Weekly Reading Insights: Vayeshev 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayeshev

To be read on 23 Kislev 5766 (Dec.24)

Torah: Gen.37:1-40:23; Num. 7:18-23
Haftorah: Amos 2:6-3:8 (opening verse hints to sale of Yosef)

Vayeshev is the 9th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 9th overall, and 28th out of 54 in overall length.

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:0966/Vayeshev)

Although Jacob had acted properly [in following his mother's directives to acquire Isaac's blessing, instead of Esau], nevertheless, because he brought a kid-goat [to deceive his father, he was held responsible for the consequences]. A goat is from the side of harsh judgments [the aspect of gevura], and so when Jacob used it to deceive his father Isaac, who is also from the same aspect, he was punished via the blood of another goat - that his sons presented him with. Thus, regarding Jacob it is written, "With the skins of a kid-goat she covered his arms and his smooth-skinned neck [so that Isaac would assume that Jacob was Esau]" (Gen. 27:16), and therefore "they dipped the tunic in the blood [of a kid-goat]", and they presented Jacob with the tunic in order to deceive him.

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:0966/Vayeshev)

It is known that initially, in its immature state, Zeir Anpin possesses three facets of intelligence, expressed as three names Elo-him: spelled out with the letter yud, spelled out with the letter hei, and spelled out with the letter alef. These three letters form the mnemonic acronym "yehei" [meaning, "may it be"].

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

* * * * *

From Rabbeinu Bachya (S:0966/Vayeshev)

The paragraph describing a levirate marriage was appended to the paragraph describing the sale of Joseph, as both paragraphs deal with the subject of "gilgul", a form of reincarnation, complete transformation of one's fate. The sin committed by the brothers was of the type that could be atoned for by nothing less than reincarnation of their souls in different bodies. This is also the mystical dimension of the levirate marriage (meaning when the widow of a man who died without having sired children marries one of his surviving brothers; compare Deut. 25:5-10).

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


"His master saw that G-d was with him, and that G-d made all that he did prosper in his hand." (39:3)

Blessing and abundance from Above are directly contingent upon one's study of Torah and observance of mitzvot (commandments), as it states, "If you will go in My statutes...I will cause it to rain in the proper time." Nowadays, this cause and effect relationship is often obscured by our transgressions and by the concealment of G-dliness that characterizes the exile. For Joseph, however, there was no such concealment; it was obvious to all that his righteousness and good deeds were responsible for his success in all areas of life.

(Sefer HaMaamarim, 5672)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:0966/Vayeshev)

"When she gave birth there were twins... he called his name Peretz, and afterwards his brother...and he called his name Zerach." (Gen. 38:27-30)

Our Sages compare Zerach to the sun and Peretz to the moon. The sun continuously shines in an unchanging manner; thus it symbolizes the stability with which the righteous serve G-d. The moon's appearance keeps changing; it continually waxes and wanes. The moon thus symbolizes ba'alei teshuva (penitents), who stray and then return, thereby regaining their spiritual stature. The royal house of David, the very source of Mashiach, is precisely from Peretz (the moon), because Mashiach will bring even the righteous to return to an even higher level of connection with their Divine source.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 30)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:0966/Vayeshev)

The exile to Egypt begins with a verse in this week's Torah portion, "Joseph went down [in Hebrew, 'hurad'] to Egypt". According to the Midrash (Bereishit 6b), the word "hurad" has three different meanings: A) From the word "yerida", meaning "going down", because Joseph first went as a slave and later as a prisoner; B) from the word "r'diya", which means "control", because ultimately he became a leader in Egypt; C) from the word "horeed", meaning to lower something else - that Joseph brought the Shechina into Egypt.

These three explanations describe Joseph's dealing with his exile. So too, they describe how the Jewish people dealt with their life in Egypt, as well as how each of us deals with our own environment in this current exile.

According to the first explanation, we experience life's challenges as a sort of exile, perceived as an obstacle to the fulfillment of goals and therefore one is constantly at battle to conquer and overcome. The problem with this perspective is that the exile becomes a force of its own to be constantly dealt with. Even if victorious, the battle leaves its impact on the person - his or her clothes become war-torn.

Alternately, according to the second perspective, a person sees him or herself as always moving up, someone in control. There are no obstacles, only steps to achieve goals. In fact, this perspective makes reality conform - the exile bends before us, and we move ahead! Obviously, the advantage of this view is that there is no battle. Unfortunately, the problem is the exile has not been conquered, and in one false move, a person can slip from that high spiritual consciousness only to be overwhelmed by these challenges.

The third possibility is to bring the Shechina with us. It is with the strength of the Shechina that we transform the exile - until the exile itself helps us to reach our destination. This is the highest level, because the exile is transformed into something positive. This was the achievement of Joseph. From one perspective, Joseph was ripped from his nurturing, spiritually elevated environment - the protection and teachings of his father, Jacob - forced against his will to deal with the lowliness of Egypt. Nevertheless, the Shechina was with him, helping him to become Egypt's leader and make the exile serve him and his family to achieve their goals.

The Torah speaks about this because this is a strength that Joseph shares with all of the Jewish People. We should not become depressed from the harshness of the exile in which we live. Rather, we must remember that we have brought the Shechina with us. Let the Shechina bring Divinity around you. This is the strength through which we will merit to bring the final and lasting redemption immediately.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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