There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
It’s time to explore Torah Portion Vayeshev, aliyah by aliyah.
Vayeshev Genesis 37:1-40:23
Aliyah 1 – Genesis 37:1-11
Genesis 37:1 Ya‘akov continued living in the land where his father had lived as a foreigner, the land of Kena‘an.
Aren’t we all foreigners in a way? This will become even more true for Israel and his family as the story goes on, but there is a notion that comes through that the family is a bubble or dominion that operates in the world. Yes, the family is a unit of existence in the world. As people who love G-d, we are called to be peculiar, to live differently from those around us, because we are supposed to dedicate ourselves to Him.
Genesis 37:2 Here is the history of Ya‘akov. When Yosef was seventeen years old he used to pasture the flock with his brothers, even though he was still a boy. Once when he was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, he brought a bad report about them to their father.
How is it “Jacob’s history” that Joseph was 17 and brought a bad report about his brothers? What does that mean? Could the word for legacy have been ised here? Does Hebrew have a word for legacy?
Genesis 37:3 Now Isra’el loved Yosef the most of all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a long-sleeved robe.
I Iove that the Torah show us the flaws of the Patriarchs. I am wondering if this means that Jacob loved Joseph the most in his heart or if it means that he showed everyone that he loved Joseph best. I ask because Hebrew is a phenomenal language, describing things by how they look.
Genesis 37:4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they began to hate him and reached the point where they couldn’t even talk with him in a civil manner.
Last question answered: Jacob did demonstrate his greater love for Joseph. And look what happened as a result of that. How sad that love from one person to another can breed hate in someone else.
Genesis 37:5 Yosef had a dream which he told his brothers, and that made them hate him all the more.
Genesis 37:7 We were tying up bundles of wheat in the field when suddenly my bundle got up by itself and stood upright; then your bundles came, gathered around mine and prostrated themselves before it.”
GEN 37:5, 7
I wonder what Joseph thought would come of sharing his dream. I wonder what he thought it meant.
Genesis 37:8 His brothers retorted, “Yes, you will certainly be our king. You’ll do a great job of bossing us around!” And they hated him still more for his dreams and for what he said.
It is interesting to me that the brothers clearly understood the dream. They interpreted it correctly, from a certain point of view. He would be a king and he would boss them around, but the context must have been quite the surprise.
Genesis 37:9 He had another dream which he told his brothers: “Here, I had another dream, and there were the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrating themselves before me.”
When did he tell them of this second dream? Why didn’t he stop? The first time did not go well. I wonder why he persisted.
Genesis 37:10 He told his father too, as well as his brothers, but his father rebuked him: “What is this dream you have had? Do you really expect me, your mother and your brothers to come and prostrate ourselves before you on the ground?”
It feels a little odd to rebuke someone for dreaming something. Don’t dreams come to us unbidden? Is their source spiritual or fleshly? Is that ever made clear in the Bible?
Genesis 37:11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The difference between a boy and a man are many. The way this reads, seems to be hinting at that. Given what happens later, we know the brothers didn’t forget Joseph’s dreams. Had they, there would have been no issue with him later. Jacob and his sons remembered the dreams, but he thought about it while they felt about it. He bore it without injury, while they were twisted and warped by jealousy and anger.
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 37:12-22
Genesis 37:22 Don’t shed blood,” Re’uven added. “Throw him into this cistern here in the wilds, but don’t lay hands on him yourselves.” He intended to rescue him from them later and restore him to his father.
Did Ruben want to save Joseph to redeem himself in Jacob’s eyes or did he genuinely want to help because it was the right thing? Regardless, HaShem worked through him to help save all Israel, Egypt and the world from the famine.
Aliyah 3 – Genesis 37:23-36
Genesis 37:31-34 They took Yosef’s robe, killed a male goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 Then they sent the long-sleeved robe and brought it to their father, saying, “We found this. Do you know if it’s your son’s robe or not?” 33 He recognized it and cried, “It’s my son’s robe! Some wild animal has torn Yosef in pieces and eaten him!” 34 Ya‘akov tore his clothes and, putting sackcloth around his waist, mourned his son for many days.
Rebekkah and Jacob conspired to deceive Isaac with the death of a goat and the use of a coat, so that the son he favored would not receive his blessing. Now Jacob’s other sons have formed a conspiracy against him and his favored son. It looks like Rebekkah couldn’t take the curse upon herself as she said she would. How tragic.
Aliyah 4 – Genesis 38:1-30
Genesis 38:8 As she was in labor, one of them put out his hand; and the midwife took his hand and tied a scarlet thread on it, saying, “This one came out first.”
All we can do is our best with what we have and what we know. I wonder, which of the sons got to be the firstborn? As I understand the halalcha, the first born is the first to brake the womb. Does the hand count for breaking the womb or does it have to be the whole body? That’s a real pickle!
Aliyah 5 – Genesis 39:1-6
Genesis 39:3 His master saw how HaShem was with him, that HaShem prospered everything he did.
How did Potifar know that is was HaShem? What does it mean that he knew or saw that Joseph was blessed? Was it just the outcome he saw and he didn’t recognize the source? Did he somehow get it? Did he ask Joseph and Joseph testified that HaShem made his work prosper?
Aliyah 6 – Genesis 39:7-23
Genesis 39:10 But she kept pressing him, day after day. Nevertheless, he didn’t listen to her; he refused to sleep with her or even be with her.
I love finding little nuggets that support putting a (single) fence around a mitzvah. Joseph may or may not have been attracted to Potifar’s wife, but if he was not in close proximity to her, there is no way he could have slept with her. Right? Of course, right! Maybe we should take inspiration and guidance from those who have come before us and emulate their practices that kept them from sinning, so we can stay far from sinning and close to our Heavenly Father.
Aliyah 7 – Genesis 40:1-23
Genesis 40:8 They said to him, “We each had a dream, and there’s no one around who can interpret it.” Yosef said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to G-d? Tell it to me, please.”
“Don’t interpretations belong to G-d?”
Doesn’t everything, Joseph? Isn’t it interesting that Joseph, the brothers and Jacob all understood what his two dreams meant, but then he makes this statement? Is there a conflict here? If so, what does that mean? If not, is that because Joseph is wrong in making this statement?
That concludes my journey through Vayishlach for the year 5782.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.