers could no longer tolerate Yosef, and didn’t believe his dreams of them bowing to him. First, why did Yaakov love one son more than the others? Second, why couldn’t the brothers tolerate Yosef only after his father made him the striped shirt? Lastly, why did Yosef insist on telling his brothers his dreams, when he must have sensed that they didn’t want to hear them? Rav Kaminetsky explains that Yaakov had taught Yosef all that he’d learned in the Yeshiva (school) of Shem and Eiver where he studied, and where Yitzchok and Avraham studied as well. The main strength of that school was that they taught Torah that could survive in  negative environments. Avraham used it to deal with the rest of the world, Yitzchok used it to deal with Yishmael, and Yaakov used it to deal with Lavan and Esav. Now Yaakov was teaching it to Yosef, and the brothers were worried. Were they as bad as Esav or Lavan? Why would Yaakov have to teach Yosef that Torah? Little did they know that Yosef would need it to deal with Egypt, and all the trials he would face there.

    Yaakov loved Yosef more because he learned more, and wanted the other brothers to be jealous (that’s why he made him the shirt), so that they’d want to learn it too. But instead they became jealous for the wrong reasons.It was then that Yosef tried to tell them that they shouldn’t be jealous, because he had to learn for his own sake, because he’d have to be a leader in a foreign land (as the dreams with stocks suggested, since there were no stalks where they lived). But the brothers had let themselves be blinded by hate, and couldn’t see the truth, as obvious as it may have been.

    There’s an important lesson in all of this: jealousy can be used in a good way, as Yaakov tried to do. However, if we’re not careful, we could miss the whole point, and end up doing things we shouldn’t. The first test is to ask ourselves if we want something because we need it, or simply because someone else has it. We should be jealous of things we can learn and grow from, like Torah knowledge, good character traits, and even courage and persistence. Everyone has qualities we can and should be jealous of, as long as we use it not to prove ourselves, but to IMprove ourselves.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeshev, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The story of Joseph is interrupted by the episode of Judah and Tamar. Judah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter. Judah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar and thus fulfill the mitzvah of Yibbum, but he too died childless. Judah hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, so she returned to her father’s home. Judah’s wife then died, and he embarked on a business trip. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and sat by the side of the road. Judah didn’t recognize her, was intimate with her and she becomes pregnant. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Judah ordered her executed for harlotry. As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Judah’s personal effects that he had left behind when he visited her. Judah admitted that he was the father, and Tamar was spared. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons, Zerach and Peretz.

    The Gemara teaches that one must avoid embarrassing another at all costs – it is better to be thrown into a fiery furnace than to embarrass someone. We learn this from Tamar, who did not denounce Yehuda, even though she would have been considered guilty of immorality had Yehuda not owned up to his actions.

  • Daily Aliya for Vayeshev, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Joseph arrived and his brothers immediately stripped him of his fancy robe and cast him into a pit. Upon Judah’s advice, they subsequently sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief butcher. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe into blood, and showed it to Jacob, who assumed that Joseph was devoured by a wild beast. Jacob then commenced 22 years of mourning for his beloved son.

    Rashi gives us another aspect of the “Measure for Measure” punishment of Yakov. The passuk says that he “mourned for his son MANY DAYS.” Rashi says that it was 22 years, the exact length of time that Yakov was away from Yitzchak. It includes the 20 years with Lavan, a year and a half in Sukkot, and six months in Bet El before Yakov returned to his father’s house. Why was Yakov punished for being away from his father if he was sent away by his mother to find a wife and hide from Esav? Rabbi Teichman explains that it’s because when he was done with all of that, he spent the last 18 months in Sukkot and Bet El instead of rushing home. Once he didn’t rush, he was punished for the entire length of time. If ever we needed motivation to grab opportunities (Mitzvot) as they present themselves, this is it!

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