Parshat VaYeshev Genesis 37:1-40:23

Summary of the Portion: Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, tended the flocks with his brothers. He brought bad reports of his brothers to his father. Jacob favored Joseph over his brothers and gave him a coat of many colors to wear. Joseph had two dreams representing his brothers bowing down to him. One day Jacob sends Joseph after his brothers in Dothan, at which point the brothers throw Joseph in a pit. They plot to kill him, but Reuben intervenes to stop them, having him thrown into a pit. Then the brothers see some Ishmaelites, and Judah suggests that they sell Joseph to them. Instead the brothers ate a meal, at which point the Midianites pulled Joseph from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. The brothers captured a goat and dipped Joseph’s coat in the blood from the goat. They then showed it to Jacob, who thought Joseph dead and went into mourning on account of losing his son.
 
The Joseph story is interrupted with that of Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38). This appears to be the beginning of Judah’s transformation of character, from one who would have his brother sold into slavery to stopping the burning of his daughter-in-law. 
 
Joseph is sold to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s courtier, who puts him in charge of the household. Potiphar’s wife likes Joseph and asks to have relations with him, but he refuses. One day she catches hold of Joseph’s garment, but he flees, leaving his garment in her hand. When Potiphar got home, his wife accused Joseph of trying to lie with her, leading to his being thrown into prison. In prison the royal butler and baker have a dream that needs interpretation. Joseph interprets that butler’s dream as that in 3 days he will be freed from prison, He asked that the butler let Pharaoh know about him so he can also be freed. Joseph interpreted the baker’s dream as that in 3 days he will be hung. Sure enough, both dreams came true as Joseph had divined. However, the butler forgot about Joseph, not mentioning him to Pharaoh.

 
Questions for the Week: “Judah descended from his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite named Hirah. There he saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite woman whose name was Shua, and he married her and cohabited with her.” (Genesis 38:1-2)
 
1. Much of our ancestors’ (problematic) actions are taken in response to what they see. Should we therefore monitor what we see or what we allow our children to see?
2. I have heard stories about pious Jews who avert their eyes when checking out to avoid the magazines (eg. People or Cosmopolitan) because they reflect cultures they do not want to be exposed to. Is this commendable behavior?
3. Was the problem Judah’s yeridah, his descent, his leaving his brothers or both? Do we often find we descend in life when we leave our families?