Wednesday, December 21, 2005

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Week of December 18-24, 2005 (Vayeishev)


Kislev 20, 5766 * December 21, 2005


TORAH PORTION: Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

Torah Reading for Week of December 18-24, 2005

On the Web:

- * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * - * -

Jacob settles in Hebron with his twelve sons. His favorite is 17-year-old Joseph, whose brothers are jealous of the preferential treatment he receives from his father, such as a precious many-colored coat that Jacob makes for Joseph. Joseph relates to his brothers two dreams he has which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him.

Shimon and Levi plot to kill him, but Reuben suggests that they throw him into a pit instead, intending to come back later and save him. While Joseph is in the pit, Judah has him sold to a band of passing Ishmaelites. The brothers dip Joseph's special coat in the blood of a goat and show it to their father, leading him to believe that his most beloved son was devoured by a wild beast.

Judah marries and has three children. The eldest, Er, dies young and childless, and his wife Tamar is given in levirate marriage to the second son, Onan. Onan sins by spilling his seed and he, too, meets an early death. Judah is reluctant to have his third son marry her. Determined to have a child from Judah's family, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah himself. Judah hears that his daughter-in-law has become pregnant and orders her executed for harlotry, but when Tamar produces some personal effects he left with her as a pledge for payment, he publicly admits that he is the father. Tamar gives birth to twin sons, Peretz (an ancestor of King David) and Zerach.

Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, the minister in charge of Pharaoh's slaughterhouses. G-d blesses everything he does, and soon he is made overseer of all his master's property. Potiphar's wife desires the handsome and charismatic lad; when Joseph rejects her advances, she tells her husband that the Hebrew slave tried to force himself on her and has him thrown in prison. Joseph gains the trust and admiration of his jailers, who appoint him to a position of authority in the prison administration.

In prison, Joseph meets Pharaoh's chief butler and chief baker, both incarcerated for offending their royal master. Both have disturbing dreams, which Joseph interprets; in three days, he tells them, the butler will be released and the baker hanged. Joseph asks the butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh. Joseph's predictions are fulfilled, but the butler forgets all about Joseph and does nothing for him.

* * *


- Israel loved Joseph more than all his children… And his brothers envied him (37:3, 11)

"Love is strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:6) -- this is the love with which Jacob loved Joseph… "Envy is harsh as the grave" (ibid.) -- this is the envy of the brothers to Joseph. What can love achieve in face of envy? (Midrash Tanchuma)

- And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood (37:31)

G-d pays back man measure for measure -- even the righteous does He pay back measure for measure. Jacob deceived his father (Isaac) with goatskins (as per Genesis 27:16), and his sons deceived him with the blood of a goat… And, Judah, who deceived his father (Jacob) with the blood of a goat, was deceived by Tamar with a "kid of goats" (as per Genesis 38:17). (Midrash; Rashi)

- It was told to Tamar: Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timna to shear his sheep (38:13)

Yet in the case of Samson it says, "And Samson went down to Timna" (Judges 14:1). For Timna sat on the slope of a hill: one ascended to it from one side and descended to it from the other. (Rashi)

The town of Timna is thus the prototype for all of life’s destinations. One never simply goes to Timna -- one either ascends or descends to it; the same is true of the journey of life. There are no two parallel points on the slope of human development, where every step is either a step up or a step down from its predecessor.

This is also the lesson implicit in the lights of Chanukah (which always falls in proximity with the Torah reading of Vayeishev). One who kindles a single flame on the first night of the festival observes the mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights in the most optimal manner possible. But to kindle that same flame on the following night is not only a failure to increase light but a decline in relation to yesterday’s achievement: on the second night of Chanukah, a single flame represents a less than optimal observance of the mitzvah. For in the "diagonal" trajectory of life, our every deed and endeavor either elevates or lowers us in relation to our prior station. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)


For more Parshah reading, please visit our "Full Parshah with Commentary" section with its dozens of excerpts from the Midrash, Talmud, Commentaries and the Chassidic Masters:

To view this page on the Web with many more links, please click here:


Featured on

Seasons - A Chanukah Thought

A photo essay by Tzvi Freeman

When it's dark, light a candle...

Watch this inspiring presentation:


Copyright (c), 2005

For more Torah study and inspiring articles, please visit:


** Enjoyed this email? Please help us continue sharing the
study of Torah and Jewish traditions:

Dedicate or sponsor an email to mark your special occasion!
Please click here:

Please click here to make a donation to

** To subscribe to more email lists please click here:

** To be removed from this email list please click here:,28,261645,0,217
If you would just like your email suspended and resumed at a later
date, please let us know here:

** You are subscribed as: If your e-mail address is changing
please send us your new email address here:

Part of the Chabad Online Network

A division of Chabad Lubavitch Media Center
770 Eastern Parkway * Brooklyn, NY * 11213


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails