parashas Vayeishev 5781

(Genesis 37:1 – 40:23)

“And he made him a coat of many colors.”

– Genesis 37:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

The favored son received “a coat of many colors,” that served as a designation that some of the responsibilities of the first born would be placed upon Joseph. Because Reuben had lost the rights of the firstborn, due to an earlier indiscretion, Jacob chose Joseph, who showed both spiritual qualities and intellectual capacities that deemed him fit for that role (Zohar). Yet, his brothers were jealous of this status conferred upon him. When Joseph dreamed a dream, wherein he and his brothers were binding sheaves in a field, and their sheaves bowed down to his sheave that was standing upright, they asked, “Shalt thou indeed reign over us?” (Genesis 37:7-8, JPS). And, he dreamed a second dream, wherein “the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to” him (Genesis 37:9, JPS). This implied that not only his brethren, rather, also his parents would bow down to him. “And his brethren envied him; but his father kept the saying in mind” (Genesis 37:11, JPS 1917 Tanach).

These dreams originated from a divine source; yet, his brothers may have felt that Joseph’s imagination, and ego generated the literal content of the dreams. The latent content, i.e., the meaning of his dreams was clear to them. Inasmuch that his father, Jacob “kept the saying in mind,” this may indicate his recognition that the dreams would one day be fulfilled. For Jacob himself knew very well the power of dreams. Apparently, the spiritual qualities that connected him intimately to G-d, were now manifest in his son, Joseph. Perhaps, this was even a sign that Jacob had made the right decision in choosing Joseph to take on the responsibilities of the first born. Hence, he sent Joseph to check up on his brothers, who were tending sheep in Shechem. “Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word” (Genesis 37:14, JPS).

Thus begins Joseph to set out on a journey that will soon include a major detour, bringing him down to Egypt. For when his brothers saw him, they proclaimed, “behold, this dreamer.” “And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colours that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into the pit” (Genesis 37:23-24, JPS). Joseph was sold to traders that were passing by on the main thoroughfare; he was taken to Egypt, where he was sold as a slave.”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 105:18-19, JPS).

“It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the L-RD.”

– Lamentations 3:26, JPS 1917 Tanach

Vayeishev 5780


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.