Weekly Reading Insights: Vayeshev  

Overview of the Weekly Reading

Torah: Gen.37:1-40:23; Num. 7:18-23; Haftorah: Zacharia 2:14-4:7 (for Chanukah, describing the Temple menorah)



"These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph" (Gen. 37:2)
Jacob is symbolic of every Jew. The name Joseph (Yosef) comes from the Hebrew meaning to add or increase. The lesson to be derived is that a Jew must never allow himself to stagnate, but must always climb upward along the spiritual "ladder" of Yiddishkeit.
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov)

". . . Joseph brought [the brothers'] evil report to their father." (37:2)
That is, whatever the world does without an awareness of G·d is an aspect of evil, for "the soul without knowledge [of G·d] is not good" [Proverbs 19:2]. But, Joseph would bring their evil report to their father. That is, he would bind them to their root.**
(Degel Machane Ephraim [from //baalshemtov.com])

**The Tzaddik, represented by Joseph, would uplift to his Father in Heaven all the deeds performed in the world without a consciousness of G·d.

"They hated him and couldn't speak peaceably with him." (37:4)
The main part of every controversy is that the quarrelers don't speak to each other; neither one wants to listen to the other. If people really knew how to speak and listen to one another, they would come to realize that in most cases, there is nothing to fight about.
(Rabbi Yonasan Eibishytz - From L'Chaim #848)

"We were binding sheaves in the field." (37:7)
This world, in which physical objects appear to be distinct and separate entities from G-dliness, is likened to a field. To make a sheaf, the stalks of wheat must first be uprooted and then bound together. Similarly, the task of the Jew is to take physical objects, "uproot" them from their corporeality, and utilize them in the service of G-d so that they become vessels for holiness.
(Likutei Sichot)

"Go now and see if it is well with your brothers." (37:14)
When Jacob sent Joseph to look for his brothers, he enjoined him to see only that which was "well"--the goodness and positive qualities they had. In such a way would the brothers maintain their unity.
(Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)

"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)

"What profit will it be if we kill our brother and conceal his blood?" (Gen. 37:26)
The fact that we will be forced to conceal our deed indicates that it is wrong. "Wherever secrecy exists - thievery exists."
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)

"Reuven returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit." (37:29)
Reuven's absence allowed the other brothers to sell Joseph; had Reuven been present, he would not have permitted them to do it. And where was he? Rashi says Reuven was preoccupied with fasting and perfecting himself. Because he was concerned only with himself, Joseph was sold and the whole series of events was set in motion that would lead to our forefathers' exile in Egypt. An important lesson is learned: One must not be concerned solely with his own perfection to the exclusion of others. We must always have our fellow Jew in mind and truly love him, lest he be ignored in his time of need.
(Lubavitcher Rebbe -from L'Chaim #191)

"There has been no harlot here." (38:21)
No element of impropriety surrounded the birth of Peretz and Zerach; the entire incident was all part of the Divine plan that would lead to the birth of Moshiach, who will be a descendant of Judah. The reason for the circuitous and concealed manner in which this came about was solely to divert the attention of the Satan.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

"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)

"And he refused and he said.." (Gen. 39:8)
When Potifar's wife tried to entice Yosef to sin, he first of all refused adamantly (the Hebrew word is read with a rare, special long, drawn-out note called shalshellet) and only after that explained the reason for his refusal. This is how a person must act when his inclination towards evil tries to bring him to commit a sin: first of all he has to say firmly: "No! No way! It is forbidden!" and only after that he may go on to explain why.
from Sfas Emmes (translated from Sichat HaShavuah #52)

"And Pharaoh became angry...at the chief of the butlers and the chief of the bakers and he put them under arrest... in custody in the house of the officer of the guard." [40:2-3]
"The chief of the butlers" - this is the lust for drink; "the chief of the bakers" - this is the lust for food; "the officer of the guard" - this is the enthusiasm for commerce and earnings. Even though these are all things that a person is in need of, one should maintain a proper balance and not put too much attention or fervor into them. Physicality is a combination of good and evil; a person has to take the good out of the evil and not be drawn to the evil. That is why one's involvement with physicality should be 'under arrest' - only as much as necessary, not more than that.
from Ohr HaTorah [translated from Sichat HaShavuah 206]

"A grape vine with three branches" [40:10]
The Jewish people are compared to a grapevine: just as wine gladdens G-d and man, so too every Jew has an aspect of wine within-a concealed love for G-d that leads him to rejoice in matters of holiness. And this is an inheritance to all of us from our ancestors.
Torah Ohr [translated from Sichat HaShavuah #467]



Every Jew must learn from the conduct of our forefather Yaakov (who asked to dwell in tranquility - see Rashi on opening verse) that as long as Moshiach has not yet come, every single Jew must request and even demand that he should come. Indeed, "all the appointed times have been finished" ("the end of days") in its simplest sense, and surely our righteous Moshiach will come immediately, and everyone will demonstrate with his finger and say, "Here he comes [Moshiach]!"
(Lubavitcher Rebbe -translated by Michoel-Lieb Dobry)

"Then Joseph had a dream…. " (Gen 37:5-9)
The sons of Yaakov were all righteous. If so, why did they want to kill Yosef? The brothers knew that Mashiach will come from Yehudah. When Yosef told them his two dreams, they saw that Yosef wanted to be the leader over all the brothers, including Yehudah! That would make him a rebel against the king, and therefore deserved to die.
But really both Yosef and the brothers were right. Yosef was meant to be a leader, but only to get the world ready for Mashiach. His first dream came true when he became a leader in Egypt. The second dream was for his descendant, "Mashiach ben Yosef." He is the person G-d picked to prepare the world for "Mashiach ben David" -- the true and
final Mashiach, from the tribe of Yehudah.
(Source: Shlah, p. 299-300)

"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 ("shining") to the sun and Peretz to the moon. The sun continuously shines in an unchanging manner; thus it symbolizes the stabililty 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) [from L'Chaim #746] [Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

"When she gave birth, there were twins..Peretz….and he called his name Zarach." (Gen 38:27-30)
Peretz is the direct ancestor of King David and Mashiach. His name alludes to the Messianic prophecy of "The poretz (the one who breaks through) is gone up before them" (Michah 2:13)
Zarach, Peretz's twin, also alludes to the redemption. His name means "shining forth." The Messianic Kingdom will shine forth and illuminate throughout the world. All mankind will benefit from its bright light, as it is written: "Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by the brightness of zarchech (your shining forth)" (Isaiah 60:3)

Peretz is the direct ancestor of King David and Moshiach. The Midrash notes that "Before the first enslaver of Israel (Pharaoh) was born, the ultimate redeemer of Israel (Moshiach, descended from Peretz) was already born." G-d thus brought about the cure before the affliction. The "light of Moshiach" that was created with the birth of Peretz confers upon the Jewish people the strength to "break through" (the meaning of the name "Peretz") all the obstacles that try to impede their service of G-d until Moshiach is revealed.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

" 'What is this breakthrough (peretz) you have burst?' she (the midwife) said (as the baby emerged, breech). And he (Yehuda) named him Peretz." (Gen. 38:29)
Happiness, simcha, breaks through barriers, including the barriers of exile. Indeed, Moshiach is described as "haporeitz," the one who breaks through barriers. He will lead the people to break through all obstacles and his coming will be hastened by people breaking through their own barriers and experiencing joy. How, though, is it possible to experience joy in the midst of the darkness of exile? Because Moshiach's coming is imminent. It is not a dream of the far off future, but an immediate reality, becoming more cogently present from day to day. The very thought of how close it is should bring joy to our hearts.
(From L'Chaim #858)

" Joseph was brought down to Egypt." (Gen. 39:1)
"He reigned over them," the Midrash relates, explaining that the word "brought down" is linguistically related to the word "reign." As proof of this, the Midrash cites a verse about Moshiach, "He shall reign from sea to sea." What is the connection between Joseph's descent into the cesspool of ancient Egypt, and the sovereignty of Moshiach? The Jewish history of exile actually began when Joseph was brought down to Egypt, and, as the prototype of all other exiles to follow, its true purpose was the elevation and ascent of the Jewish people which would follow its suffering. The objective of our present exile is likewise the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption.
(Sichot Kodesh - From L'Chaim #900)

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