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Vayeishev Summaries

Vayeishev 5779-2018

“The Mystical Aspects of the Sale of Joseph”

The sale of Joseph by his brothers certainly impacted on the course of Jewish history. The story behind the sale is especially fascinating in its consequences.

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Vayeishev 5778-2017

“The Jealousy Between Brothers”

Why did Jacob favor Joseph, after all, Benjamin was his youngest son? Why was it necessary for Jacob to send Benjamin to Egypt, after all, the prophecy of going down to Egypt had been mostly fulfilled?

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Vayeishev 5777-2016

“The Voice Within Us”

At the moment of supreme passion, when Joseph was about to yield to the temptations of Potiphar’s wife, the vision of Jacob appears before his eyes, causing Joseph to flee from seduction. Those visions and voices of parents or influential role models are available to all who need help during times of challenge.

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Vayeishev 5776-2015

“The Rise and Fall and Rise of Joseph”

The story of Joseph is not a simplistic narrative. It is a profound handbook of life’s lessons and meanings.

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Vayeishev 5775-2014

“Who Sold Joseph?”

The Biblical verses regarding the sale of Joseph conceal more than they reveal, leaving the answer to the question of who sold Joseph entirely ambiguous.

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Vayeishev 5774-2013

“Reuben is Credited with Saving Joseph’s Life”

Why was Reuben credited by scripture for saving Joseph’s life, when it was really Judah who advised the brothers to sell Joseph rather than kill the lad?

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Vayeishev 5773-2012

“Heaven-Sent Spices”

A seemingly simple verse about Joseph’s brothers sitting down to eat bread, and seeing an Ishmaelite caravan from afar, proves to be a treasure-trove of insights into human nature that has broad and far-reaching implications.

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Vayeishev 5772-2011

“Interpreting the Dreams of Others”

In Canaan, Joseph dreamed about himself and his family. Now, a prisoner in Egypt, others were the dreamers, and Joseph becomes the interpreter of their dreams.

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Vayeishev 5771-2010

“Tamar: The Paradigm of an Heroic Woman”

Two women play key roles in parashat Vayeishev. One of them, Tamar, emerges as a paradigm of an heroic woman and goes on to impact profoundly on the destiny of the people of Israel.

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Vayeishev 5770-2009

“Joseph in Prison: The Commentators Fill in the Details”

Except for interpreting the dreams of the royal butler and the baker, the period of Joseph’s imprisonment is described in the biblical text only briefly. The commentators, however, fill in the gaps, weaving a colorful tapestry of Joseph’s stay in prison and the challenges that he continued to face daily from the wiley Mrs. Potiphar.

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Vayeishev 5769-2008

“‘Fressing’ While Rome Burns”

Were Joseph’s brothers evil gluttons who were totally indifferent to their brother’s fate, or was the Al-mighty orchestrating the events here in order to achieve a greater good?

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Vayeishev 5768-2007

“The Seduction of Joseph”

Joseph’s attempted seduction by Mrs. Potiphar concludes with Joseph being thrown in to the dungeon. The copious details of Mrs. Potiphar’s attempted seduction of Joseph, and Joseph’s resistance, raise questions about the presumption that all of Mrs. Potiphar’s actions were wicked and all of Joseph’s actions were righteous.

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Vayeishev 5767-2006

“What’s in a Name?”

Parashat Vayeishev contains the extraordinary story of Joseph and his brethren. At perhaps the most dramatic moment, the story suddenly pauses. A new saga of Judah’s falling-out with his family is told. This saga is communicated not only by the words of the text, but also by a careful analysis of the names of Judah’s sons, which have much to reveal to us.

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Vayeishev 5766-2005

“The Vast Majority of the Time, G-d Rules the World”

Although most of us live our lives under the assumption that we have freedom of will, there are times when G-d invokes a divine plan, requiring human beings to follow a preordained script. In parashat Vayeishev, we see the very dominant role that G-d plays in Joseph’s life, and the inexorable fulfillment of the divine predictions found in the Covenant between the Pieces.

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Vayeishev 5765-2004

“A Personality Profile of Joseph”

The personality of Joseph is complex and fascinating. Much of Joseph’s future life is determined by his early childhood, especially the death of his mother and the fact that he was favored by his father. How Joseph deals with these elements of his life constitutes one of the most fascinating stories in human literature.

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Vayeishev 5764-2003

“The Two Sides of Joseph”

Joseph, the child that Rachel bears after many years of barrenness, is an answer to her prayers, but Joseph soon becomes a thorn in the side of his brothers. How does a child, who is both adored by his parents and loathed by his siblings, develop? In this case, he becomes a Master of Dreams, a father of two tribes, and a viceroy of the mightiest empire in the ancient world.

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Vayeishev 5763-2002

“Judah Emerges as the Leader of Israel”

As the natural, charismatic leader, Judah’s brothers abide by his suggestion to sell Joseph rather than kill him. But now that father Jacob is inconsolable, the brothers blame Judah for their father’s misery. Judah has a falling out with his brothers and departs from his household ostensibly renouncing his family connections. He marries a local woman, has three sons, two of whom die after they are married to Tamar. Unknowingly, Judah has a sexual relationship with Tamar who becomes pregnant. After sentencing Tamar to death by burning, Judah, rising to the occasion, admits his guilt and spares Tamar’s life. Judah thus becomes the first Ba’al Teshuvah (penitent) and emerges as the leader of Israel.

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Vayeishev 5762-2001

“Judah, the Paradigm for Jewish Future”

The two words that Judah utters, “Tzad’kah mee’meh’nee” (she is more righteous than I), when he admits that he impregnated his daughter-in-law, Tamar, changes not only the course of history for Judah, but the entire destiny of the Jewish people. It may very well be that, at least in part, our people are called “Jews” because of the profound act of penitence of our forefather, Judah.

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Vayeishev 5761-2000

“The Coming of Age of Joseph: From Lad to Bechor

When first introduced to Joseph, we are told that he is 17 years old, and a lad. It is Joseph’s struggle to mature and become less self-centered that is the real story of Joseph. Joseph eventually overcomes his immaturity and vindictiveness. He becomes a person of compassion and forgiveness, no longer the self-centered teenager who sees the world only through his own eyes. Joseph now emerges as the bechor, the first born, and the rightful heir of Israel.

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