Rabbi Eisen’s Shabbat Shalom Message

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Candlelighting for
Friday, December 8, 2017 • 5:00pm

• Our Portion for the Week

VAYESHEV – GENESIS 37:1 – 40:23
In this portion we begin the cycle of Joseph stories. Joseph, Jacob's favorite, angers his brothers by tattling and by recounting dreams in which he is clearly designated lord over his family. In retaliation, the brothers sell him into slavery and he is brought to Egypt. The story is interrupted at this point to recount an incident in the life of Judah. The narrative resumes with the account of Joseph's fortunes in Egypt. He is sold to a high official and becomes his major domo, but he runs afoul of his master's wife and is jailed. There, Joseph interprets the dreams of two fellow prisoners, Pharaoh's chief cup-bearer and chief baker. The cup-bearer is subsequently restored to his office, but he completely forgets about Joseph. The events of this story demonstrate the working out of God's carefully devised plan for His people and serve as the prelude to the drama of oppression and redemption which is the heart of biblical narrative.

• Our Question for the Week •

  1. Jacob makes a special coat for Joseph. The Hebrew פסים might not refer to stripes but rather to the 'line' of the arm – the wrist. This is a fine suit jacket, not a pushed-up-sleeves worker's shirt. What message did the brothers understand from this? Consider how Jacob might have viewed the future of the family, based on his current 'investment.' (37:1-4)
  2. Joseph is sent by Jacob to find out about his brothers' welfare while they are far from home with the flocks. Not finding them, he is about to return empty handed when a passerby points him in the right direction. The Midrash (and Rashi) considers this person a messenger from God. Why might we think that God would be inclined to intervene here? (37:12-18.)
  3. Upon seeing Joseph approaching, the brothers decide to kill him. Both Reuben (the oldest brother) and Judah object. Compare how they go about trying to save Joseph's life, and what are their reasons for doing so (37:21-27). Which reason is better in your opinion? Why?
  4. Joseph is sold as a slave to Potifar, a high ranking official of Pharaoh. Potifar is very impressed by his new slave. What is it that Potifar notices about Joseph (39:3)? What does he do as a result and what happens to his household (39:4-5)? Why do you think this trait is so significant? What might it have suggested to Potifar about Joseph in general?
  5. Joseph's good fortune does not last. After a run-in with Potifar's wife he finds himself serving Pharaoh's officials that are in jail, awaiting Pharaoh's decision about their future. They each dream a dream which Joseph interprets for them. What does each dream mean? Look at their dreams and try to see how this could be deduced already from the dreams themselves (40:8-19).