Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.
Yaakov has spent years away from his father's house and now has returned. The Torah indicates that it is through Yosef that Yaakov's legacy continues. 17 yr. old Yosef brings bad reports about his brothers to Yaakov. Yaakov loves Yosef above his brothers and gives him a special coat. As a result, the brothers hate Yosefand are unable to talk civilly to him. Yosef's two dreams (specifically, his telling his brothers about them) increases their hatred and jealousy, and alarms Yaakov.
[sdt] These are the TO'L'DOT of Yaakov: Yosef... Should not the Torah have started with Reuven? This comes to show us, says the Gemara, that Yosef should have been Yaakov's firstborn, but G-d's mercy for Leah put her before Rachel in giving birth.
[sdt] The Talmud Yerushalmi wonders what Yosef reported about the brothers to Yaakov. R. Meir says, that they ate "limb from a living animal"; R. Yehuda says that they belittled the sons of Bilha and Zilpa and mistreated them; R. Shimon says that they cast their gaze upon the local women. R. Yehuda b. Pazi quotes the pasukfrom Mishlei: "The scales and weighing stones of justice are HaShem's", meaning that a person is punished measure for measure. (Sources explain that the brothers did not do these things; Yosef misinterpreted what he saw.) In Yosef's case, the slaughter of a goat was instrumental in his abduction and the deception of hisfather; he was belittled and enslaved; he was accused of immoral behavior with Potifar's wife.
Yosef's second dream, about the Sun, Moon, and stars bowing to him, added fuel to his brothers' hatred. Yaakov's reaction was to point out the absurdity of the dream, since Rachel, represented by the Moon, had already died and would therefore not be bowing to Yosef.
Rashi says two different things: (1) The dream was referring to Bilha who raised Yosef in Rachel's absence; and (2) even "true" dreams have an element of nonsense. These seem to be mutually exclusive statements - if the Moon represents Bilha, then the dream contained no nonsense. Yaakov seems to have purposely voiced thesecond notion in order to diffuse some of the brothers' anger.
The brothers are tending the sheep near Sh'chem. Yaakov sends Yosef to them. A stranger (some say, the angel Gavriel) helps him find them. (In the whole story of Yosef and his brothers, one can see that G-d has a plan which proceeds with the unknowing help of the brothers and other individuals. And yet, each person involvedacts of his own free will.) When the brothers see Yosef coming, they (some say, Shimon and Levi) suggest killing him. Reuven talks them out of it by suggesting that they not spill his blood, but throw him into a pit instead. The Torah testifies that Reuven really intended to save Yosef.
A point must be made about the concluding pasuk of this Aliya, which gives credit to Reuven for saving Yosef. Commentaries say that Reuven could have talked the brother out of the whole thing; instead, he suggested the snake- and scorpion-infested pit. Nonetheless, Reuven is credited for his intention to save Yosef. Howmuch more so must we honor those who plan and succeed with good deeds and mitzvot.
Rashi says that Reuven truly intended to come back and save Yosef - that's good - but his reason was that he, as oldest, would take all the blame - that's not necessarily a nice reason. Nonetheless, he gets the credit for the good deed he planned on doing - even though it wasn't accomplished AND even though his motiveswere not pure. Again I say, it gives you something to think about. What credit there is for proper motives, and for actual success.
When Yosef arrives, the brothers remove his coat and throw him into a deep pit. The brothers sit to eat. (This is generally considered as a sign of callousness to what they have done.) When a caravan of Ishmaelites approaches, Yehuda suggests that it would be wrong to kill Yosef (Reuven's intentions notwithstanding, thebrothersexpected Yosef to die in the pit); they should rather get rid of him by selling him into slavery. Through a series of transactions, Yosef ends up in Egypt as a slave to Potifar. When Reuven returns to the scene and discovers Yosef missing, he rends his garment and expresses his distress to the others. They slaughter agoat, smear the multi-colored, striped coat in its blood and send it to Yaakov to identify.
Commentaries point out that just as Yaakov had deceived his father with a goat and a garment, so too was he deceived with a goat and a garment. The dish prepared by Rivka for Yaakov to serve his father was made from goat meat. Rivka dressed Yaakov in Eisav's special garment. The brothers took Yosef's special garment - theK'tonet Pasim - and smeared it with goat's blood. This is a stark example of "Mida k'neged mida" - measure for measure.
Yaakov is inconsolable.
This is considered an indication that Yaakov subconsciously knew that Yosef was alive; one naturally accepts consolation for the dead after a time, but not for the missing.
Try to imagine what it was like for Yaakov Avinu, and what it is like for the families of Israel's missing soldiers. This is why this Shabbat was chosen as Shabbat Ne'edarei Zahal. See the special pull-out page.
Rashi gives us a DIKDUK lesson with the word KUTONET. He explains that KUTONET is the word when it stands alone. When it is attached to another word, as in the phrase K'TONET PASIM or K'TONET YOSEF, two things change - The vowel under the KAF changes from a SHURUK to a SH'VA, and the DAGESH drops out of the TAV. In theAshkenazic pronunciation, the words would be KUTONES and K'SONES
[SDT] Rashi gives us another aspct of the "Measure for Measure" punishment of Yaakov. The pasuk says that he "mourned for his son MANY DAYS." Rashi says that it was 22 year! Yosef was 17 when he was sold. He was 30 when he stood before Par'o. That's 13. Seven years of plenty and the first two years of famine before fatherand son were reunited. That makes 22 years that Yaakov was without Yosef. This, says Rashi, is the exact length of time that Yaakov was away from Yitzchak. It includes the 20 years with Lavan, a year and a half in Sukkot, and six months in Bet El before Yaakov returned to his father's house. Remember that Yaakov had variousgood excuses, nonetheless...
Subsequently, Yehuda leaves home and befriends an Adullamite.
[sdt] Why is the story of Yosef interrupted to tell us about Yehuda's situation? Rashi tells us that Yehuda was no longer looked up to by his brothers. After they saw the terrible effect on Yaakov of the Yosef business, they blamed Yehuda for not talking them out of the whole idea. Hence the term "And Yehuda went down fromhis brothers..."
There he meets and marries the daughter of Shu'a, who bears him 3 sons. He marries off his eldest, Er to Tamar. When Er dies, the next brother Onan, marries his brother's widow. When Onan also dies, Tamar is left to wait for the third son, Shelah. Then Yehuda's wife dies. Yehuda travels to the area where Tamar lives. Whenshe hears of his arrival and realizes that she has not been given to Shelah yet, she disguises herself. Yehuda, thinking she is a prostitute, sleeps with her. She asks and receives 3 items as security that he will send her payment. When it becomes known that Tamar is pregnant, Yehuda is summoned. Assuming that she hasacted sinfully, he is prepared to have her punished. Tamar produces the 3 items and announces that she is pregnant by their owner.
[sdt] The Gemara teaches that one must avoid embarrassing another at all costs - it is better to be thrown into a fiery furnace than embarrass someone. We learn this from Tamar, who did not denounce Yehuda, even though she would have been considered guilty of immorality had Yehuda not owned up to his actions.
Yehuda recognizes that he is the guilty one, not Tamar. She gives birth to twins (one extending his hand first, the other actually being born first). They are named Peretz (ancestor of King David) and Zerach.
Note the repeat of the confused firstborn theme. It pervades the Book of B'reishit.
(Commentaries explain that prior to Matan Torah, any close relative could take the childless wife of the deceased; after the Torah was given, only the brother qualifies for YIBUM.)
[sdt] Note how the "measure for measure" sequence continues. Yaakov deceives his father with a garment (Eisav's) and fans the jealousy of his son's against Yosef with the "coat of many colors". He is deceived (and devastated) by that same coat when the brothers bring it back to him all bloodied. Yehuda is "troubled" byhis garment which he gave to Tamar as one of the three securities for his promise to pay her with goats. (P'tilim, says Rashi, refers to Yehuda's cloak.) Yosef, the victim (but not free of guilt in the affair) has his coat grabbed by Potifar's wife. Yosef leaves it in her hands as he runs from the house; the coat becomesthe damning piece of evidence against him. (See further on.) Interesting, no?
In "meanwhile back at the ranch" style, the Torah returns us to the story of Yosef. Yosef serves in Potifar's house and brings success to his master. He is well-liked by all, and is given much responsibility. The Torah makes a point of telling us that Yosef was exceedingly good-looking.
The Midrash says that Yosef was aware of his looks and became too comfortable in Potifar's house. Things were going well, he had good food and drink, and he began "curling his hair". G-d (so to speak) said to Yosef: Your father is in agony over your disappearance and supposed demise and you are enjoying yourself? I shallbring on the "bear" (a reference to the aggressive wife of Potifar).
The portion of Yosef in Potifar's house is juxtaposed to the episode of Yehuda and Tamar. The standard explanation is that the sale of Yosef caused Yehuda to lose the respect of his brothers. Rashi gives another, intriguing, explanation. He says that it is to equate Tamar and Potifar's wife - both of whom acted "for thesake of Heaven". Potifar's wife, says Rashi, saw via astrology that she was destined to have descendants that came from Yosef. She thought that she was the one and so she attempted to seduced him. She was just a bit off; it was, in fact, her daughter Os'nat that would bear Yosef's children.
Potifar's wife casts her eye upon Yosef. She repeatedly attempts to seduce him. His constant refusal (emphasized by the unusual, strong, persistent note - the "shalshellet" on the word "And he refused") angers her.
[sdt] The Sfat Emet (a.k.a. Sfas Emes) calls our attention to to sequence of verbs - And he refused, and he said... First and foremost when a person is being led into temptation, he must stand firm and refuse to go. THEN, if warranted, he can explain his reasons. The refusal must come first. This is a lesson we learn fromYosef HaTzaddik.
She grabs him on a day when no one else is in the house. Yosef flees, leaving his coat behind. (This is the second time he has left his coat in the hands of others.) Potifar's wife denounces Yosef to all who will listen, and Potifar has no choice but to have Yosef imprisoned.
G-d "favors" Yosef in prison, and Yosef becomes well-liked and respected there too. Even in his troubled circumstances, Yosef is watched over favorably by G-d.
[sdt] Commentaries see the episode of Potifar's wife as an appropriate punishment for Yosef: (a) having been vain about his good looks, (b) having reported to his father that his brothers had been "lifting their eyes" to the local girls, and (c) experiencing libelous accusations against himself, as he had reported the "evildoings"of the brothers to their father.
Baal HaTurim says that Yosef spent 10 years in prison corresponding to the 10 brothers he reported on.
This concluding portion of VaYeshev tells of the dreams of the wine steward and the baker, both of whom had been imprisoned by Par'o. Both dream on the same night and awake the following morning very agitated. After Yosef interprets the wine steward's dream in a positive manner, the baker asks Yosef to interpret his dreamaswell. For him, Yosef predicts death. Both dreams come true: the wine steward is restored to his position of honor and the baker is hanged. Yosef asks to be remembered to Par'o, but alas, the wine steward forgets his promise & Yosef.
This episode poses an important question: what is the balance between faith in G-d and human effort. Was wearing a gas mask and going into a sealed room during the Gulf War the correct thing to do, or should we have sufficed with T'hilim & confidence in G-d's Divine protection? Was Yaakov proper in preparing for appeasementor war with Eisav, or should he have been praying full time? Should Yosef not have asked the wine steward to put in the good word with Par'o?
The answers are yes, no, sometimes, maybe, could be. The Sages present Yaakov as doing the right thing by his multi-faceted plan. The criticism is in his "over-fear" of Eisav. Similarly, it was the responsible thing for us to seal a room and be diligent about gas masks. That was our HISHTADLUS, our efforts to "help ourselves".But to panic and "fall apart" when the siren sounded, that might have indicated a lack of faith.
Commentaries say that Yosef should not have relied on the wine steward because of the combination of who Yosef was, who the Sar HaMashkim was, and the implications in that particular situation. Yosef should not have asked the W.S. for help, lest he say: His own G-d might help with dream decoding, but I was the one who gothim out of jail. In other words - Chilul HaShem. Each situation must be evaluated on its own.
Two things come to mind related to this topic. The first is the famous prayer: G-d grant be the courage to change the things I can, the patience to accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference. (or something like that.) Situations in which we can function, require us to function. Or at least to try.In those situations when we are powerless to act, we must recognize that and hope and prayer for G-d's help. (It's nice to get G-d's help even when we can do something for ourselves, but...)
The other thing that comes to mind is the story of the guy on the roof of his house during a flood. As the waters rose higher and higher, a neighbor in a rowboat offered his help, then a police launch, and finally a helicopter, all offering to evacuate the follow in question. He refused all offers, favoring to put his faithand trust in G-d. After he drowned, he appeared before the Heavenly Court to complain that G-d let him down by not saving him, when he had shown such great faith in G-d. G-d's answer, of course, was, "Who do you think sent you the rowboat, the motor launch, and the helicopter?". Did G-d send the SAR HAMASHKIM to Yosef? If that's the case, then what did Yosef do wrong?
Maftir - 17 p'sukimBamidbar 7:1-17
Chapter 7 in Bamidbar is the longest perek in the Torah (89 p'sukim). It supplies the bulk of the Chanuka Torah reading. (The first 4 p'sukim of ch.8 are also read.) Our Sages made a very strong connection between the (re)dedication of the Beit HaMikdash by the Chashmona'im and the original dedication of the Mishkan. Hence,the choice of Torah readings for Chanuka. On the first day, the Torah reading begins with an 11 pasuk introduction to the transporting procedures of the Mishkan. (Some begin 6 p'sukim earlier to include the Birkat Kohanim portion at the end of ch.6. This too is quite appropriate in light of the fact that the Chashmona'imwere a family of Kohanim.) In addition to the gifts to the Mishkan that each Tribal Leader gave (as we read on each day of Chanuka, the leaders also gave wagons and oxen for the heavy carrying. Then we read of the gifts of the Nasi who brought his offerings on the first day of inauguration - Nachshon b. Aminadav of Yehuda.Tradition tells us that he was the first to jump into the Sea in a show of confidence that G-d was with us all the way. Appropriate, is it not, that he was honored by bringing his gifts on the first day.
The special Haftara for Shabbat Chanuka (this Shabbat and next) preempt the regular Haftaras of Parshat HaShavua.
The opening words of the Haftara are G-d's promise to dwell among us. This is the purpose of having built the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash in the first place, and this is the purpose of rededicating it, as was done on Chanuka.
The Haftara contains the vision of the gold menora flanked by olive trees. This vision is the basis of the emblem of the State of Israel. This is particularly significant in light of the interpretation of the vision. The message to the king, to Jewish leaders in general, is that our success is not measured by might andpower, but rather by the spirit of G-d. This was an important message for the Chashmona'im and it remains a vital message for the leaders of the modern State of Israel.
The Haftara is "borrowed" from B'ha'alo't'cha, the Menora being the obvious connection. Chanuka has parallels throughout history.