Parshat Vayeshev


First Portion

• VaYeshev Yaacov-and Yaacov settled. FROM HERE WE LEARN A VALUABLE LESSON. IF ONE THINKS HE’S GOING TO HAVE A PICNIC IN THIS LIFE, WELL BUDDY, THINK AGAIN!!! That’s not why man is was placed here. We are in the “test mode” until the day we leave this world. In fact, even a little beyond that. The Mystics say that the moment a person leaves this world, he enters into a moment of nothingness. It is that in between period where the soul is in a very confused state; at this very moment the Satan has one more crack at the individual, one more test making it an enormously crucial time. “You see, there’s nothing here. All the talk about ‘a next world’ and G-d’s reward was all a big hoax” says the Satan. “Someone played a nice practical joke on you, my little tzaddik, HA HA!!”. If one is convinced by Satan at that moment, one loses it all; the mitzvot,all the reward he has accumulated, and all his accomplishments. For this reason it’s important to say Shema Yisrael at the moment a loved one leaves the world; it’s a reassurance for the deceased.

Yaacov had a very rough life. His brother wanted to kill him, he had a crooked father-in-law with whom he had to live with for many years, and his dearest wife, who was barren for many years, passsed away during child birth at a young age. After going through all of this, he simply wished to just put himself on auto-pilot and live out the rest of his life in peace. The kids will take over the everyday operations of the business and even the mortgage was paid up. ” Hey, I’m just going to enjoy my grandchildren, learn in Yeshiva all day and collect Social security!”. Hold your horses cowboy, the rodeo’s not over yet! Here comes another test!

•  Why did Yaacov favor Yosef over his other twelve sons?

The obvious and main reason was that Yosef was the BECHOR of his favorite and beloved wife Rachel. In Yosef, Yaacov saw a mirror image of himself. Not only were the facial features similar, even their life’s histories were marked by striking resemblances. Yaacov was born circumcised; Yosef was born circumcised. Yaacov’s mother was barren at first; Yosef’s mother too was barren at first. Yaacov’s brother hated him; Yosef’s brothers hated him. Yaacov’s brother attempted to kill him: Yosef’s brothers attempted to kill him as well. Yaacov became wealthy; Yosef became wealthy. Only upon leaving the land of Israel did Yaacov marry and had children in a foriegn land. Yosef did the same. Yaacov was blessed in a dream; Yosef became great through a dream. Yaacov’s father- in- law was blessed in his merit; Yosef’s father- in-law was blessed upon Yosef’s entry into his house.

•  Why did Yaacov take Yosef’s dream seriously?

Yaacov was startled with Yosef’s second dream where the sun, the moon and the stars, the sun referring to Yaacov and the moon to his mother, were bowing down to him. One of the “nick names” given to Yaacov by G-d was “sun”. This we know because when Yaacov came to HAR HAMORIA, the angels called out the for sun came.”How could Yosef know this if not by Prophecy?” Yaacov asked.

Second Portion

•  According to the Sages the identity of the ISH-the man who told Yosef where his brothers were was an angel. Malach Gavriel to be exact. If not for this ISH, Yosef would have never found his brothers.The mission of this angel was to prepare the “iron chains” to drag Yosef to down Egypt. The Sages say this was no coincidence, rather this ISH was sent, VAYIMTZA EHHU to find him and send him back on track along the road that had been decided in advance. The Ramban teaches us that G-d’s decree is final and one’s efforts are worthless. G-d prepared for him a guide, who without him being aware of, delivered him right into the hands of his brothers.

•  Reuven was the only brother with the insight to realizethat the actions of the brothers against Yosef were wrong. That’s tremendous and incredible, still, however, he was dethroned as monarch of the Jewish people, stripped of the Kehuna and of his BECHOR status. Reuven’s bad character trait is that of being spontaneous. Although we perceive that trait as being a little adventurous and cool, one must be calculating and perform his actions with thought and having a plan in advance. One cannot do things without thinking.

Third Portion

If this portion was a scene in a movie, many would turn away and not watch out of having a faint heart. In fact, it seems like the brothers, actually, were being heartless. After grabbing him and stripping him of his coat, which his father gave him, they threw him into a pit where he was begging and pleading to come out. The brothers decided then to sit down and have a meal while their brother Yosef was pleading for his life. Many years later when unfortunate events were occurring, they cried ” We are being punished for the sin of Yosef”. However they didn’t feel they were being punished for trying to kill or sell him. The brothers were convinced he was guilty and deserved capital punishment. Their primary concern was that of not having a heart when he was pleading with his life. They felt they reached a level of cruelty that was shameful.

Fourth Portion

• The narrative breaks away from the story of Yosef to tell us of an incident involving one of the twelve brothers, Yehuda. This is significant in regard to the future leadership of Israel.

• Yehuda is widowed with three sons. He finds a wife, Tamar, for his oldest son Err. Apparently, when Err has a relationship with his new wife, he commits a sin by not finishing the act but instead spilling his seed. The reason for this is because Err didn’t want to get Tamar pregnant; he wanted to preserve her beauty and figure. This angered G-d and Err was killedby G-d.

• We are introduced to a concept in Judaism that’s not practiced today but that people should be aware of, called Yibum and Chalitza. When a brother dies childless, it’s an obligation of a brother or a family member to preserve the name of the deceased brother and marry the widow. This process is called Yibum. If the brother is not interested, then he performs chalitza on her where the widow spits in the shoe of the non-interested party and she parts ways with her husband’s family. She then is free to marry others.

• Onan, the second son of Yehuda, takes responsibility and marries Tamar. Unfortunately, he too repeats his brother’s sin and does not learn from Err’s mistake. G-d takes his life as well. Some commentaries say that he refused to bring children on behalf of his brother. He just wanted Tamar for his own pleasures.

• Soon after, Yehuda tells his widowed daughter-in-law that his youngest son, Shaila, is too young to take the responsibility of Yibum and sends her away. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”; Tamar would have to wait. However, when the time came, Yehuda never called Tamar.

• Tamar, realizing the importance of this family, devised a plan to continue to be a part of it. She disguised herself as a prostitute and purposely went to the field where Yehuda was tending sheep. Yehuda offered her his stick as collateral until he would soon have the money and she agreed. Sure enough, the next day she was nowhere to be found. A number of months later, Yehuda was told that his daughter-in-law is pregnant. He did not know that he was responsible for the pregnancy.

• At the trial, Tamar presented to the court Yehuda’s signet, wrap and staff and said, “to whoever this belongs to is the one responsible for the child (she was carrying twins) I’m carrying. She purposely didn’t accuse anybody and left it in the hands of Yehuda to tell the truth or not.

• Yehuda acknowledged it was he who was responsible.

Fifth Portion

Many congregants like to purchase this Aliya(portion) because it describes how Yosef blossomed and became successful and well liked in his master’s house. The words ISH MATZLIACH, a successful man is recited in many prayers including the High Holidays where they open the HEICHAL for parnassa

Sixth Portion

• One of the major tests of Yosef and the one that defines him as a great TZADDIK is the fact that he was able to withstand the temptations of a beautiful married woman. The Gemarah says that one of the most pleasurable relations one can have is with a married women because MAYIM GENUVIM METUKIM, stolen waters are sweet.

• The midrash says that Yosef looked in the window and saw a vision of his father. That inspired him and gave him the extra push to withstand from doing the sin. Rabbi Jay Shapiro says that Yosef saw himself in the reflection of the window and realized his potential. He realized how great he can become. That enabled him to refrain from sin

Seventh Portion

One always must interpret a dream positively. Dreams come into fruition by the way it’s interpreted. Once again we see the power of words.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon

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