Va’yeshev is the beginning of the Joseph story, he is 17 years old and Jacob’s favourite – so his brothers hated him.
1st dream– brothers’ sheaves of wheat bow down to Joseph’s sheave – brothers hate him more,
2nd dream– 11 stars & the sun and the moon bow down to Joseph – even Jacob is angry now “Shall we come, I and your mother and your brothers and bow to you on the ground?”
Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers who are feeding the sheep, they throw him in a pit and then sell him to slave traders and lied to Jacob that he had been killed by a wild animal.
Weird Diversion – Judah and Tamar (his 1st son’s wife). Tamar’s husband dies, 2nd son (Onan) does not want to give her a child. Tamar tricks Judah into sleeping with her and then exposes his hypocrisy when he accuses her of being a whore.
Joseph in Egypt– slave to Potiphar and manager of his estate. Chased by Potiphar’s wife. Jailed but prospers in jail. Pharoah’s butler and baker jailed – each has a dream Joseph interprets the dreams: butler will be reinstated, baker will be hanged. Joseph’s interpretations come true
A thought on Joseph
Joseph story is 13/50 chapters of Bereishit, longer than any of the 3 patriarchs and Joseph is portrayed as a key actor in the origins of the Jewish people. But Joseph does not get accorded the status of a patriarch.
- His arrogance?
- He was more interested in prospering in Egypt than building the land of Israel
- He was responsible for enslaving the people of Egypt to the Pharoah through his economic policies in the famine
- Perhaps the subsequent enslavement of the Hebrews by a Pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” was a divine punishment of those whose ancestor enslaved all of Egypt
Others say in his favour:
- Joseph, unlike his brothers, was alone in an alien atmosphere and subjected to great temptations. Through his ability to withstand such challenges, and to maintain his identity as a ‘Jew’, he is a role model for all Jews living in the diaspora and under pressure to assimilate with the other nations.
Joseph is a flawed hero in the biblical story, perhaps a little bit like us?
By Steven Feldman