Shiur for parashas Vayeishev 5780
“And he made him a coat of many colours.”
- Genesis 37:3, JPS 1917 Tanach
Jacob loved his son Joseph, so much that “he made him a coat of many colors,” meant to distinguish him from amongst his brethren. For, he was the firstborn of Rachel; moreover, because Reuben lost the birthright as a result of a particular transgression (see Genesis 35:22), in all likelihood, Joseph was being groomed for the honors given to the firstborn. He already was granted some authority over his brothers, inasmuch that his father had assigned him the duties of a kind of overseer, “‘Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word” (Genesis 37:14, JPS 1917 Tanach).
When Joseph arrived in Shechem, his brothers were not there. Befuddled, Joseph was wandering in a field, when a man met him. The man asked him, “What do you seek?” (Genesis 37:15). Joseph responded that he was looking for his brethren (Genesis 37:17). According to tradition, this man was Archangel Michael; Yosef’s mission was so important that H’Shem sent the Archangel Michael to make sure he would continue on the way to find his brothers; this meeting with his brothers became a pivotal event in the life of Joseph.
Upon arrival, his brothers, out of hatred and jealousy, stripped Joseph of his many-colored coat, threw him in a pit, and sold him to Ishmaelite traders, who brought him down to Egypt. And, thus began the descent of Jacob’s family into Egypt, with Joseph being the first and most significant of his brothers, inasmuch that he went ahead, as is mentioned in Psalms, “He sent a man before them; Joseph was sold for a servant; His feet they hurt with fetters, His person was laid in iron; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the L -RD tested him” (Psalm 105:17-19, JPS 1917 Tanach). This rendering of Joseph’s tsoros (troubles) depicts a perspective that reveals G-d’s intent for Joseph – a test of his character designed to prepare him for leadership.