14 Dec
Parsha Vayeishev

Vayeishev וַיֵּשֶׁב‎ -"sat down,"

This week's Parsha begins with Yaakov living in Hebron with his twelve sons.  But things start to get unsettled pretty quickly. Yaakov's love for Joseph is clear to his other sons. Yossef was Yaakov's favorite. Yaakov favors Yosef and makes him a special tunic coat which ignites more hatred toward Yossef from the brothers.

Yossef has two dreams which makes everybody feel like he wants to be the family’s head. In his first dream, Yossef dreams he was in a field with his brothers. They were binding grain into sheaves. All his brother's bundles made a circle around his bundle and bowed down to it. In his second dream, he dreams the sun, moon, and 11 stars all bow down to him. Both of these dreams indicate a time when the family will bow down to Yossef. This made the brothers even madder. 

By this time Yaakov was more than 108 years old so he put his sons in charge of taking care of the sheep. Yaakov is living in Hebron, however, most of his sons are shepherding their flocks in Shechem. One day Yaakov sends Yosef on a mission. He asked him to go to Shechem to find out how his brothers were doing. Yaakov told Yossef to return and report back to him. Yossef left Chevron to go to Shechem. When he got there he couldn't find his brothers. A man appears to Yossef and tells him that the brothers have moved on and gone to Dosan. 

As Yossef is approaching his brothers, they see him coming. They plot a death sentence and decide to kill him. Reuven was against killing Yossef, so Ruven convinces his brothers to throw Yossef into a pit. Ruven had planned to come back and rescue Yossef before anything bad would happen to him. When Yossef was thrown in the pit, the brothers grabbed him and tore off the tunic that he was wearing. Pleased with their plan the brothers sat down to eat. As they were eating they noticed a caravan of Yishmaelites. Yehudah suggests to the brothers instead of killing Yossef we should sell Yossef to the Yishmaelites.  All the brothers agreed. They sold their brother Yossef for 20 silver coins.  Yossef is taken out of the pit and taken to Egypt. Ruven returns to the pit and doesn’t find Yossef. Clearly, he was not present when the decision was made to sell Yossef. Ruven felt terrible that he had failed to save Yossef. The brothers decided to take Yossef's tunic, rip it into pieces, and dip it into goat blood. They sent the robe to their father and ask if he recognized the coat. Yaakov instantly recognized the robe and assumes that Yossef had been torn to pieces by a wild animal. Yaakov mourns the death of Yossef his beloved son. 

Now the Torah moves on to Yehudah. Yehudah moves away from the rest of the family and lives in an area called Adullam. He gets married and has 3 sons. Their names were Er, Onan, and Shela. We then hear about the tragic story of Yehuda’s family. Yehudah finds a wife for his son Er, her name was Tamar.  However, Er is an evil man in God’s eyes and he dies. Yehudah then tells his son Onan to marry Tamar. Onan does evil acts and also dies. At this point, Yehudah is afraid that his sons died because of Tamar. Therefore, he does not want his son Shelah to marry her. As time goes on, Yehuda’s wife dies and he decides to hit the road, leaving Tamar without a husband. One day as Yehudah is traveling, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute. Yehudah sees her but does not realize that she is Tamar. He asks permission to have relations with her in exchange for a young goat. He leaves his signet ring, his cloak, and his walking stick. They have relations and Tamar becomes pregnant. Tamar later gives birth to twin sons Peretz and Zerah.

The Torah brings our attention back to Yossef who works as a slave for Potiphar. Potiphar notices that Yossef seems to be blessed by God and brings success to his household. Potiphar's wife liked Yossef very much. Potiphar’s wife wants to seduce Yossef to sleep with her. Yossef refuses her and explains to her that this would be a betrayal to his master and a sin against God. In response, Potiphar’s wife blamed Yossef for trying to seduce her. Potiphar was furious to hear such news and sent Yossef into the Pharaoh’s prison. But even in prison Hashem didn't abandon Yossef. The chief of the prison selected Yossef to oversee all the other prisoners. 

While in prison, Pharaoh’s butler and baker were sentenced to jail. One night, both the butler and baker have dreams and Yossef offers to interpret them. The chief butler went first. He had dreamt of three grapevines that had three branches. When the grapes were ripe he was squeezing the grapes into Pharaons wine cup. Yossef tells the chief butler that in three days he will be restored to his position and again serve Pharaoh. Then the baker told his dream. He dreamt of three baskets of all kinds of baked goods and the birds were eating from the basket on top of his head.  Yossef interprets this dream. Three baskets also meant three days. The other part of the dream meant the chief baker would be killed and the birds would eat his flesh. 

Three days passed from when Yossef explained the dreams. It was Pharaon's birthday and he made a grand party. At the party, Pharaon had the chief butler and the chief baker taken out of prison. The baker was killed and hung. The chief butler got his old job back. Everything happened just as Yossef had predicted. 

Interesting Facts:

The man who met Yossef and told him where his brother had gone, was actually an angel. His name was Gavriel 

King David and King Shlomo were descendants of Yehudah and Peretz.