Weekly Reading Insights: VaYeshev 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: VaYeshev

To be read on 25 Kislev 5764 (Dec. 20) First Day of Chanukah

VaYeshev is the 9th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 9th overall, and 28th out of 54 in overall length.
Torah: Gen.37:1-40:23; Haftorah: Zacharia 2:14-4:7 (for Chanukah, describing the Temple menorah)
Mevarchin Chodesh (the New Month Blessing)

Pirkei Avot: not till after Passover

Vayeshev describes how Yosef shepherded with his brothers and brought bad reports of them to Yaacov. Yosef was Yaacov's favorite son, to whom he gave a colorful coat, but this favoritism bred jealousy towards Yosef. By reporting in detail two dreams he had, Yosef provoked even more jealousy. One day, the brothers went to shepherd in Shechem, and Yaacov asked Yosef to go to them. Seeing Yosef approach, the brothers plot to kill the 'dreamer'. Reuven stopped them and suggested throwing Yosef into a pit instead, in the secret hope of saving Yosef later. After removing his coat, the brothers threw Yosef into the pit. In Reuven's absence the remaining brothers sold Yosef to merchants who were on their way to Egypt.

To hide their deed, the brothers dipped Yosef's coat in goat blood. Believing his son killed by wild animals, Yaacov grieved inconsolably. Yosef was sold to Potifar, captain of Pharaoh's guard. Meanwhile, Yehuda married and had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shela. Er married Tamar. When Er died in consequence of a sin, Yehuda told Onan to marry Tamar and have a child to carry on Er's name. Onan died as well due to his sins. Yehuda was reluctant to let her marry his third son. When Yehuda went to shear sheep, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant from Yehuda. As payment to the 'prostitute' he doesn't recognize, Yehuda promised a goat, and as collateral gave her his seal, wrap, and staff. Sentenced to death for unlawful pregnancy, Tamar sent Yehuda his seal, wrap and staff, hinting to her innocence but protecting him from embarrassment. Yehuda declared Tamar's righteousness. Tamar gave birth to twin boys, Peretz and Zerach.

In Egypt, Yosef became manager of Potifar's house, but attracted the attention of Potifar's wife. Because Yosef evaded her advances, she became angry and accused Yosef of trying to rape her. Yosef was subsequently imprisoned. He became the supervisor of the other prisoners. Pharaoh's butler and baker were imprisoned in the same dungeon. Each dreamt a dream which Yosef interpreted correctly: The baker was to be sentenced to death, but the butler would be returned to his position. Yosef asked the butler to mention him to Pharaoh, hoping this would free him. Yet when the butler was released, he forgot his promise to Yosef.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:08-64/VaYishlach )

These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph..." (Gen.37:2). This is as we have learned, that Jacob and Joseph were similar. Everything that happened to Jacob happened also to Joseph. The two of them go together.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:09-64/VaYeshev )

In the idiom of our sages, peace is termed the ultimate vessel for containing blessing. This is clear because acrimony will cause any blessings - whether of health, prosperity, or fulfillment - to be squandered.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:09-64/VaYeshev )

The reason that of all the people it had to be Rabbi Akiva who was singled out to suffer the punishment on behalf of the Shechina, was that in the course of his studies he, more than any other scholar, had penetrated into the hidden aspects of G-d. In other words, he had experienced the "wings" of the Shechina as being immediately above him.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Reuben said...'Throw him into this pit'...that he might deliver him out of their hand to return him to his father." (37:22)

According to the Talmud (Shabbat 21), the pit was full of snakes and scorpions. Nonetheless, Reuben felt it would be the safer alternative for Joseph, as animals have no free will, and G-d would surely protect him. The brothers, by contrast, might very well decide to kill him. Reuben sought to remove Joseph from the control of entities with free will, and "return him to his Father"-place him under the direct mercy of his Heavenly Father.

(Otzar Chaim)

Judah said..."What will we gain if we slay our brother?" (37:26)

The Hebrew word for "gain," betza, is also an acronym for the Hebrew words for morning, afternoon and night, the times of the three daily prayers. Judah was telling his brothers, "If we kill Joseph, how will we be able to stand before G-d in prayer with our brother's blood on our hands?"

(Vedibarta Bam)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:09-64/VaYeshev )

What is the secret to success? In this week's Torah portion, we come across an interesting inconsistency. Yosef found himself in two difficult situations, first as a slave to Potifar, and then afterwards, even more difficult, in prison. Nevertheless, in both instances, Yosef merited such great success that he was put in charge.
What is interesting is how the Torah describes his success. In the house of Potifar it says, "everything that Yosef did, G-d brought success to his hand"(39/3). Whereas in prison it says, "and what he did, G-d made successful"(39/23). As a prisoner, the Torah omits the word, yado-'his hand'.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains how the Talmud (Moed Katan 28a) states that success comes not from effort, but from mazal, specifically the dynamic impact of a person's constellation on his life, known colloquially as luck. Judaism says that luck is a gift from above. Looking at the world around us, we see there are two types of successful people. There are those for whom things consistently go well. They make their effort, and they are apparently successful. Then there are people who for no discernable reason find success which can not be explained in human terms. It just has to be G-d.

In the house of Potifar, Yosef merited the first kind of success, through 'his hand'. In prison, as a prisoner against truly impossible odds, Yosef reached the even higher success, of 'G-d made success'. This wondrous success specifically happened to Yosef in prison to teach that the vessel for this latter divine success is putting ourselves totally in G-d's hands. The more we feel helpless-not in negative terms, just that we nullify ourselves to G-d's will-the more divine success can be revealed in us.

We see this in Yeshayahu, 'To this one I will look, says G-d, to the poor and contrite of spirit' (66/2). G-d looks at and helps those who have the most nullified sense of self, who perceive themselves as poor. So it was with Yosef. The slave's purpose is to work. Even though the work belongs to his master, the slave has a purpose. However, in the case of a prisoner, even if he does work, he receives no credit for it. It was only in prison, at Yosef's lowest point when he had nothing, that he merited the most divine success. As a slave, his success was limited by 'his hand'. Not so as a prisoner. Here, the success was unlimited to such an extent that it was apparent to everyone that G-d was with him.

Even in Potifar's idolatrous home, Yosef was full of faith. On the verse, (39/3) 'And his master saw that G-d was with him (Yosef),' Rashi explains that Yosef would always say 'Thank G-d'. Since Yosef gave the credit to G-d, even Potifar, an idol worshiper became convinced. The Torah did not make this point about Yosef when he was in prison because everyone could see his success came from G-d.

Of course, G-d expects us to make efforts in being successful, and when we do so, He will help us. Nevertheless, at times we encounter situations in which success alludes us, regardless of any effort we may exert. When this happens, the one and only way to proceed is to count on G-d. He does and will come through for us and make us successful despite the odds. We have to rely on G-d, and when we do, our success is guaranteed.

Sunday and Monday were the Chabad holiday of the 19th and 20th of Kislev which celebrate the 1st Chabad Rebbe's release from prison for teaching Chassidut. Certainly, part of the lesson is that the release came about through his total reliance on G-d. But there is another message. Thousands of Chabad representatives around the world have growing institutions, unparalleled success and influence in almost every location. This success comes from the Rebbe's followers' total reliance on the G-d. Decide today, this Rosh Hashana of Chassidut, to increase your study of Chassidut.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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