Parshat Vayeishev 5778: Internalizing The Lessons of Yosef and His Brothers’ Polarization

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayeishev is being sponsored by Zev and Sarit Schonberg and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated as a Zechus for the success of their children, Aryeh, Akiva, Adina, Rachel and Yehuda. To the Schonberg family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayeishev 5778: Internalizing The Lessons of Yosef and His Brothers’ Polarization

by Moshe Burt

Our parsha relates how Yosef, born to Rachel, was Yaakov’s favored son — his “Ben Z’kunim” (son of old age) to whom he bestowed a multi-colored coat which sources indicate could have been the coat of Eisev which was worn by Yaakov in receiving the B’rachot from Yitzchak. Yosef’s favored son status aroused jealousy amongst his brothers. Yosef’s tale-bearing about his brothers, as well as his dream-telling aroused anger and hatred of him in the brothers.

Torah expresses this jealousy, anger and hatred of the brothers for Yosef early in our Parsha:

“His brothers saw that it was he whom their father loved most of all his brothers so they hated him [Yosef]; and they were not able to speak to him peaceably.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 4 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary”)

They saw Yosef’s tale-telling — often without knowing all of the facts and his pronouncement of his dreams, as fostering their perception that he sought to rule over them, that he sought their subservience to him. His brothers also envied their Father’s preference for him. They viewed Yosef in the light of the family history — their great grandfather’s Avraham’s reluctance to separate from his other son Yishmael and their grandfather Yitzchak’s apparent favoritism for his son Eisev, that “master of kibud Av,” who nonetheless was wicked and not connected with Shemayim.

“The Midrash Says”, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman on Sefer Breish’t explains (page 350):

It seemed to them (the brothers) that Yosef by his conduct was attempting to win the position of Yaakov’s only successor. Hence they considered all thoughts and plans against him a mitzvah. They were unaware that they were actually distorting the truth as a result of their envy.

“Torah Gems”, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg cites Tiferet Yehonatan (page 274-275) on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 4, above:

They hated him [Yosef]; and they were not able to speak to him peaceably.” …Had they sat down together, they would have spoken to one another and told… what bothered them. Then they would have ironed out their differences. The trouble… is that there is no common language and no one listening.

Yosef’s brothers, while acting inappropriately out of anger, jealousy and hatred, perceived Yosef as a threat to the future nation that was to grow from them as the offspring of Yaakov.

When Yaakov sent Yosef in search of his brothers and he found them in the fields of an area called Dothan, Torah then relates:

“They [the brothers] saw him from afar… and they conspired toward him to kill him.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 18, as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary”)

In short, Yosef and the brothers stood on two polarizing sides, totally lacking in any sort of dialogue with each other.

How very much this description: “no common language and no one listening” between Yosef and his brothers resembles the evolution of the hate and polarization which exists and plays out among the political elites, the print and electronic media, as well as sectors of Israel’s populous, including sectors among the observant. We hear of accusations in various locales that certain neighborhoods seem designated exclusively for one or another sector to apparent exclusion or discouragement of others, or about one sub-sector’s deprecating attacks upon certain of their own, or other sub-sectors either
via media, or via verbal or violent physical acts because they seem to perceive “non-conformance” to that sector’s halachic “norms.”

We see all of the agendization, and lack of “common language” and dialogue, which play out daily both in the US and in Israel, which seems parallel to discord and polarization which existed between Yosef and his brothers. The evolutionary results of the discord between Yosef and his brothers which play out in the subsequent Parshiyot of Sefer Breish’t should provide lessons for us all here in Israel regarding the importance of civility and putting the welfare of Am Yisrael first and nullifying egos, narrow agendas, governmental bureaucratic “swamps” or inter-sectorial machloket (disagreements).

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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