Parashat Vayeshev

“Don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop, We’ve read the book and you come out on top!” These words, from the popular musical  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, ring true in this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayeshev. We are initially introduced to Yosef who has “come out on top,” as he is the favored son of Yaakov, and is bestowed with a multicolor coat. Yosef is not afraid to boast about his favored status, as he subjects his family to hearing the details of his self-aggrandizing dreams.
The Torah narrative shifts from depicting Yosef as an outspoken young man to portraying him as an entirely passive character who experiences incredible trauma. Nahum Sarna, a modern Bible scholar, explains that even though the story of Yosef does not contain any supernatural events or direct communications with God, there is sense that God somehow plays a role in this narrative. Right before Yosef is thrown into the pit, Yosef encounters a mysterious man who directs him to the location of his brothers and their flocks. Rambam, a 12th century scholar, believes that this man was a divine messenger. Rambam explains Yosef’s interactions with this man were necessary in establishing the role of God in this story. From the encounter with the mysterious man and onwards, the character of Yosef is silenced and Yosef takes a back seat in the narrative.
Why does Yosef remain silent throughout this ordeal? Why doesn’t he stand up for himself in the face of his brothers? Perhaps Yosef’s encounter with this man in the field served as a humbling experience for Yosef and as a sign of God’s presence in his life. Yosef recognized that his greatness primarily stemmed from God’s plan for the Jewish people.

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One Response to Parashat Vayeshev

  1. I read about you in the latest Hadassah Magazine. What a cool, innovative way to study torah and make it relevant to young girls and women particularly (and curious males, of course). Even cooler is that I read you teach at my son’s old High School, Solomon Schecheter of Westchester! Wow! Yasher Koach and many kudos to you!

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