Learn the symbolism of Joseph as a type of future multi-colored Israel sent to a foreign land… the “rest of the story” about the day his brothers sold him into slavery and caused their father to believe that he was dead and its correlation with Yom Kippur! Find out the secret of who Tamar really is and how we see a hidden glimpse of the future High Priest through her lineage!
Teaching For Shabbat of December 12, 2020
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Vayeshev (וַיֵּשֶׁב) — Hebrew for “and he lived,” it the first word of the parashah and is the ninth weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual cycle of Torah readings. The parashah covers Genesis 37:1–40:23.
Torah Parashah Vayeshev Summary
Jacob settles in Hebron with his twelve sons. His favorite is seventeen-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 of his dreams which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him.
Simeon 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, Tamardisguises 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 into 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.
Haftarah (Prophets) Summary
This week’s haftorah contains an allusion to the sale of Joseph by his brothers, an incident discussed in this week’s Torah reading.
Amos opens with a rebuke to the Jewish People. God had been patient with them notwithstanding their transgression of the three cardinal sins — sexual impropriety, idolatry and murder. Their fourth sin, however, crossed the line — the mistreatment of the innocent, widows, orphans and the poor… in essence not taking care of the “whole house of Israel”!
God reminds the Jewish people how He lovingly took them out of Egypt and led them through the desert for forty years and settled them in the Holy Land. There, He bestowed the gift of prophecy on some and inspired others to become Nazirites. Yet the Jewish people did not respond appropriately, giving wine to the Nazirites and instructing the prophets not to prophesy. Amos then goes on to describe God’s punishment for the errant behavior: “And the stout-hearted among the mighty shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord.”
The haftorah ends with an admonition from God, one that also recalls His eternal love for His people:
“Hearken to this word which the Lord spoke about you, O children of Israel, concerning the entire nation that I brought up from the land of Egypt. ‘Only you did I love above all the families of the earth; therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities…'”
As opposed to other nations to whom God does not pay close attention, God’s love for His nation causes Him to experience the more immediate cause and effect of their erroneous ways to teach them, to cleanse them and prod them back onto the path of the just.
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2021 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.