Vayeishev – Rishon

Hidden Message

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Yaakov relocated to live near his father Yitzchak. His son Yoseif was 17 years old, and he tended sheep with the sons of Bilha and Zilpah. Yoseif spoke about them negatively to their father. As if that weren’t bad enough, Yaakov doted on Yoseif, as he was the oldest son of Rachel, Yaakov’s beloved wife, now departed. Yaakov had Yoseif made a fancy, striped coat. (We are not informed as to the number of colors in the coat, so to suggest that it was “red and yellow and green and brown, etc…” is purely speculative.) Yoseif’s brothers were jealous of the favoritism he received. (In Yaakov’s defense, his other sons all had mothers; is it so inconceivable that Yoseif needed some extra attention from his father?)

Things got worse when Yoseif decided to share the details of his dreams with his brothers. In one dream, his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bowed down to his own. In another, he saw himself being bowed down to by the sun, moon and 11 stars. These clearly represented his father, mother and 11 brothers. Yaakov told Yoseif that the dream was clearly nonsense – after all, Rachel had already passed away! – but he still kept an eye out to see if it might be fulfilled. (Rashi informs us that the moon actually represented Bilha, who raised Yoseif after Rachel passed away. It’s interesting to note that the words “asheR CHaLMTa Havo” in verse 10 can be broken up to read “RaCHeL MeiTaH” – “Rachel died,” the unstated meaning of the verse!)

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