The Rest of the Story

(Torah Portion Vayaishev) The Rest of the Story

This week’s Portion deals almost entirely with the life events of Yosef / Joseph.

Yosef was the first child born to Rachel and the eleventh son born to Yaacov. Yosef had an especially close relationship with his father. He looked the same as his father, and their life experiences were similar. For example Yaacov was away from his parents for twenty-two years, and so was Yosef away from his father for twenty-two years. Yaacov was pursued by his brother Aisav, and Yosef was pursued by his brothers.

Shem, the son of Noach, had weathered many corrupt societies yet remained righteous. Therefore, before going to live with his deceitful father in law, Lavan, Yaacov decided to study with Shem to learn how to deal with Lavan. Yaacov invested an enormous amount of time teaching Yosef the Torah he had studied under the direction of Shem.

Yaacov sensed that Yosef would experience situations in his life where he would need these lessons in order to remain righteous. Yaacov’s intuition proved correct. Yosef was alone in Egypt for twenty-two years, yet he remained righteous and devout despite the attempts that many women made to seduce him to sin. G-d added the letter hey from His Name to Yosef’s name to bear testimony that he did not sin during the twenty-two years he was away from his family.

Yosef’s brothers resented the time that their father spent with him and the additional responsibilities he was given. They were further annoyed when he shared with them dreams which intimated that he would rule over them. They also felt that he was unjustly critical of them.

In one of the dreams, Yosef related that the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowed to him. The sun and moon implied that his father and mother would bow to him and the stars implied that his eleven brothers would also bow to him.

When Yosef was 17 years old, his brothers convened a court and sentenced him to death. It was later suggested that instead of death he be thrown into a pit. Finally, Yosef was sold to passing merchants. The brothers concealed the sale of Yosef from Yaacov, and claimed that they found Yosef’s garment saturated with blood. Yaakov assumed that he was attacked by a vicious animal.

All the years Yosef was gone Yaacov mourned for him. Yosef did not contact his family revealing his whereabouts since his brothers had made an oath that his sale not be revealed to their father Yaacov.

Eventually Yosef was sold to Potifar, an Egyptian officer. Yosef was a trusted and talented worker and his presence brought blessing to his master. Yosef was also extremely attractive and handsome and his master’s wife was infatuated with him. She made many attempts to lure him to sin, but Yosef reflected on his upbringing and his observances and resisted her advances.

Eventually she falsely accused him of raping her, and Yosef landed in jail. Usually one would have been killed for such an accusation, however, Yosef’s innocence was apparent. His ten year jail sentence was merely to pacify Potifar’s wife and to save face.

As we will read in next week’s portion, Pharoh needed an interpretation of his dreams. Yosef was able to interpret the dreams, and was freed from jail. Because of Yosef’s abilities, talents and foresight he was named first adviser to the King of Egypt.

There was a famine in Israel, and at their father’s behest Yosef’s brothers came down to Egypt in search of food. All the brothers bowed to Yosef, thus turning his original dreams into a reality.

Eventually Yosef said to them, “I am Yosef!” The brothers felt tremendous embarrassment. Their plan which they deemed correct had brought tremendous pain to their father, and evaporated with just a few words.
Yosef then sent for his father to come join him in Egypt. Yaakov came and bowed to Yosef, thus fulfilling his prophetic dream.

The Torah tells us that G-d had told Avraham that his descendents would be enslaved in a land which is not theirs. This was to be fulfilled through Yaacov and his family. Yaacov could have been forced down to Egypt in a humiliating manner; however, G-d orchestrated this whole drama with the tension between Yosef and his brothers so that the family of Yaacov would descend to Egypt with honor and dignity to begin the chapter of our Egyptian exile.

Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks