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Home » Vayeshev

Vayeshev: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on November 25, 2007 – 3:44 amNo Comment | 570 views

Seven Thoughts for Seven Days

Sunday: Heaven and Earth

Joseph had two dreams. In he first he was binding sheaves in the field, in the second he was gazing at the stars. The first concerned earthly matters, the second, heavenly matters. This is fitting because the objective of our people is to connect heaven and earth.

Abraham’s primary mission was to accustom the people of Canaan to speak and think of G-d. Bringing heavenly thoughts to earthly beings and ensuring that G-d is a household name is our mission. G-d scattered the remnants of our people across the globe so that our mission would be fulfilled throughout the world. Joseph, who led his brothers to Egypt,our nation’s first exile, informed us of our mission through his dreams. Shem Mishmuel

Monday: The Burden of Duty

Joseph went to meet his brothers, but before he arrived they had already sentenced him to death. Why did they not wait and conduct a fair trial?

It is important to note that the sale of Joseph was not borne of resentment or jealousy, his brothers truly believed him guilty of capital crimes. yet, they loved their brother and knew that should he plead with them they would consent to pardon him. Such pardon would, in their opinion, be unjustified. They therefore hastened to try him and pronounce him guilty in absentia so that their hands would be tied and they would be forced to carry out the verdict.

Their hearts were heavy and their eyes filled with tears, but they felt it their duty to serve the cause of justice. Indeed, following the path of Torah is often difficult. We learn from the brothers that difficulty is not an excuse for neglect. Shem Mishmuel

Tuesday: The Sacred Firstborn

Our sages taught that because Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn, was sold for twenty silver pieces, every Jewish firstborn male must be redeemed for five silver coins. (A silver coin (sela) consists of four silver pieces (Dinar). Joseph was sold for twenty dinarim, which corresponds to five Sela.)

Redeeming our firstborn is not a punishment, on the contrary it is a privilege. The firstborn are endowed with a special sanctity; they belong to G-d and we, the parents, must redeem them.

Herein lies the link to the sale of Joseph. Before selling Joseph into slavery, the brothers had to acquire him first. The acquisition of Joseph, a firstborn son, by his holy brothers, people who represented G-d’s legion on earth, set the tone for future generations. Heretofore, firstborn male sons would always be born into a special relationship with G-d. Likutei Sichos

Wednesday: The Seed of Moshiach

The house of Jacob was suffering. Joseph was sold into slavery. Jacob was in deep mourning. The brothers were in repentance and Judah was banished from home.  Yet, G-d determined that even with the family so anguished this was the right time for Judah  meet Tamar and father Peretz, the progenitor of the Moshiach.

There is an old aphorism, “Nothing is more complete than a broken heart.” The righteous are on a constant journey of upward mobility. They grow from strength to strength. However, trapped by their own paradigm they are limited by their capacity and they cannot reach the pinnacle of growth. Penitents are not so limited. Nothing restrains us from reaching the pinnacle of repentance; all we need to do is suffer a broken heart.

Reaching the pinnacle of repentance enables us to reach another pinnacle; the pinnacle of Moshiach’s light. Tiferet Shlomo

Thursday: And He was in his Master’s Home

After the Torah informs us that Joseph was purchased as a slave by Pharaoh’s chief butcher, Potifar, it proceeds to tell us, “and he (Joseph) lived in his Egyptian maser’s home.” Why does the Torah need to mention this fact? Is it not self understood?

The Torah has a deeper message to impart. Even in his Egyptian master’s home Joseph remained himself. He lived in his maser’s home, the emphasis is on the word “he.” He remained who he was, regardless of where he was. What enabled him to remain unaffected and unchanged?

Joseph was a great believer in divine providence. Regardless of where he was Joseph knew that he was there for a reason. He never despaired for despair would jeopardize whatever purpose G-d had in mind for him. Besides, where he was, really didn’t matter to him. He could serve G-d at home as a free man, or in his master’s home as a slave. So long as he could serve. Sefat Emet

Friday: Willing to Die

When Joseph was propositioned by his mistress he declined with the following explanation. “My ancestor (Issac) was once chosen to be a sacrifice to G-d and this may be my destiny too. I cannot lie with you lest I forfeit my destiny.” This is a curious argument. Would Joseph be willing to lie with his mistress if he knew he would not be called upon to be a sacrifice?

Joseph was demonstrating the mindset of those who eschew sin. The primary temptation to sin is the titillating promise of physical pleasure. Faced with such temptation, we might consider the following: if G-d would suddenly appear to me and asked me to surrender me life for a particular cause, would I not acquiesce? Of course I would! It follows that if I am willing to sacrifice my life for G-d, I should a fortiori be willing to sacrifice a few moments of pleasure for G-d? Sefat Emet

Saturday: Post Death

The customs related to the way we treat a Jewish body after death are rooted in our belief that the soul, though it has departed the body, is still present; able to hear and feel what is said and done to it.

Pharaoh’s chief baker dreamed of balancing three baskets of baked goods atop his head while a bird ate from the top basket. Joseph interpreted the three baskets as three days. They were atop his head for  three days hence Pharaoh would have him executed by sword.

What is the meaning of the bird eating from the basket? Our sages understood this to mean that his body would be left hanging on the gallows while vultures devoured his flesh.

The fact that this was made known to him in a dream, though it would happen posthumously, at a time when he would ostensibly be oblivious to what would occur to his body, indicates the Torah’s position that the soul is indeed aware of the shame and indignity suffered by the body after passing.

This reinforces our reverence for the dead and our commitment to treat them with utmost deference and respect. Sefer Chassidim

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