The Portion of Vayeishev

Genesis 37:1-40:23

This action-packed portion tells the story of Joseph’s sale and early years in Egypt, before his rise to fame and fortune. Joseph’s dreams and the attention he garners from his father prompt his brothers’ jealousy, and they set out to destroy him. Initially throwing him in a pit, they fish him out, sell him to traders heading towards Egypt, and trick their father into believing Joseph had been killed. Joseph rises to prominence in his master’s household until his spurned mistress gets him jailed. There, he interprets dreams for two other prisoners. Meanwhile, back in Canaan, we read of Judah’s marriage, and the efforts he makes to find a match for his children.

 

 

Topic 1: Joseph and his Brothers

The narrative focus of the Torah shifts from Jacob to his sons, and to Joseph in particular. We are told that at age 17, he serves as a shepherd with his brothers, and grows up with the children of the maidservants. Joseph is prone to carrying harsh tales of his brothers’ antics to their father.… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: The Sale of Joseph

While Joseph languishes in his pit, which medieval commentator Rashi explains is filled with snakes and scorpions, the brothers sit a distance away to eat. They notice a caravan of spices heading towards Egypt, and Judah hatches a new plan: rather than kill Joseph, they should sell him into slavery. The brothers agree, and Joseph… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: Judah and Tamar

Following Joseph’s sale, Judah parts ways with his brothers and lives instead with an Adullamite named Hirah. He marries the daughter of a merchant named Shua and has three sons, Er, Onan and Shelah. When they reach marriageable age, he pairs Er with Tamar. Er, however, did evil in God’s eyes, and He kills him.… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: Joseph in Potiphar’s Household

The narrative returns to the story of Joseph, now a servant in the household of Potiphar, a prominent Egyptian. Joseph rises through the ranks in Potiphar’s house, until he is appointed custodian over the whole household.   The Torah relates that Joseph is very attractive, and he catches the attention of Potiphar’s wife. She tries… Read More »

 

 

Topic 5: Joseph, Interpreter of Dreams

In prison, Joseph meets two other prisoners, the Pharaoh’s butler and baker. One night, they each have a dream which sets them on edge. Joseph invites them to share their dreams, and, crediting God, offers to help them find their meanings.   The butler says he dreamt of a blossoming vine with three branches, which… Read More »

 

 

Topic 6: Haftarah - Fighting the Yom Kippur War for the Family of Israel

During the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir visited a tank battalion on the Golan Heights. An IDF soldier asked the Prime Minister, "My father was killed in the 1948 war, and we won. My brother lost an arm in the Six Day War, and we won. Last week I lost my best friend and we're… Read More »
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