Parshios Vayeishev & Chanukah
Non Negotiable Part Two
(37:2) Yoseph observed his brothers engaged in certain behaviors and was
very critical of them. He told Yakov his concerns. (See Rashi 37:2) What
did Yakov tell Yoseph to do with his criticisms?
2. (37:3) Yakov paid more attention to Yoseph than his other sons
for two reasons. 1. Yoseph was a uniquely gifted student and was able to
absorb from Yakov all the Torah that Yakov had studied in the academy of
Shem and Ever. 2. In appearance Yoseph looked like Yakov more so than any
other son. (Rashi & Targum) The verse implies that because Yoseph was such
a special student and because he looked like Yakov, Yakov presented him
with the multicolored coat. What did one have to do with the other?
Furthermore, why wasn’t Yakov concerned about Yoseph’s ego and the
negative effect his special attention would predictably have on his other
3. (37:4) As Yakov should have suspected, the other sons noticed
the special attention he paid to Yoseph and they “hated” Yoseph. Their
animosity toward Yoseph was such that they could not speak to him
peacefully. What was the manner of their communication? Are we to imagine
that the brothers, ranging in age between 17 and 23 (except for Binyamin
who was 9), made snide remarks to him, calling him names and other
immature play-yard antics? Is that the meaning of “and they could not
speak to him peacefully?”
4. (37:5-8) Yoseph had dreams and related them to his brothers. The
brothers did not appreciate either Yoseph or the implied message of his
dreams. (37:5) Yoseph’s dreams caused the brothers to “hate Yoseph even
more.” (37:8) The brothers challenged Yoseph, questioning if Yoseph truly
believed he would one-day rule over them as king. Before the Torah
recounts the first dream it states, “And they hated Yoseph even more.”
After relating the first dream it states, “The brothers hated Yoseph even
more for his dreams and his word.” Why the repetition of the increased
hatred both before and after recording the details of the dream?
5. (37:9) Yoseph had a second dream and related it to his brothers.
Afterwards, he repeated the dream to Yakov in the presence of his
brothers. (Rashi) 37:10) Yakov took issue with the dream; however, his
critique was directed toward the practical aspects of the dream, not the
intent of the dream. Yakov did not challenge Yoseph’s dreams of eventual
royalty as the brothers had done. Yakov only challenges the impossibility
of, “Are we to come ? I and your mother and brothers ? to bow down to
6. (37:11) The Torah concludes the episode of Yoseph’s dreams and
the effect they had on his familial relationships by contrasting Yakov’s
thoughts with the jealousy of the brothers. Although Yakov appeared to
minimize the importance of Yoseph’s dreams, he considered them
prophetic. “He waited to see the dreams fulfilled.” (Rashi) Why didn’t
Yakov say something to the other brothers? Was he unaware that the
brothers were jealous of Yoseph?
It is important to repeat Rav Dessler’s admonition to us regarding
the “sins of the forefathers.” Rav Dessler explained that we must not take
the description of the sins of the Avos (patriarchs), Shevatim (tribes -
brothers), and Am Yisroel, in full literal meaning. Instead, the Torah
used exaggerated terms to make its point, especially since those
generations were closer to G-d and spiritually far more advanced than us.
Terms such as hatred and jealousy must be understood in that context.
Yakov’s mission was to maximize the potential of his 12 sons and raise the
next generation of Jews. They were going to be different than the three
generations of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yakov. As I explained in previous
issues, the Avos were unique in that they each were the composite of the
entire nation. Their struggle was to integrate all the different
components within themselves in service to G-d.
The family of Yakov, the fourth generation of Jews, the 12 sons, had a
much different struggle. On the one hand they had their own internal
struggles to integrate who and what they were in service to G-d. On the
other hand, that integration involved far less for each of them than it
had for the three Avos who preceded them. The three Avos were the total
composite of the nation while the brothers each represented only 1/12th of
that same whole. However, at the same time that they struggled to
integrate themselves the 12 sons also had to integrate their eleven
brothers with themselves and with each other.
I believe that it is far easier to deal with inner conflict and turmoil
than it is to deal with external conflict and turmoil. With internal
conflict, the individual knows the truth about each component of the
conflict. With external conflict, the Talmud states, “A person never knows
what is truly in the heart of his friend.” The Avos engaged in inner
integration while the brothers had to contend with inner and outer
integration. In maximizing the potential of his sons, Yakov needed
patience and time for each of them to know themselves and to know each
As the Parsha tells us from the start, Yoseph was unique among the
brothers. From the start he was focused on inner integration and external
integration. Yoseph was both thermometer and barometer (Rabbi Naftoli
Hexter). As a thermometer he was constantly engaged in personal conflict
and growth, He sought out truth by immersing himself in Yakov’s teachings.
As a barometer, he reflected the status of his brothers and their
individual and collective struggles to personally grow and integrate
individually and collectively.
Concerned about himself, his brothers, and their overall integration into
a single national entity / family, Yoseph became the “reporter”, reporting
to Yakov what was going on with the other brothers, especially his
criticisms and concerns.
(Note: At the same time that we attempt to understand Yoseph we must
remember that the Torah is critical of Yoseph’s “tattle-telling.”
However, Yoseph’s youth must also be taken into consideration.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that we do not know that much about
the Avos in their early years. Avraham was first introduced to us at 75.
Yitzchak takes center stage at 37-40. Yakov became central - besides the
purchase of the firstborn rights - at the time of the blessings when he
was 63. With Yoseph and the brothers we see them struggling through
teenage and young adulthood. It would be wrong of us if we didn’t take
that important developmental factor into consideration when judging Yoseph
and the brothers.)
Yakov’s response to Yoseph’s reports is not recorded; however, Yakov did
take Yoseph into a confidence that was unique to the two of them. Because
of Yoseph’s unique talents and impressive drive toward integration Yakov
identified Yoseph as the interim-king-to-be. Knowing that the family must
end up enslaved (Covenant Between The Halves) Yakov realized that Yoseph
would be central to the family’s survival. Therefore, the training he gave
Yoseph was specifically “the Torah that he had learned from Shem and
Ever.” That was the special training Yakov had received as how to survive
the Lavan’s and Eisav’s of the world. That, more so than any other aspect
of his learning, was what Yakov taught Yoseph.
As the appointed interim-king-to-be, Yakov gave Yoseph a special garment
that would identify him as such. It was surviving the multicolored
spectrum of the melting pot of exile that was Yoseph’s talent. He alone
could shepherd his brothers and their families through the labyrinth of
extreme societal seduction. The brothers needed to know and trust his
talents from the start so that they could integrate Yoseph’s uniqueness
into their own.
However, successful leadership is part talent and mostly salesmanship.
True, Yoseph had the talent. True, the brothers needed to know who he was
and how he figured into their own personal and national integration.
However, it was also up to Yoseph to present himself in a manner that was
more easily palatable and less conflicting. The term used by the Torah in
describing the difficulty of the brothers in accepting Yoseph was “They
could not speak with him peacefully.” Shalom is far more than peace.
Shalom and Shlaymus is the ultimate in integration. The brothers did not
make snide remarks or use play-yard antics against Yoseph. The Torah
states that their difficulty was integrating Yoseph and his talents into
their own quest for wholeness. Unfortunately, Yoseph did not make it any
easier for them. His approach, intended or not, was perceived as ego-
driven and divisive rather than humble service and integrating.
Both before and after the account of the first dream the Torah told us
that Yoseph’s dream-telling would back-fire. Nothing Yoseph would say to
the brothers would be taken at face value. Instead, Yoseph’s need to share
the future with his brothers under the guise of preparing them and their
families would be heard as his personal dreams of grandeur and dominance.
Rather than unifying his brothers within the framed vision of a future
that they could only survive as a family, he reinforced their evaluation
of himself as wishing to enslave rather than serve, divide rather than
unify. Not only did they believe that they had justification to hate him
before his dream, now his dreams confirmed their hatred.
Yoseph’s need to tell is the subject of discussion among the commentaries.
If indeed the dreams were prophecies, Yoseph had no choice. As a prophet
he was obligated to deliver his prophecy; however, not all dreams are
prophecies even if they are prophetic. It appears that Yoseph did not
first discuss his dreams with Yakov. Yoseph, filled with the urgency to
prepare himself and the family for the future and reinforced by Yakov’s
confidences in sharing his unique place in that future, may have concluded
that the dreams were prophetic and needed to be shared. Even if his
brothers did not like him, even if they hated him, they were still
servants of G-d and subject to His rule. They would have no choice but to
accept his position as the interim-king-to-be by virtue of the dreams /
prophecies that he had received.
However, that wasn’t to be. True, we who know “the rest of the story” know
that the dreams were prophetic; however, they may not have been
prophecies. In fact, the dreams may have been meant for Yoseph and Yoseph
alone to reinforce the loneliness of his mission and encourage him to stay
the course of his personal training, regardless of the difficulties that
he would encounter. As such, he was not supposed to share them with any
one else except Yakov.
The second dream confirmed both the brother’s animosity as well as the
significance of the dream’s content. We can also conclude that given
Yakov’s critical response to Yoseph’s telling the dream in front of his
brothers, that Yoseph had not first told Yakov the dream. Instead, Yakov
criticizes Yoseph for repeating a dream as a prophecy when clearly he had
not done the job of properly analyzing every feature of the dream to
separate fact from fiction. Yet, Yakov did not negate the dream, and that
was not lost on the brothers. Therefore, they remained jealous and Yakov
7. (37:12) The brothers, except for Yoseph and Binyamin, went to
Shechem to oversee Yakov’s flocks of sheep. Rashi points out that the
brothers had ulterior motives for going together to Shechem. Shechem had
been the scene of their battle against Shechem. It was where the brothers
had expressed their collective unity in defense of the family (Dina) and
in opposition and disregard of all the other city-states. It was where
they proclaimed to Yakov, “?Should we have allowed Shechem to treat our
8. (37:13) Yakov, knowing that the brothers “hated” Yoseph,
instructed Yoseph to go and join his brothers in Shechem. Why would he
have done so? The brothers were older than Yoseph and assumingly more
experienced shepherds than him. What report (37:14) did Yakov need that he
would subject his most beloved son to the animosity of his brothers?
9. Yoseph immediately agreed to do so. Rashi references the Medresh
that points out Yoseph’s “humility.” Yoseph was willing to do as Yakov
instructed even though he knew that his brothers hated him. Why does the
Medresh classify his acquiescence as “humility?” If anything, it was
courageous and respectful. Courageous because he knew that the brothers
hated him and entering into their midst could not have been a pleasant
prospect; and respectful, because he was listening to his father’s direct
request. Why does the Medresh classify it as humility?
10. (37:15-16) Yoseph went in search of his brothers and
encountered “a man.” The encounter is couched in enigmatic terms. Yoseph
appears to be lost. He meets a Man who is not named. The Man asks Yoseph
what he is seeking, not whom are you seeking. Yoseph answers, “I am
seeking my brothers.” The Man just happens to have overheard the brothers
saying where they were going. Yoseph goes toward his own enslavement and
destiny. Why the mystery?
11. Rashi informs us (37:17) that the “Man” told Yoseph that the
brothers went to Dothan “to find a legal reason to kill you.” Clearly, the
Torah is contrasting Yoseph’s “I am seeking my brothers” with “they are
seeking a legal reason to kill you.” What was really going on with this
prelude to Yoseph’s sale into slavery?
To be continued?
Quick review of the laws of Chanukah
Chanukah is from Tuesday night Dec. 7 through Dec. 15. Hallel is said
every morning and Al Hanisim is added to the Amidah and the Birkat Hamazon.
1. The Menorah should be lit ½ hour after sunset and remain lit for
at least 1/2 hr. On Friday the Menorah must be lit before the Shabbos
candles and remain lit for at least 90 minutes.
2. Candles should be placed in the Menorah from right to left and
lit from left to right.
3. Olive oil or wax candles are acceptable; however, olive oil is
preferred. Electric or gas lights are unacceptable.
4. Each family member except should light their own Menorah. A wife
may light her own (there are differing opinions about whether she should
or should not) and if agreed upon exempt her husband if he won’t be home.
5. The Menorah should be placed in a location where both family and
public can see it. The best height is at 35’” to 40”, however safety must
be a priority.
6 Brochos should be recited before lighting the Menorah. Talking
is prohibited between the Brochos and the lighting.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.