Parshat Vayeishev 5781: The Meteoric Rise of Yosef; From Disparaged Brother Sold into Slavery to Egyptian Viceroy

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayeishev is being sponsored by Moshe and Lauren Pitzele and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in in honor of their son Yosef Shalom’s eighth birthday on 25 Kislev, the first night of Chanukah. To the Pitzele family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

Friends, 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 5781: The Meteoric Rise of Yosef; From Disparaged Brother Sold into Slavery to Egyptian Viceroy

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Vayeishev vort begins by citing this posuk in Torah:

“And he [Yisrael/Yaakov] said to him [Yosef], ‘Go now, look into the welfare of your brothers…, and bring me back word.’ So he [Yaakov] sent him [Yosef] from the valley of Hevron, and he arrived in Shechem.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 14, as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary”)

Rashi’s commentary on this posuk (ibid, page 417) indicates that “The Valley of Hevron” means:

From the deep counsel of that righteous one, Avraham who is buried in Hevron.

Footnote 4 [related to the posuk]: Counsel is used by Rashi for the Word of Hashem, as in Yishaya 14:27 (Divrei David)

Rabbi Yehudah Nachshoni discusses Hashem’s foretelling and the use of the phrase “The Valley of Hevron” in his sefer “Studies in the Weekly Parashah”, Sefer Breish’t, pages 223-224):

Chazal in Midrash Tanchuma tell us:

“Come and see the works of Hashem; He is awesome in his plans toward the children of men.” R’ Yudan said, “Hashem wanted to fulfill the decree of ‘You will surely know that your seed will be a stranger…’ and He instituted a design for these matters, so that Yaakov would love Yosef, and his brothers would hate him and would sell him to the Yishmaelites [ultimately], who would bring him down to Egypt.

…The first cause of all the events which occurred later was when Yisrael said to Yosef, “Your brothers are tending their flocks in Shechem. Go and I will send you to them.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 13) From then on, the events follow one another by themselves, as it were, until finally, he went down to Egypt, against his will, by [Hashem’s] word.” The “word” referred to here is the word of Hashem at the Bris Bein Habesarim, but it was fulfilled through Yaakov speaking to Yosef.

The hatred by the brothers was a warning for future generations as to the terrible consequences that can emerge from hatred among Jews. It is true that the results here were decreed by Hashem, but the fact that they occurred through the hatred of the brothers is a moral lesson to us as to the connection between cause and effect.

From here, this author cites excerpts from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha Summary for Parsha Vayeishev in his sefer, “Unlocking The Torah Text” (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, page201):

When the brothers see Yosef approaching… they determine to kill him and throw his body into a pit. Reuven, the oldest, however, objects and convinces the others to thrust Yosef into the pit alive…

[When] Yosef arrives, his brothers rip off his cloak and throw him into the pit.

Here’s where Yosef seems to begin to live a charmed life. We learn that the pit Yosef was thrown into was swarming with snakes and scorpions. But they stayed in their tunnels and did not attack Yosef.

Another excerpt from Rabbi Goldin’s Parsha Summary for Parsha Vayeishev (ibid, page 201):

…The brothers observe an approaching caravan. Yehuda convinces his siblings of the benefit of selling Yosef as a slave rather than allowing him to die in the pit.

As the caravan passes, Yosef is pulled from the pit and sold into bondage for twenty pieces of silver. The brothers return to their father and lead him to believe that Yosef had been killed by a wild beast. Yaakov descends into mourning. Yosef is brought to Egypt and sold to Pontifar, an aid to Pharaoh…

Our Parshat notes:

“… A caravan of Yishmaelites was coming from Gilead, and their camels were bearing spices, and balsam, and birthwort — on their way to bring them down to Egypt.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 25, as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary”)

Rashi tells (The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary”, Sefer Breish’t, page 420):

…It is not the way of Arabs to carry anything but petroleum and resin whose odor is foul, but for this one, Yosef, it happened that spices were the cargo of the caravan — so that he should not be harmed by the foul odor. (ibid, citing Breish’t Rabbah 84:17; Mechilta Beshalach 2:5)

This author toyed with entitling this Parshat HaShavua “Yosef; The Teflon Tzaddek.” Years ago, Batya Medad defined a Teflon leader this way on her Shilo Musings blog:

Teflon’s not just for cooking fat free. Ever since left-wing America, clueless to Ronnie Reagan’s scratch-proof popularity, dubbed him “the Teflon President,” the term has been used by many to describe people who manage to emerge unscathed from suspicion and scandals.

This author would have defined Yosef as the The Teflon Tzadik because we find that he somehow avoided death twice, avoided stench and sickness once. At every step along the way, from when the brothers threw him into the pit, to when Pharaoh recognized his Divinely-instilled wisdom and appointed him Viceroy, second only to Pharaoh, Yosef, like teflon, not only avoided every possible calamity, but repelled each of them.

Rabbi Goldin provides a context into the Yosef’s meteoric rise from being sold into slavery, to rising to the very pinnacle of power in Egypt in in his sefer, “Unlocking The Torah Text” (Sefer Breish’t, Parshat Vayeishev, pages 203-204):

…”Handsome of form and …of appearance” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 39, posuk 6), Yosef emerges as a personally engaging and naturally successful individual, a man who… knows how to “win friends and influence people.” No matter where Yosef is placed or under what circumstances he finds himself, he always rises to the top.

In his own home, he was his father’s favorite. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 3) Enslaved in the house of Pontiphar, he impresses his master and is appointed head of the household, in charge of all that Pontiphar owns. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 39, posukim 2-4) Thrust into prison as a result of the false accusations of Pontiphar’s wife [Yosef, it is said, was saved from death only by the testimony of Pontiphar’s “adopted” daughter Osnat — remembering that Midrash indicates that Osnat was the offspring of Dina resulting from liaison with Shechem as the brothers brought about her being cast out by Yaakov], Yosef makes such an impression on the chief [prison] officer that he is selected to supervise all the other prisoners. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 39, posukim 31-33) Abruptly rushed out of prison for a sudden audience with Pharaoh, he interprets the king’s dreams so successfully that Pharaoh appoints to rule over the entire Eygptian Empire, second only to Pharaoh himself. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 37-44)

…Rabbinic tradition portrays Yosef, both in his early years (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 37, posuk 2), and later, in the house of Pontiphar (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 39, posuk 6), as vain, and overly concerned about his appearance. The Midrash also finds Yosef guilty of relying too much upon the actions of man, rather than trusting in Hashem. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Shmot, Perek 7, posuk 1)

How then does history judge Yosef? What is the final verdict concerning this most complex Biblical character?

From a rabbinic perspective, the answer is resoundingly clear. In the Talmud, Midrash and throughout rabbinic literature, Yosef is consistently referred to by a title awarded only to a select few. Whereas each of the Patriarchs is granted the designation Avinu, “our father”; whereas each of the matriarchs is known as Imeinu, “our mother”; whereas Moshe earns the title of “Rabbeinu, “our teacher”; Yosef is simply Yosef Hatzadik, “Yosef the Righteous.”

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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and can come home to Eretz Yisrael once his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha completes her treatments for cancer. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 and Chanukah Some’ach!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.