Dvar for Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)
In our Parsha, Vayeshev, Yosef’s brothers are maddened by Yosef’s seemingly insensitive proclamations (in the form of dreams) that they will one day bow to him. The brothers plot to kill him, change their plans to leaving him in a pit to die, and ultimately settle on selling him to Ishmaelites – as soon as they finish their lunch. While they callously broke bread away from the pit where Yosef was begging for mercy, a gang of Midianites came by, saw Yosef, pulled him out and sold him to the Ishmaelites before the brothers could (37:28). If the brothers didn’t kill Yosef, nor did they sell him to Egypt, what was their crime?
Rabbi David Fohrman explains that the brothers’ insensitivity to Yosef’s cries as they broke bread was their primary infraction. Conversely, much later in the story, when Yosef is in jail, he notices that two of his fellow inmates are distraught, and asks them why they seem sad (40:7). This act of kindness leads to his eventual release and ultimate redemption arc.
Our Parsha seems to be demonstrating to us the dangers of indifference, as well as the value of empathy. A single act of kindness can change the course of history, and all we have to do is care for others and express it.