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| Published: December 12, 2022
General Overview: In this week’s reading, Vayeishev, Joseph relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery by an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master’s wife, Joseph is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker. The story of Judah and Tamar is also related at length.
First Aliyah: Jacob and his family settled in Canaan. Of all his sons, Jacob favored Joseph, the firstborn of his deceased beloved wife Rachel, and he made for him a special robe of fine wool. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the favoritism and avoided talking to Joseph. Joseph related to his brothers two dreams he had, both implying that he would eventually rule over his brothers—and thus increased his brothers’ envy and hatred.
Second Aliyah: Joseph’s brothers were away tending their father’s sheep when Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers and the flocks were faring. When Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching they plotted to kill him. Reuben, however, implored them not to shed blood, advising them instead to cast him into one of the nearby pits. Reuben’s plan was to later return and rescue Joseph from the pit.
Third Aliyah: Joseph arrived and his brothers immediately stripped him of his fancy robe and cast him into a pit. Upon Judah‘s advice, they subsequently sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief butcher. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe in blood and showed it to Jacob, who assumed that Joseph was devoured by a wild beast. Jacob then commenced 22 years of mourning for his beloved son.
Fourth Aliyah: The story of Joseph is interrupted by the episode of Judah and Tamar. Judah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter. Judah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar and thus fulfill the mitzvah of Yibbum, but he too died childlessly. Judah hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, so she returned to her father’s home. Judah’s wife then died, and he embarked on a business trip. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and sat by the side of the road. Judah didn’t recognize her, was intimate with her and she becomes pregnant. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Judah ordered her executed for harlotry. As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Judah’s personal effects that he had left behind when he visited her. Judah admitted that he was the father, and Tamar was spared. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons, Zerach and Peretz.
Fifth Aliyah: We return to the story of Joseph, who was serving in the home of Potiphar. G‑d was with Joseph, and he succeeded in all his endeavors. When Potiphar took note of this fact, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household and estate.
Sixth Aliyah: Joseph was exceedingly handsome, and Potiphar’s wife was attracted to him. She made many advances on him, but he steadfastly rebuffed her. Eventually she libelously told her husband that Joseph was making advances on her, and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. G‑d was still with Joseph, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, who put him in charge of all the prisoners.
Seventh Aliyah: Two of Pharaoh’s officers, his butler, and baker, aroused the royal ire and were cast into prison—the same one that Joseph was now administering. One night, they both had odd dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. Joseph told the butler that he’d soon be released and restored to Pharaoh’s service. The baker was told by Joseph that he would soon be hung. Joseph pleaded with the butler to mention his plight to Pharaoh, and ask for his release. Three days later, both of Joseph’s interpretations came true; but the butler forgot all about Joseph.
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